The Hunt

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Here’s a story; I’m 17 years old now, and I always wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t shoot my first deer. The thing is I rarely tell this story I never tell it because it’s kind of embarrassing. At any rate it I was about 11 years old as I helped my dad and uncle load up the big grey truck, the chrome on the door handles shined because of the way the light hit it from the living room window as it sat in the drive way. I remember this because it was one of the first times I had ever been up before the sun, as a kid those things really make you think. The last two times that I had been in the big grey GMC, I felt like I was being cheated I wanted so badly to get out in the stand with my dad and uncle and show them my skills with the .22 caliber rifle (very small often used to teach kids). I had been practicing, by shooting tin cans lined on the edge of the ravine. The truck acted as a safety net, it meant I could come but had to sit in the truck with my Gameboy and wait. This time I would get to come in the stand with them, and if a decent shot presented its self I would get to pull the trigger on that big 30-06 Springfield that had scared me ever since it had almost torn my shoulder off the first time I shot it.
When we arrived at the spot where we turned of the road and drove onto the grass/gravel road, which leads to the stand. My uncle threw it into park and let the rig idle while me and my dad got out to shoot the Springfield, I was anticipating the immense recoil, I pulled the trigger and wanted too yelp, but I held it back, and climbed back in to the truck now knowing I could handle it. When we arrived at the point where it was necessary to walk in, I walked up to the tree stand (a camo tree house that you sit in and shoot from) and climbed up, I got situated in between my dad and his brother, and wanted to tell them how cold I was, but didn’t want to sound weak, I was only 11. When my will power finally broke I whispered it to my dad, “I’m cold”. Without a moment’s hesitation Uncle Scot, reached over and grabbed one of those big green Stanley thermoses that the coalminers would carry. He unscrewed the top and steam rose out, “Scot” my dad whispered “ he won’t drink coffee”. Never the less I was handed the cup and Scott said “drink this; it’ll put some hair on your chest”. When he said that I knew I had to drink it or risk looking like I couldn’t handle myself. The coffee was black, and it was bitter by the time I had gotten half of it down it had gone cold. I was only 11 and they had me drinking coffee.
All the sudden my dad handed the binoculars to my uncle and they both nodded, when my dad pointed I saw the brown shapes out at around 300 yards. The deer slowly moved closer and closer. Once they were inside 100 yards I figured one of the two of them would shoulder the riffle, to my surprise my dad handed it to me and looked at me. I took the gun looked down the sights, and saw the deer a doe and a fawn; I knew to take the doe. As I looked for what seemed like an hour I though the doe almost looked arrogant, all of the sudden my train of thought was broken, my dad said “take her son”. I pulled the trigger slow knowing at five pounds it would break. Next thing I saw was both deer run, fast. I was holding back tears, I missed. My dad said great shot, I said I missed then my uncle said no, she got hit hard. Not knowing what to make of It when we walked out into to field, my uncle said “ blood”. Shure enough on the white snow was what looked like cherry snow cone on the ground, keep in mind I was only 11.
When we finally tracked the beast for about 200 yards, she was lying under the cover of a tree, she didn’t look as arrogant as she had through the scope, she just looked cold dead, and empty. I walked over to her and watched as her big black eyes where slowly covered by a white gray mist. My gut wrenched, then my dad got down on one knee and said a little prayer, thanking God for the animal, and saying it wouldn’t go to waste. I took of my camouflage hat and made the sign of the cross, not knowing what else to do. All three of us hoisted the big doe onto the tailgate then slid her back father into the bed. As we worked I was still amazed at how big a deer is close up, and I was amazed by how easily, my dad and, uncle handled her, like she was cargo, or a sack of potatoes. We got home, and pulled up under the tree that so many deer have been hung from, the truck was positioned under the tree and a rope was secured to the doe and the tree, once this was done the GMC rolled forward, leaving her to hang. Uncle Scott took a large knife and made a long incision, first out of the cavity was a dark red blood followed by, steam and a damp musky smell. It was weird.
When the job was done and the meat was in the freezer, I was in the kitchen talking to my grandpa, filling him in on the hunt. As we talked he assured me that it was natural, and that the fawn would be just fine. He said, ‘ Things die, that’s the way it goes, if you remove yourself from it, it’s that much harder when it knocks at your door, and you have to deal with it.”
I’m 17, know and I sit in his chair sometimes and pounder those words, I let them loose in my brain, and as the sun sets on western Iowa’s hill country; I know just down the road is the Missouri river, and beyond that, is the forever rolling South Dakota prairie. His grave sits atop a hill that watches that same sunset, and looks forever west. In the fall after the crops are pulled and the land is so desolate, I know I will shoulder his riffle, cross that wide, wide river and kill my deer. On the ride back into Iowa I see the hill and think to myself it’s ok.





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