Hey, I’m a Catholic deer hunter, I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion. ~Paul Ryan
This past Thursday through Saturday was the season of the deer hunter, mentor hunting to be exact. That means a child who is not old enough to hunt has the opportunity to go with a licensed hunter and shoot a doe. Now the season also extends for fall turkey and such, but we took Kyle on a deer hunting experience. Dad and I requested off of work on Friday, and Kyle took a vacation day from school, figuring this would double Kyle’s chances of getting a deer, giving him two full opportunities to take down a doe. Surprisingly Kyle wrapped it up on Friday, a few hours before dark. Kyle went with dad last mentor hunting Hunting – Survival or Sport?, except this year, Kyle finished the season with his mission accomplished!
This little hunting adventure has been planned since last year, although dad could never have drafted how the events would unfold. To aid in the experience and help set the example, I too got my hunting license. This was first time since I was in my early teens. Yikes! That was a while back but I’ll digress. My job in dad’s ‘deer hunter experience’ turned out to be pushing deer. Perfect! I did volunteer for the job but one can never tell what dad has planned. Since, I really truly enjoy walking through the woods and getting out in the fresh air this was a win win for everyone!
Boy did dad have it all outlined, and I mean down to the detail. Of course, when it comes to deer hunting I should expect nothing less from him. During the first half of the day, my only responsibility was to stick to dad’s directions of how I was to maneuver around the local terrain, and make sure I packed enough snacks with me to sustain my stomach. Everyone knows I am miserable when I’m hungry. When you hunt with dad, that means waking up very early, well before sunrise, going all day until a deer is shot or a until the sun is completely set. So unlike the first time I went hunting, I was prepared for the day.
Dad’s game plan was to have him and Kyle perch themselves by the cabin above the house, while I traipsed through the side of the ridge walking in their direction pushing deer. Simple enough! I was instructed to walk slowly and every once-in-a-while hit a tree trunk with a stick. Got it! I was not suppose to spook the deer, just get them moving in the northeast direction. Simple enough? Kinda. First of all, it’s been a while since I was on that side of the ridge in the woods. As kids we were no stranger, but not so much now-a-days and it only takes a years of absence for the woods to take on a different shape. I started out pretty confident, which came to a screeching halt when I found myself stuck in some thick brush. Please keep in mind this is my own personal mission and failure was not an option. I redeemed myself when I came face-to-face with three doe, or so I thought. Yep they were doe alright, but I don’t think I moved them in the right direction! Curiously enough, I came between 25 feet and 50 feet from the targets! That’s what makes the woods exciting, especially hunting.
Ok, so now I was full of enthusiasm and the objective of our mission was milling around in front of me. I wanted to let dad and Kyle know to keep their eyes peeled, so I texted them. No response. So I called them. Nothing. Then I thought, I’ll just call my sister, she was in Boston for work and I wasn’t able to talk to her all week and I wanted to share my excitement with her. As I was whispering into the phone, I had to laugh because Nicole was whispering back to me. That was too funny! After we hung up, I decided to call mom at work to see why dad wasn’t answering his phone. Keep in mind, this is all happening while I was slowly moving the deer in what I thought was the right direction, only later to find out I was too far down the hill. Let’s get real, deer can’t completely be predicted and I wasn’t a sheep dog. Anyway, mom solved the riddle, I later on found out, that dad didn’t have his phone on him. She did laugh at me and said in a common sense tone, “Dad doesn’t know how to text, he doesn’t know how to do anything on his phone except make a call and answer it.” That comment was also confirmed by dad later on in the day, when he said, “Don’t text, I don’t do that texting s#@t. Just call!”
During all this time of making phone calls, I was also Twittering my adventures and responding to Facebook. I couldn’t help myself, I am a child of the electronic age and this was exciting. My friend Kelly responded back saying I was the first hunter with play by play tweets from the woods! That was hilarious!
After the first push didn’t bring us a kill, dad sent me down to move up the opposite side of the ridge. While that path was simpler in terms of less brush, it certainly worked my buttock muscles with the hills and valleys. I actually like that side better, I was more familiar with it. Once I met up with Kyle and dad, they didn’t have any luck seeing anything, neither did I. Not even tracks. Lucky for Kyle I had my satchel containing some fruit and snacks. As he sat on his log, he mentioned he forgot his food back at the quad. Now that brought a smile to my face. I did the same thing on my first hunting trip. I’m glad I could save the day with Oreo cookies. All three of us snacked on them until they were done before dad made the decision to move on. After a while we went back to the house for lunch, very uncharacteristic for my dad, but I guess the man’s getting old. After lunch we went out to a friends farm to try out luck there. I also forgot to mention the dogs got out early in the morning and were on the run. I do believe that messed up our game plan, they spooked the deer.
Sitting in a field on the edge of woods was pretty uneventful, and I mean completely uneventful. Boring actually. I didn’t have anything to do but sit there and watch the woods for deer. Not fun in my book, but I wanted to help Kyle out with his first deer so I tried my hardest to focus and stay on task. This experience was all Kyle and dad talked about for weeks. Even when we went to the grocery store on Thursday night, Kyle picked up a few sweets which he referred to as his ‘victory’ desserts. Yep he was determined to get a deer.
Before we started to walk down to our vantage point, Kyle grabbed his thermoses of water, hot chocolate and his sandwich. Not his coat, orange vest or rifle. He looked like a little old man packing for a camping trip for a month. It wasn’t cold out, in fact it was a sunny blue day that may have reached the 60’s. The best quote I’ve heard in a long time came from dad in response to Kyle’s actions. He said, “Kyle are you gonna grab your rifle or are you planning on clubbing the deer with corn?” I died laughing, it was too funny. Kyle laughed to, but dad didn’t join in. After all he still means business and he really wanted to see Kyle get a deer.
As we sat in the field, watching the tree line, I couldn’t help but notice all these birds flying over our heads from one tree to another across the distance of the field. There were literally thousands of them making fun artsy shapes in the beautiful white cloud decorated sky. Once I got past the graceful patterns displayed above our heads and the uniformed travel patterns, I leaned over to Kyle and said, “If a bird craps on me, I’m leaving.” He started to laugh! I almost wish I would have never said anything because then Kyle’s attention was taken off of playing with the grass and moved overhead. We were both suppose to be watching for deer. Ok maybe me and Kyle more alike than I realize. At one point we started to get the giggles. I couldn’t help myself and I’m sure dad was ready to loose his patience.
Dad kept reassuring us that any time now the deer should be out-and-about. Just then the moment we’ve all been waiting for…a doe in the distance. Actually it was on my right side, less than 100 yards from us. As I poked Kyle he responded by saying, “What? What Aunt Heather?”, as he looked around thinking I was referring to something else. Now that caused me to roll my eyes. Then I motioned for Kyle to poke my dad to get his attention. As Kyle did so, dad’s hunting instincts were in high gear as looked over and saw the deer pretty much immediately. He gave a reassuring nod as I slowly crawled out of the way. I could have laid down and covered my ears while Kyle shot over me, but it would have made him nervous and there was no need, the deer was just grazing along.
At first Kyle was going to free hand the shot, but dad stood up and helped to move his tripod stand to make it easier on him. Again the deer was didn’t really notice us at first and when it did we remained still until it looked away and continued feeding. It took Kyle what seemed like an hour to make the shot, but when he did it was a hit. I’ll give Kyle credit, he didn’t panic and wasn’t too quick to pull the trigger.
After the bullet launched itself into the ribs of the deer, it did the typical buck and jump before heading straight towards me. What? I’ve never had a deer charge me. I didn’t know what to do! All I thought was, “I’m going to be run over by a deer! I’m going to walk out of here with hoof prints on my face!” Just before the deer reached me, I pulled my hands up over my face, which spooked the injured disoriented deer and caused him to run up the hill. I say he because later we found out it was a button buck, less than three inches, perfectly legal. Kyle said, “I thought it was mad at us for shooting at him and it decided to charge us!” Now that was a funny thought! I told Kyle, “There fora minute I thought you were going to sing ‘Aunt Heather got run over by a reindeer’!” We laughed at our silliness.
Now began the hunt for the wounded. We began tracking the blood trail up through the corn field and lost track of the blood in the open hay field. Kyle was the first to spot the blood, even before dad. Good eye buddy! After we came out on the other side of the corn, dad went one way and I went the other. Kyle was torn of what he was suppose to do, so he followed dad. In no time at all, Kyle came running around the corn and was yelling for me. He said, “Aunt Heather where are you? Pappy found the deer and it’s dead! Hurry come this way!” He was all panting and excited. I followed Kyle to his first deer kill. Last year he shot at a deer, but we never did find it after tracking it through the woods.
Now begins the really funny part of the story. As history dictates, I wanted to get a picture with Kyle and his deer. Although he was a bit apprehensive of touching the deceased beast. Once we got past that, it was time to gut the animal. Dad pulled out a deer knife and began cleaning off the blade, he said, “I haven’t cleaned this blade since your daddy killed his last deer.” Wow that had to be over 11 years ago. I didn’t ask, but I thought that knife was Ryan’s.
Dad was elated with joy and complete pride for Kyle! Well, that was quickly put aside when Kyle leaned over the dead animal and said, “OO it smells like death!” I started laughing, not realizing how serious his comment was. As soon as dad started to gut the deer, which I’ve seen more times than I can count, Kyle turned himself away from us in the field and started to dry heave. Dad rolled his eyes in frustration while I fell over laughing. I truly couldn’t help myself even though he was upset over his sensitive stomach. Kyle kept reiterating, “Sorry I just can’t stand the smell.” I really don’t think it was the sight of the blood, but more the smell.
At one point, I was poking the stomach and Kyle looked like he was so grossed out he couldn’t take it. By now dad and I both had blood soaked hands and Kyle got a little on him. You would have thought he was doused in it the way he freaked out.
After most of the prep work was completed, to transport the deer back home, dad turned to Kyle and said, “You’re not done yep, I’m going to show you how to cut out the heart.” Kyle about turned green and backed away. Then, he proceeded to sit himself in the truck and wait there while we loaded the deer.
Kyle was fine with the carcase after dad and I skinned it and rinsed it out. He even helped to cut up the steaks for dinner on Saturday night. The entire way through dinner dad kept saying, “This deer tastes like it has been eating corn!” It was cute, dad and Kyle were proud of his kill. Not to mention Kyle literally put food on the table for dinner that night.
You know what? Dad’s right the fresh steak does taste better. Nice lean meat. Way to go Kyle! Congratulations!