First Solo Hunt

on Monday, September 23, 2013 10:00:00 AM

Like a lot of people, I find myself reminiscing about days gone by this time of year. I don’t know if it’s the smell of autumn, the chill in the air or all of the pretty colors the trees are turning. But, I always find myself taking a stroll down memory lane as I get my gear together for deer season. There’s one thing I could do without when I start loading my gear - It’s the climbing in and out of the pickup, especially with early morning dew on your boots, I hate it. When I found out about the NRA® Cargo Slide, it was a game changer! No more slipping on the bumper and raking your shins.

Though it’s been a long time since that first hunt, my mind goes back to that place in time and brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but to chuckle a little. Do you remember your first deer? Of course you do. What a rush; the excitement, the anxiety, the way your hands were shaking as you took aim and then, the eerie quiet. Well, mine didn’t quite go that way. I had always gone hunting with my dad as a kid (I was the pack mule). I didn’t actually start hunting by myself until I was in my early 20’s. I had just bought my first ATV and boy was I proud, forest green and it could climb over anything. Deer season is the ONLY time of year that I actually get up before the alarm and I don’t mind; it’s almost like Christmas. I had gotten up early that morning and I was impatiently waiting on my dad to show up with the truck, so I could load up my most prized possession and hit the road.

Finally, dad shows up! We load my four-wheeler, stop by McDonalds to grab a bite and then we were on our way. It seemed like such a long trip, but we finally made it to our hunting ground before the sun was up. I started getting anxious as I climbed into the back of that truck bed to start warming up the machine that was going to take me to parts unknown, the woods were mine. I thought to myself, “this is how the pioneers must have felt…. freedom.” I unloaded my trusty steed, which I had dubbed “Booger” and set out on an adventure.

Then, I found it – “THE spot”. I sat there atop Booger and surveyed my surroundings, like a lion watching over his kingdom. Once it was well with my soul, I turned the ignition off and took all the sights and smells in. I was happy, proud and I wanted to shout about it. I had the biggest smile on my face as I began to roost in my spot. Suddenly, I heard a commotion through the forest. I perked up and had more awareness than I had ever had before. Then, there they were, two does I couldn’t believe it I had only been away from the truck for about 10 minutes! But, at that moment I couldn’t believe another fact – the fact that I had been so wrapped up in getting there that I had forgot to load my rifle. Oh man, did I feel like an All-American meathead.

I had some ammo in my pocket. So, as quietly and as slowly as I could I reached down to grab it. As I reached into my pocket, I could only find one bullet (Barney Fife would have been proud). My grand adventure was quickly turning into a series of unfortunate events. I quietly pushed that round into my Marlin lever-action .30-.30, cocked back the lever and took aim. Fortunately enough for me, one deer was still in sight, the other was smart enough to get out of there. I took aim and pulled the trigger. My hands were shaking, my heart was pounding and I forgot I needed to breathe. Down she went, on the spot. I felt like Annie Oakley, “Just call me dead-eye” I thought, “I had only one bullet, because I only needed one bullet”, I was swollen with pride and joy. I got back on ‘ol Booger, fired him up and away I went to go tell my dad. Dad was still finishing up a cup of coffee at the truck when I came racing up. He had heard the shot and couldn’t believe it. As he finished his coffee he asked, “Did you make sure it was dead?” “Yeah dad, I watched it.”, I replied. “Did you walk up to it?” he asked. “Well, no. But, I’m certain” I nodded. “We’ll see how certain you are when we get back up there and it has ran off.”

I was full of dread as we started back up the mountain. I would never forgive myself if she had ran off and I couldn’t find her. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. We finally get back to the spot that I had shot from. I found the rest of my ammo as I walked up, apparently it had fell out of my pocket as I was getting comfortable. “I shot from right here, dad.” I made the motion with my hands and I pointed in the direction I last saw her laying - I didn’t see her. I felt lower than low and the search began. I was franticly looking everywhere as my dad walked right up to her. I was about 50 yards away when I hear, “HEY! IT’S A BABY!” She lay exactly where she dropped, I just didn’t see her because her coat was the same color as the leaves on the ground. I walked up to her and although she was legal, it was the smallest doe I had ever seen. I was so embarrassed.

Then, the ribbing started. “Do you need help loading that monster up?” “I don’t want you to strain yourself.” “Call Guinness! You’ve got a record!” my dad had some gems. I loaded up my souvenir, headed back to the truck and tried to think of how I was going to keep this from getting out. But, I knew I had to tell my grandfather the tale of my first deer. So, I picked up the phone and proceeded to tell him everything. He laughed so hard, but it wasn’t at me – apparently his first deer was a similar story and it made me feel better. Since then, I have gotten over the embarrassment and have learned to embrace the experience. It is a story I will never forget, especially around this time of year now that some of the hunters in my family are out on their first hunts. As you gear up this season, don’t forget that your experience can be an adventure, grab your gear and get out there!

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