The Measure of Success
carry a firearm.
I also showed Ryan how to maneuver through the woods and explained to him the importance of wind direction and how to recognize the various signs that animals leave. I told him to that the best way to see deer was to look for horizontal lines in the mostly vertical woodland.
Occasionally we heard the calls of wild turkeys and pileated woodpeckers, the chatter of squirrels and the wingbeats of waterfowl as they passed over the forest canopy on their way to the nearby Niangua River. Ryan asked about them all, and I answered him as well as I could.
After we sat for a while without seeing any deer, I took Ryan to another part of the property. We were looking for a place to sit down when I noticed movement to my right. I told Ryan to stand still and to be absolutely quiet. Like a ghost, a nice-antlered buck walked toward us. The wind was in our favor. I slowly positioned the shooting sticks I carried to help Ryan support his rifle.
I told Ryan to shoulder his weapon and to load it like we had practiced. Light rain began to fall. The deer moved closer. It was traveling a draw, which would provide a perfectly safe backstop for a shot. I encouraged Ryan to place the crosshairs just behind the deer's shoulder, switch the safety off and squeeze the trigger when he had clear shot.
The deer was now within 50 yards. It was an exceptional 8-pointer, a bigger deer than I had ever taken with a rifle.
Ryan continued to aim. Whispering, I asked Ryan if he could see the deer in his scope. He said he could, but that he was nervous and that the deer kept moving. Ryan attempted the breathing exercises that we had practiced for shooting, but I noticed that his breathing was short and excited. I could only imagine the amount of adrenaline rushing through his small body!
The deer continued to move slowly away from us. I whistled, and the deer froze, presenting himself mostly broadside. He looked in our direction and began stomping his front feet. Just as I whispered to Ryan that the deer wouldn't stay around long and that he would have to shoot soon, the deer turned and bounded away, his big, white tail waving until he was out of sight.