4:30 am came awfully early.
How strange, to wake up to silence – no baby crying for milk! Then I remembered she was with grandma and grandpa, and today was the big day! It was opening day of rifle season in Missouri and we were headed out to get my first deer.
We bundled up, loaded up and headed out to public hunting land near Smithville Lake. When we got there, I felt a little disappointed to find that there was already a hunting truck parked near where we were hoping to set up our stands. We chatted with him briefly and set out in the opposite direction. There was still a black darkness – I couldn’t even see Nels walking right in front of me. It felt like we were walking forever…over hills and through creeks…his boots were starting to feel so heavy on my feet…
Finally we came to a couple of trees and Nels chose two that were about 8 feet apart to set up our stands. He had me use a climbing stand…I had never used one before and I was unhappy to say the leasttt but finally believed that I would not fall out of the tree and die and so decided to trust the stand…haha… I lived through it and Nels got his stand put up too. We had just got settled in and I used a rope to pull up my 223 when Nels said “Okay, it’s light enough to shoot now.”
We were up on a hill in the trees, near a creek and a cornfield, in a sort of funnel that the deer would have to pass through if they came by. My stand was facing East, overlooking a small pasture. I turned to the right, around the tree, and couldn’t believe my eyes – “Nels, is that a deer?” He confirmed it, and I looked through the scope to be sure – it was! It had only been a minute or two into shooting light and there was a huge buck looking straight at me, about 60 yards away. I couldn’t believe it!
I had wondered if I would be scared or sad or have trouble shooting it, but it all happened so fast – he was looking straight at me and so I quickly lined up the sights on the base of his neck, right in the middle of his broad, strong chest and squeezed the trigger (squeezed, NOT pulled – ha! Nels and I had been practicing marksmanship in the basement with a BB gun). There were trees and brush to the right and the left, but I had a perfectly clean, clear shot. He took off running and I was sure that I must have missed him, until, just a moment later, we heard a loud crash in the woods about 80 yards from where he had been standing.
I couldn’t believe it! My heart was pounding and I was so excited. Nels was proud and happy, but also muttered something like “Now you’re going to think hunting is so easy.” We waited for a few minutes and then climbed down from our stands (I am STILL sore from all the tree climbing!) and followed the bright red trail to where the deer lay. He was so beautiful and majestic and huge! He had a thick, flawless winter coat and a strong 210 pound body. I was surprised that I didn’t see his antlers when I came up on him, because I had seen them through the scope – but then I realized he was missing them on one side – probably from an accident earlier in the season. Nels moved his head though, and I saw that he had a 4 point rack on the other side – he was probably an 8 point (bigger than anything Nels had ever brought down!).
I am surprised I didn’t cry at this point, but I just felt so blessed to have the first shot fired of the season (we heard many shots later that morning), to have an enormous buck looking right at me, to get to see such a beautiful animal up so close. We drug him out of the woods and back around to our stands, and then climbed back up to enjoy the morning. I had already used my tag, so I was just an extra set of eyes for Nels. We enjoyed watching the leaves fall and the finches bounce from tree to tree singing their happy morning song. After about an hour we used a doe and buck call that Nels had brought along. A few minutes later another buck came hauling through the woods at an all-out run. Nels hollered to get him to stop, which he didn’t – but he slowed down long enough for Nels to pop off a round from his 30 yacht 6 (glad I wasn’t shooting that one, it would have knocked me out of the tree!). He had to shoot him again, but we were so thrilled – one doe would have been awesome for us, but we got two bucks in the same morning, from the same stand! It was quite a job dragging them out of the woods (we carried our guns and stands back to the truck, then drug Nels’ 4 point, and then we took a short cut and floated my deer back in the creek – it was such an exhausting day!!) and later processing all the meat. But what a blessing to have so much free, lean and organic meat – plenty to share with friends and neighbors!
Here are a few pictures from the day (sorry for the poor quality – we only had my phone camera with us!):