Passage

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Early one fall morning I heard a rumbling. It was what I had imagined a waking bear would sound like. I rolled over and flinched. I was so darn stiff. As it turns out a sleeping bag on a solid wood floor with an ancient packed down hard carpet isn’t very good for some folk’s backs. The bear I noticed turned out to be one of my uncles starting to get up for the early morning hunt.
I decided I aught to make my way out of the makeshift bedding. Hobbling over to the old fridge in the kitchen for a Pepsi, I mused about our hunting shack. It had been my great grandpa’s house before he’d passed away not so many years ago.
Opening the can I winced at the noise it made. I t was too early for such a noise. Moseying my way back into the living room I started getting ready. I put a hoodie and some jeans on over what I had slept in. I slipped my 6” Buck knife onto my belt, only to hide it beneath the heavy blaze orange overalls that came next. Then I added some thick wool socks and my heavy winter boots. They say they’re good to -60 degrees. Poor feet still get chilly either way. I moved on to my gun. I figured my jacket hat and glove/mittens could wait a while longer.
It’s a decent weapon, that trusty Remington 7400 30-06. I had it fitted with a 3x9x DDL Nikon scope and a thick heavy leather strap engraved with a Whitetail Buck head and some delicate fall leaves. Wandering over to one of my boxes of 20 rounds in the kitchen I loaded my small mag. It has a 4 round capacity in which the 30-06 bullets fit nice and snuggly.
Throwing on my jacket and stuffing my pockets with my hat, glove, mittens, granola bar, and another Pepsi I piled into the bed of the truck with Morgan. We rode out into the early morning’s dark abyss. Watching the shadows at the edge of the headlights reach as deer fled the mechanical roar of the engine. It was difficult not to take a shot at one of them. Legal or not the ease it could be done was almost too much to bear.
We drove slowly and carefully through the small field we rented to the local farmer and then to the wood’s. Again we were taunted by fleeting shadows as we travelled onward to the 2nd and 3rd trails that lead to our stands.
Morgan, Matt and I clamored from the truck and made our way into the eerie murky depths of our sacred hunting ground. Morgan went down the trail on my left as I followed Matt down the 3rd trail about 100 feet before veering off on my own with only a small light to guide me. When I came across my stand it had almost a haunting appearance. These bear and wolf filled wood we want offer little sanctuary for the fearful young hunter. Holding my gun, I felt more at ease though. I slung it on my shoulder and taking the flashlight in my mouth I climbed up the shaky stand.
I loaded a single round into the chamber before ramming the clip home with a satisfying click. I also decided to eat as I watched the lights from my uncle’s move ever deeper into the woods. I figured opening a wrapper and a pop was nothing compared to the ruckus they made. Again this morning I thought of bears.
The sun was up now. I’d been sitting for many hours hardly moving an inch. Not a single deer to be seen that morning. I was entertained by the antics of squirrels merely a few feet away. I caught myself gaping in awe at a beautiful Red Fox. Soon after that I realized it was time to meet up to head in for breakfast. It was about 11:30, nearly 6 hours had passed faster then I cared to think about.
I met my uncles at the edge of the woods. Morgan had shot 2 deer. He bagged a young button buck and a good sized doe. While Matt and I examined them my Grandpa Mike showed up with the truck after not seeing a thing himself.
We headed in to eat and watch a few of the earlier football games. My uncles and grandpa took short naps for a brief couple hours before suiting up for the next hunt.
I was in my stand again watching, waiting, and thinking to myself that I would let another year slip by without my 1st deer.
My phone vibrated, assuming it was Donny I reached for it. He’s my best friend and was also hunting at the moment. I figured he’d just decided to let me know he’d gotten one. I figured the smart thing to do was to glance around quick to check there was no nearby deer.
There it was a good 60 yards ahead of me. He was about a 2-3 year old looking 8 pointer. I released my phone to bring up my gun in my excitement so I could scope him out. He was walking directly at me so there was no clear shot in sight. The 30-06 could probably punch through the brush but it wasn’t worth the risk so I decided to stand down so he might advance closer for a better shot.
I just couldn’t relax though. Some call it buck fever, though to me it was the anticipation of the kill. What a thrill it is to take the life of a squirrel or a rabbit in the garden. This was altogether different though. A larger deer is a greater challenge and with the taste of victory in my mouth I was growing antsy.
40 yards away and the buck continued its advance. Slowly, stealthily and all to avail as it ignorantly was unaware of how vain its efforts were. Nothing can escape the hunter’s eyes once they’ve locked on target.
35 yards away and finally he had broadsided!! I again brought up my rifle. It was time to make my 1st real kill. All those small critters before this were child’s play. I trained in on the kill zone behind the front shoulder. I had to follow him with my iron sights now. The brush was still to think for a reasonable scoped shot and also a scope it pointless at this range.
30 yards away and I couldn’t wait any longer for the trees to thin out. The deer was moving to my left. So being I’m left handed I could only maintain accuracy shooting to my left for a little longer.
Squeezing the trigger I took the shot!! It was as if the young buck was struck by an invisible semi truck as it flew back on its side. I imagined the tremendous amount of power my rifle produced. The bullet tore through the 1st lung only to turn to shrapnel as it severed the deer’s aorta leaving the heart to freely move about the chest cavity. Continuing forth the sharp lead pieces shredded the second lung before the hide stopped it from exiting the body.
I waited to see if there was another deer nearby and later went to gut the carcass. There was almost no blood because the heart never had a chance to pump any out. I opened it up to a gory sight and went about my business with Matt’s help. It took a little time to find the heart.
Proudly I displayed my 1st deer to my uncles and grandpa. Matt and Morgan each gave me a celebratory drink and grandpa gave me a big ole hug as he beamed with pride.
Now it was time for our ole family tradition. Bracing myself I trimmed and washed the heart. Then I held it up as my uncle readied the camera and Matter prepared to take a video. When they were ready I took a fair sized bite from the raw flesh. The congealed blood was like an irony Jello. The meat itself disgusted me with its rubbery sticky texture and bland wild taste. I even stuck out my tongue in a childish gesture of disgust.
When the little moment was over we tucked into some hearty chili in front of the TV before drifting off to sleep again. What I learned from this day is the value of patience, keeping a calm and cool head, the strength of family bonds and what it is to become a Henderson.





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