Over the past year or so, I’ve become more and more interested in deer hunting. I told my buddy Jesse last year that this year was going to be the year, and he put in a good bit of time helping to get me started. So over the past few months I acquired all the necessary (or in some cases, desired) accessories. I picked up a Savage Model 11 .308 rifle with a Nikon scope, a ladder stand for a spot we were going to hunt in Wayne county, a climbing stand for everything else, and all my clothes, hats, base layers (I hate being cold), knife, etc. I talked to family and went out with my uncle and cousin to sight in my rifle and absorbed as much as I could from them. And then I waited, while many friends and family went out hunting with bows and muzzle loaders, all the while sending pictures of their kills. I couldn’t wait to get out to a stand, and by the looks of all the pictures I was receiving, I fully expected to go out, climb a tree, and find myself faced with the difficult decision of which deer among all of those that chose to line up in front of me, I would shoot.
So you can imagine my frustration when we took our first trip to Wayne County on opening (rifle) morning, and all I saw were a couple doe walk under the stand. Now, I should be clear here and let you know that I’m not too proud to shoot a doe for my first deer. In fact, I was fully prepared to shoot one if they crossed in front of me. But unfortunately, I found out a couple days before the hunt, that Wayne County is “Unit A” land, meaning they have restrictions on killing does. In fact, you can only take on per year, and only in the 3rd week of December, so I let these two pass.
We went out the next afternoon after church to the same location. I figured let’s give it another try… maybe the bucks weren’t “morning deer”, but this time I saw nothing but squirrels. The thing about squirrels is that my ear is not trained enough to easily tell the difference between a deer walking through the leaves, and a squirrel, pretending to be a deer walking through the leaves. I will say that it was frustrating enough that I’ve decided I plan to take up squirrel hunting as well though.
So here I am O for 2, and no hunt’s planned in the immediate future. Then my buddy calls and asks what I’m doing the Wed before Thanksgiving. He was hunting some land where they saw does all over the place. I knew I’d be off work around lunch, so I planned to hunt the afternoon with them. When I arrived, they told me about all the deer they passed on, and that they were putting me in a ladder stand where they saw 5 does earlier that morning. I was excited and even more so when, as my buddy is showing me where the stand is, we spook 3 does out of some nearby brush. I had one in my crosshairs, but didn’t have a good shot, and even as anxious as I was, I wanted to make sure I didn’t take a bad shot. The three deer disappeared down the hill and into some more brush. I climbed the stand, and sat for the rest of the afternoon without seeing another deer. When we called it around dark, the guys recounted how they had seen 20 or so deer that day… including the three we spooked, but still no luck for me.
My father in law was coming in a few days though and we planned to do some hunting with a friend of his up in Dickson, so I figured maybe I’ll have some luck there. But then my buddy Jesse called back again and said they were going out Saturday morning to a place near Murfreesboro. I figured even with family in town for Thanksgiving, I could get out for a morning hunt, and be back before lunch, so I said count me in.
It’s probably no surprise to say that I’ve started to develop an appreciation for deer hunting that was a little different than what I went in thinking. The deer don’t line up for you… well, at least not yet for me. So my first deer was going to be sweet. We head out around 4:30 Saturday morning from his house, and he leads me to a wooden stand about 10 feet off the ground over looking a field. There were some food plots and everything I could see was within my comfortable shooting range, so I was optimistic.
Around sunrise, some turkey walk into the field, and for the next hour or so they scratch around in front of me. I figured this was a good sign. If they turkey weren’t spooked by me moving around a little, then maybe I was good from a deer perspective as well. Eventually the turkeys headed back into the woods and I started to get the feeling I had missed the best opportunity to get a doe.
A little while later, I saw some turkey come back into the field, and I started scoping them. Boredom kicked in though and I figured I’d try to take a picture of the turkey, through my scope. I included one here, which after viewing at home, actually includes my deer in the background, but at this exact moment, I had no idea.
It wasn’t until after I took the third picture, that I saw something larger jump the fence behind the turkey. I put the phone down quickly and there she was standing just a few yards in the woods next to the fence. She seemed to be a good size doe, so I wasted no time lining up a good shot. She turned broadside, and before I knew it… POW! She hopped once, ran toward me about 40 yards, and fell. I had taken my first deer!
Now, if I was on a hunt like you see on TV, I imagine this would be the appropriate time to do some fist pumping, recap how the hunt went down, maybe cry a little and talk about how this one is for my little girl at home… but since I’m alone in a stand, I settled for sending some texts to my buddy and family letting them know I had shot my first doe. I told my buddy that the monkey was off my back, to which he responded that the gorilla was off his… I waited in the stand another 45 minutes or so to give my buddy and his cousin more time to hunt, and just in case more does or heck, even a buck came along. Then I got down as my buddy was pulling his truck around, and I walked anxiously over to see the result of my effort.
We noted that she was a good size doe, and then walked off the distance from where she fell to the fence where we found the first blood trail… about 40 yards. Then we inspected the shot… she had been turned a little toward me, and my shot entered near her right shoulder. A few high fives, and I laid my gun across her in preparation for the stereotypical hunter shot, where I hold her head up and smile proudly at the camera. I grabbed her by the ear and pulled her head up only to realize that she had an antler!!! A BUCK! My friends and I had totally missed it because she… scratch that… HE, was missing the right side of his rack, and the left side was banged up too and in the grass where he fell. In good condition, we are guessing he would have been a 6 point.
I was super excited, and proceeded to update my friends and family via text on this surprising turn of events, and then it was time to field dress. I had viewed enough videos online that I didn’t expect anything would surprise me about it, but my buddy gave me instructions along the way. Ten to fifteen minutes later, and after 4 hunting trips and about 20 hours in the stand, I’m standing there with my first field dressed buck, and needless to say I’m hooked.
We drove him to the house for the family to see. Mallory was super excited to see my first deer, and didn’t gross out when she got a little blood on her hand. We took some pictures, shared the story, and headed to the processor. Now it’s just a matter of waiting a few days to enjoy the meat, and a few more before I head out again with my father in law. Needless to say, I’m hooked.
Thanks to Jesse for putting in so much time helping me get my first kill. Thanks to my uncle Mike for his help getting started, and his encouragement. And thanks to my wife Angie for being so supportive of both my desire to hunt and with the time and money I’ve put into it.