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Close Encounters Of The Deer Kind
I probably shouldn’t write my stories in the middle of the night as I have a different mindset after midnight than in the morning when everything is fresh and new. I was thinking about the upcoming deer seasons and although I really do enjoy the deer season, for the most part the deer are only an excuse to get out with family, campout, and take in the out of doors. Just seeing deer is almost enough for me and I would be happier if family members took a deer rather than me. I suppose that is the way of crusty old guys like me. The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon said, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” What he was saying, to paraphrase his thoughts in Ecclesiastes 1:9, is that history repeats itself and although we like to think something is new, in reality it’s already happened before and will happen again. So just for a deer to walk out and me take it, well I’ve done that before. That’s the reason why after a while hunters place more challenges on their hunting such as using a handgun, archery equipment, or stepping back in time with a muzzle loader, or using iron sights on that old lever action that their father or grandfather used.
For me personally, my favorite deer hunts, other than the ones when I was hunting with family, are the ones where the deer came in close and you just knew that things were going to explode any second when the deer discovered your presence. Several years ago my brother, Kent, had found that deer were coming out of their bedding area in the evening and going into a cornfield near our farm. He felt it would be a great place to have me sit on the end rows of that corn and perhaps I might get a shot. He let me off and I took a bucket to sit on and waited for the deer to show. Although there were lots of tracks, sometimes things just seem too perfect and you just know it’s not going to work out. He had been gone less than twenty minutes when a parade of deer began coming across the field and heading for the cornfield I was standing in.
As the deer began to close the distance, two things were obvious: there were no bucks, and the deer would be going into the cornfield to my left. It seemed that I might not get a shot as the five or six deer entered the field about forty yards away. As I watched to the left, I began to see a doe feeding along the end rows, those very end rows that I was in. She kept coming and kept coming. When she was about seven yards away she put her head down to eat on an ear that was lying on the ground. I took this opportunity to raise my bow and draw it at the same time. I have never had a deer that close to me before or since and I just knew that she had to hear my heart beating. The doe took two more steps and then turned and stepped into the first row quartering towards me. I was using a PSE Laser II in those days and I already had my closest sight pin on her. The instant that she stepped into the row she had me pegged and froze in her tracks. She was quartering towards me and while it didn’t present the best shot, before she wheeled and took off I had already released my arrow. Before she turned to leave, I could see the nock of my arrow buried in the base of her neck and running straight into her chest cavity. There wasn’t time before the deer got there to sit on the bucket, but I had to sit on it then because my legs weren’t working. I have been blessed to be able to take three black bears and four head of African game, but I have never had the shakes as bad as I did after I took that doe at perhaps 15 feet! She went about 70 yards before piling up.
I have only taken one deer with my pistol, but it too was a special hunt, not because of how far the shot was, but instead how close it was. It would have been the fall of ‘93 after the big flood and I was hunting out on the hills on a friend’s farm. My plans for that evening were to sit along a harvested cornfield in a fencerow that ran along the field. The cornfield and the fencerow that ran alongside of it were bottom ground and I had to walk down a hill to get to that bottom ground. The hillside was pasture ground that had been terraced to prevent erosion. As I came over top one of the terraces, I could see there were deer already out in the field eating. There was no place to hide and I just decided that I would crawl to the next terrace, which would put me within a hundred yards or so of where the deer were feeding. For a rifle, it would have been a chip shot, but for my Thompson Center Contender with its 1.5X TC Lobo scope it was way too far to even think about. I made it to terrace and even had an old corner post to sit my back against. The terrace prevented me from seeing the deer when they dropped below it and were feeding along the edge of the cornfield. The only chance I had would be if the deer would feed into the pasture, but why would they do that? But that is what one doe did.
I saw her ears first as she fed below the terrace that separated us. I would suppose she was forty yards or less and then I saw her entire head as she fed towards my right. When the doe disappeared behind the terrace I raised the .44 Magnum and pulled the hammer back and rested my wrists on my knees. The doe continued to feed up the terrace and when her body came up over the terrace I had a perfect broadside shot. She raised her head, turned and looked my way and I was sure that she was going to explode any second and be gone, but before she had a chance to do so I pulled the trigger. The recoil of the pistol made it jump in my grip, but I had heard the bullet strike home. She never made it off the terrace and when I stepped up on the terrace she was lying on the back side of it. I suppose she was twenty-five yards or a little less when I took the shot.
Years ago I also took a nice 8 pointer with my TC Hawkins at about 40 yards as it followed a trail that I was overlooking by sitting on a steep hillside above it. The buck was so close that I was worried that it may hear my hammer set as pulled it back. My buck horn sights are pretty crude compared to a scope, but at 40 yards it didn’t matter. When I pulled the trigger, I temporary lost sight of the buck because of the veil of smoke that separated us, but when I could see the buck it was making a small loop on a dead run and the further it ran the lower it got. The buck piled up nearly where I had shot it.
As I said, I still enjoy deer hunting, but the ones that are truly special are those that were not taken at some great distance, but the ones who were close – perhaps too close. Those are the ones that get my adrenaline flowing and isn’t that a part of the reason we’re out there? To feel the thrill of the hunt? And that never gets old.