Friday, November 23, 2018

  When Dad and I walked out of the house, we could tell that it was downright cold. When I inhaled the air, my lungs burned. As the wheels rolled across the pavement, I glanced at the thermometer on the dashboard of the truck, and it read -15 degrees. The only good thing about it (if there is a good thing) is that the wind wasn’t blowing at all. It was calm. Unlike most days when I walk to wherever I’m going to sit, I had to wear a coat and a vest to stay warm. Although I had gloves on, my hands stung from being so cold. The conditions brought me back to the many years we hunted out of a tent in the Adirondacks when it seemed like we had similar conditions every year. 

  We headed into the woods two hours before daylight today. Although Dad wasn’t going that far, I had a place I wanted to check out that I haven’t hunted in a number of years. Something in my gut told me to go there. I’ve been having a lot of gut feelings this year, and it seems like it has been paying off when I listen to them. Many years ago, Dad killed a buck in this area, but neither one of us has been back to it since that year. After researching my memory and seeing a picture of the good buck that he killed in that place, something inside just told me to go there. 

  I arrived to the place I wanted to sit about 20 minutes before daylight. After changing my clothes and settling into position against a huge hemlock tree, I took a deep breath. It was going to be a battle to say warm. It’s not often that you have to sit for any length of time in below zero temperatures. Actually, what kind of idiot would put himself in that kind of position? When I thought about it, I realized how stupid we sometimes get when we chase whitetail deer. We do things that others can’t even imagine doing, things that others would look at in disbelief. 

  At 7:00 a.m., two does came off the hill in front of me. I could see them coming for a long way. I didn’t see any bucks behind them, and they never looked behind them as they passed me. 

  Although the temperature held steady in the negative digits, I didn’t feel cold. I was well prepared for the insane cold. At 8:30, I could see a good buck coming down the same hill that the two does came down a little earlier. He had his nose on the ground and was moving along at a good clip. I knew he was going to follow the same path the does took, which would allow me a chance to get a good shot. When he got closer to me, something startled him and he jumped backward. Without hesitating, I centered the crosshairs on his ass when he turned to go up the hill and pulled the trigger. 

  When the gun went off, the deer reacted like he had been hit, and I was able to get two shots off before he disappeared. Just as I was ready to send a fourth round at him, he disappeared. 

  I gathered my stuff and walked to where he was when I shot. I found a tuft of hair and one tiny piece of blood.  As I began following the tracks, I got that sinking feeling that I’ve gotten many times. Then, I walked back and looked at the initial hit. Instantly, it brought me back to a deer I missed many years ago that had a similar feel to it. With that deer, I had hit a small tree and the bullet blew bark out the back of it, and the bark pierced the deer’s hide and sent fur all over the snow. This looked very similar to that. 

  As I began following the running tracks, the sinking feeling inside my stomach grew exponentially larger. I felt hollow inside and wanted to curl up in a ball and punch trees and kick shrubs. I decided I would follow the tracks until the buck stopped running and began walking. Usually, it doesn’t take long for a buck to slow down and begin walking after it has had a few bullets fired in its direction. 

  After following it for about 150 yards and seeing no sign of a hit, I continued walking because the deer was still running. Pausing and looking ahead, I noticed a log that the deer had slammed into while running, and it had a big splash of blood on it. Having seen that with a few other deer I’ve shot, I suddenly had a feeling that the deer might not be too far ahead, even though he hadn’t dropped any blood onto the snow. 

  When I got to the log to it look at it, I glanced to my right and up the hill. The buck was lying dead in the snow in front of a huge fallen tree. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in awe, but when I saw him in the snow, I was speechless. I felt relieved and a huge sense of satisfaction coursed through my veins. I was pretty damn excited, and it takes a fair amount to rile me up these days. It was just one of those days. 

  My Dad and I spent the day getting the deer out of the woods, and we called Brian to see if he could come help us since his house isn’t too far from where we were hunting.  Brian gladly offered to help, and we were extremely thankful for his efforts. If he hadn’t helped us, our day would have been even longer due to the cramping in my arms and hands. Dehydration took over and wouldn’t let go. I had all I could do to keep my arms and fingers straight. The excruciating pain didn’t help matters.  Having a best friend like Brian is more than I could ever ask for. He has always been there to help me out, and I’m appreciative of everything he’s ever done for me. I could never ask for a better hunting partner or friend. I think I won the lottery with this guy. I hope he feels the same about Dad and me. 

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