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One hundred and thirty five deer ago, on a very cold November morning in 1969 I woke up before daylight, too early because the light of the moon was in my eyes. I couldn't sleep very well as most of the fitful night had been spent in a cave about half way up Mt Magazine in Arkansas, not to mention I was probably freezing to death. I had not yet turned 16 but I purchased my first hunting license anyway anticipating next months birthday. For part of the evening I had coexisted with two other young Neanderthals, who lit out on me in the middle of the night seeking the warmth of home giving up deer hunting even before it started, good riddance I thought.
The full moon was bright in my face at 0 dark thirty when I eased into the night to go sit in a cedar thicket. The old poacher had told me during a full moon the deer went in the thick stuff and didn't move around too much, so that's where I would be. He taught me how to snort wheeze and bleat call long before it was ever thought of by some dandy in the city with an Egg Head degree.
Mr. Beison had taught me about bullets and ballistics and stuff as our local gun smith. Didn't know at the time he was the brother of Al Beison the man that made Jack O'Connor's 270. My deer rifle wasn't fancy but it was my Winchester 94 30-30, and I was shooting 170 grain Super X Silver tips like the old man had told me. He liked those bullets and the ones made by Hornady. To this day his advise still rings true.
I crossed a rocky ridge in the dark illuminated only by the moonlight, and then eased into the cedar thicket to sit on the cold bare ground, at least I remembered to wear my long johns as I sat and shivered and waited for shooting light.
This was real deer hunting, one on one at close range but to tell you the truth few knew the finer points of deer hunting then, I had just lucked on to two fellows that passed on enough information for me to even scantly know what I was doing. Evidently good enough, as with my first bleat call I was answered by a grunt about 50 yards away. I could only see about 25 yards, so I stood up and gave a snort wheeze.
That did it, he came charging in with his head down, but I saw antlers immediately. That 30-30 was fast as lighting and so was the buck as he ran almost right at me, the bullet and the deer met at about 9 steps, what an African PH would call the perfect spine shot, right at the base of the neck. He just dropped, dead right there. I had done something that only about 5 kids in my school had ever done, I killed a deer. Something celebrated at the time as deer were few and far between. That little 4 point was worth more to me than anything in the Boone and Crockett records.
Something worth mentioning is, I did not feel sorry for the deer as this is what deer hunting is all about, I made meat, I did this all by myself, I found it was a great thrill to be a deer hunter. Therefore I will not lose the passion, any time soon.
It was beyond fair chase, there was a little luck involved as well, but at the time everyone said it was pure luck. Never the less I continued year after year to somehow always get my deer. Oh I failed many times, and missed more than I ever killed, but every year I got to go hunting other than the 8 years I spent in Germany, which I considered undeserved prison time, I manage to get at least one deer.
After the Army career was over I chose to live in Louisiana, I liked the idea of the Big Easy, no stress, good food, good people. Now I could literally hunt and fish any time I wanted to. I stayed out of the fast lane saying that my home was nothing more than my hunting and fishing camp, everything else was within 20 miles in any direction. Everybody hunts and fishes here, while I will be the first to admit I don't work too hard.
I actually work harder at being an outdoor writer than I do at my normal job, but when it comes to hunting I go all out. I've had people tell me they feel a twinge of sorrow when they kill a deer. Truthfully I've never seen it in men or women hunters that I know, most are giddy and happy and can't wait to do it again. Still there are outdoor writers that say they feel sorry for a deer when they shoot it, especially the older ones trying to account for their deep seated guilt complexes brought on by their own mortality. In other words they are giving up. I personally, do not go gently into the night. When I shoot a deer I feel young again.
An old wolf does not quit in midstream, he hunts with the pack until he drops dead, I should be so lucky. I do feel a kindred spirit to the animals I hunt, and I have a respect for them. I don't feel sorry for them when I get lucky enough to make a kill, any more than I would feel regretful at the grocery store in the face of fruit, vegetables and chopped liver.
As far as trophies go I have a few, built up through time and the luck of the draw. I always figure sooner or later a really big one will pass by. Then I think about it and say to myself that deer will be tough as nails to eat, and it will take me all day to drag him out. Now I'm not any different than the next guy in the fact that if a big trophy presents itself I will in fact shoot it.
I'll probably brag about it too if I know myself real well, but I do not seek the big head as an obsession. Remember a hungry man is not a trophy hunter. It's usually a rich man with a lot of time on his hands, or someone obsessed with keeping up with the Jones'. But if the rich man goes about it the right way and sticks to the rules of fair chase, then he has earned the right to spend his money. A hunter should hunt wild game.
I don't shoot what I don't eat, therefore I seldom give away my harvest. I do believe in feeding the hungry as long as I know who the hungry are. Supplying sustenance for a human narcotics incinerator or someone afflicted with chronic malingering disease, will not gain my sympathy.
For the price of a hunting license I can go out and have a good time. In the unlikely event I should come into any wealth I would buy myself an African Safari, or maybe a trip to Tajikistan and hunt Marco Polo Sheep, two things I'd like to do, but never will.
Then we have our fellow that sits in an office and dreams of adventure. He can afford anything, but he is looking for a sure thing and instant gratification, so he goes to hunt a penned up or highly cultivated animal on a game farm. It walks out almost on queue, he takes the shot and makes up a story to tell to his friends back in the office. I for one do not wish to associate a magnificent big game trophy, with a lie, but to each his own.
Sometimes I wonder if there is room for those who hunt wild, as compared to the “sure thing” way hunter. If you ask me if we want to keep hunting a clean sport the sure thing needs to be replaced by the luck of the draw. Pass it on