As I noted in this thread
from Cowboy9215, I didnít grow up hunting. Only got into it about five years ago when my oldest son was in junior high and wanted to try it out. Since then, Iíve had the privilege of sitting next to both of my boys and my daughter in deer blinds as they each took their first buck, and then plenty of other game since. Theyíve always asked when I was gonna take one, but whatís always meant so much more to me was just connecting with them on the long rides in the truck to the lease, watching them mature as hunters and as young men and a young woman, and the excitement and pride they experienced when they harvested animals and shared photos with their friends. I always joked that I would take my first buck either when I could afford one that was such a stud it would be guaranteed to induce antler-envy in all who viewed it mounted over my fireplace, or it would be the first legal buck I could shoot off my own land. At that time, both options seemed pretty far-fetched.
Last spring, we were able to buy some land in Leon County (about an hour from our home), and I told my kids that this was going to be my year: my hope was to take a buck off my land before turn 51 years old November 25th this year. Starting back in September, I really found a calming effect in the rhythm and ritual of checking the feeders and game cams every weekend, and just sitting in the blind to watch the deer quietly come in, eat, and quietly move out each morning and evening. Then, in early November, I see a buck on the game cam that I really like. I decided that if Iím lucky, heís gonna be the one.
After many morning and nights of sitting, watching and waiting, I was in a pop-up blind last night watching the doe quietly come and go. Then a spike. Then nothing but quiet and still as the final ten minutes of legal shooting time came upon me. ďGuess itís not going to happen to night,Ē I figured. As I look down to start collecting my things, something catches the corner of my eye. What do I see jumping over my cross-fence and moving directly toward me?
My goodness, the adrenaline. I didnít want to risk a head-on shot to the chest, because I was so nervous, I was aiming off a shooting stick, and I didnít have a whole lot of daylight. ďIf he turns broadside,Ē I thought, ďIíve got to pull the trigger.Ē Sure enough, he turns, and I shoot. He doesnít jump. He doesnít run. He just turns around the other way and sorta trots about 20 yards. Did I totally miss him?! Then, he stops and turns broadside again. I load another round, and boom. He falls. Yesssss!! I sit patiently let him bleed out. By now, there is very little daylight left. Well, doggonit if I donít see his silhouette rise up again in the shadows. He turns and walks off, and legal shooting hours are done! Noooo!!
My heart sank. I get out of the blind knowing that even if I did hit him, the odds were against me being able to track him and find him in the dark. As I walk out to where I thought I saw him lay before he got up and walked off, I see a dark spot about thirty yards off in the pasture: thatís either a big clump of weeds, or itís him. Fortunately for me, it wasnít weeds.
Taking a buck is kind of like getting a tattoo: itís not for everyone, and those that have done it can never offer a satisfactory rationale to those who are against it. Some have done it and regretted it, and some have never done it but wished they had the courage to. I remember wondering in the blind in the mornings and evenings leading up to last night whether taking my first buck would be like getting my first tattoo. It was just going to be one tattoo--a simple design on my upper arm to communicate a simple truth to me and no one else. Before the artist even finished that one, though, I knew I loved it, and I was already thinking about the next design and location. Now, years later, Iím working on my second sleeve. I wondered whether after I took my first buck, would I be so excited that I would already be thinking about my next one, and would I maybe even end up with a whole wall or even room of shoulder mounts (in my estimation, the taxidermy equivalent of a sleeve of tattoos).
I was thrilled when I found the buck, but as I walked up on it, sat next to it and saw the steam coming up from its wound, I think the word that bests describes where I landed emotionally was ďsober.Ē Not in the alcohol sense of the term, but in the sense of serious and solemn. Donít get me wrong. I have absolutely no regrets about taking the buck, and I get the whole circle of life thingóthat buck will feed my family. But I realized that to take a buck feels so different to me than to take a stringer of trout. Will I do it again? If a double-drop-tine-freak-of-nature happens to stroll out to my feeder on any given morning or evening during any given season, oh hell yeah, Iíll take it in a heartbeat. Until then, though, Iím pretty sure Iíll remain deeply satisfied with the long truck rides with the kids and watching them make their memories, and when and if those days ever play out, then Iíll be content with the satisfaction of just sitting in the blind to watch the deer quietly come in, eat, and quietly move out.
Thanks for reading. I enjoy being part of the forum, and my best wishes to all this season.