Sometimes in this day with television pros, the instantaneous immediacy of the internet, the various electronic gizmos, the perception we afford our kids of “everyone’s a winner” or an expectation of success resulting from those little league years too many folks walk into the outdoor world with similar demands. It can be seen when all deer must be big bucks and anything less is unacceptable or on a fishing outing if a limit of walleyes are required or fishing was poor and must be able to find fault or caused by a poorly a managed resource. Too often in trying to keep current with the times this becomes all too obvious forcing me to simply stop, head outside and just sit down and reflect back on times past.
Deer hunting, tournament fishing and turkey hunting immediately pop up like turning the crank on a jack in the box playing Pop Goes the Weasel. Deer hunting was something I began while in college. Dad had never hunted Whitetails having no interest so the opportunity wasn’t there as a kid. My aunt, Ivy had earlier purchased 2 tax forfeit properties just outside Gemmel in northern Minnesota. One had an old house on it. It seemed obvious there must be deer there so after reading Outdoor Life and Sports Afield articles on the sport my assumption was that I was ready to go build a stand or two and thus become a deer hunter. Years earlier Ivy had part of that 80 logged with 10,000 pine seedlings planted along with a dynamite created wildlife watering pond. In the center was a clearing so on that first trip walking in on the field road in search of a stand location the obvious became oh so apparent – I knew absolutely nothing about anything related to hunting deer. Even so after a number of 360 degree turns armed with a small saw, hammer and nails the site selection was made. Four trees close together would serve as the legs, small logs cut to length the bottom and another nailed a bit higher as a seat. All this overlooking the clearing because surely deer would be milling around in the opening throughout the day. I couldn’t have been more wrong from every direction. First, the stand was difficult to climb into when dressed for a fall deer hunt, the bottom too small to move on, the so-called seat was an absolute but-killer sitting longer than 15 minutes not to mention all day long. Oh yea all the deer tracks left in the clearing weren’t made during the day but under the cloak of night but as you now know I was oblivious. That first year I tried to hunt never even glimpsing a deer and on the second year too. It wasn’t until the third season in that same location but in a rebuilt and more functional stand I sat suddenly hearing leaves crunching behind me exactly like a man walking. Crunch, crunch, crunch the rhythm was more of human steps than what a deer must sound like, or so I thought. Never a pause just the sound shielded from sight but coming closer and around the pond. Getting ready just in case I stood leaned against the tree and raised the semi-auto 30 cal carbine borrowed from my Uncle Curly and waited. I remember my heart pounding so hard and sounded so loud inside my head that the left hand slid inside the red coat to hopefully shield the sound and then in an instant it happened. About 15 yards to my right a buck, a huge buck stepped into the clearing and stopped. Just as suddenly the shakes were gone, the pounding sounds from within were silent and then it was just the two of us the buck, the first deer I’d ever seen while hunting and me. Quietly I pressed the safety, lined up the iron sights behind the front shoulder and squeezed. The shot was deafening and in the next instant the buck dropped where he had just silently stood. A few minutes later with the deer motionless I emptied the rife and climbed down. Then as quiet and quickly as possible 3 shells back in that old 30 cal I walked looking at that magnificent animal feeling a huge amount of excitement and a bit of regret for the animal. Staring at him would require another first – field dressing the buck. Again thinking I was prepared I took out the Outdoor Life page carried for now the third year that diagrammed how to gut a deer. What followed wasn’t near as easy as the pictures on the page made it look like and although done my return to the old house left no doubt in dad’s mind (not hunting but the camp cook or so he called himself) that I had shot a deer because from head to toe blood could be seen leaving that blood sweet odor to be smelled too. Looking more like a self-sacrifice than deer hunter he smiled.
I tell you this story because there is really no substitute for actual personal experiences in the outdoors. If you require the biggest, the most or always require successes to validate your outdoor trips you’ve totally “missed the boat!”
Do you remember your first deer? How about the most recent hunt? What can you recall to make it very personal? Go ahead use the memories to relive that special moment. It’s priceless don’t you agree?
P.S. The first bass tournament is worthy of telling too but another time!