My First Deer

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

my right shoulder. The deer was still moving, and I switched the gun to shoot left handed, pressing into the moss on the side of the tree to help steady my aim.

I sighted into the space beyond the wood pile and waited for the doe to appear. There was nothing in my mind but the opening and its potential to hold the approaching doe. When she reached the opening, she made a quarter turn toward me and took another step, one ear facing me directly. I saw her through the sights, aimed and pulled the trigger. My adrenaline was up so high that I actually thought I saw the bullet leave the muzzle, but I don't remember hearing the shot.

The deer was out of sight, but I could hear her crashing off down the slope. I felt the damp earth beneath me again, and the rest of the world came back into focus. I fiddled with my gear. Wait ten minutes, I told myself. Safety on, I stood up and released the spent cartridge. I wasn't sure what to do next.

After ten minutes, I walked to the spot where the deer had been standing. There were crimson dots on shiny brown leaves that led off down the hill. There was a small spill of blood where she had jumped over a fallen tree trunk. The leaves started to look churned up as if she had staggered. She had run less than 100 feet. Her body was crumpled at the base of a tree and her eyes were facing away from me.

She seemed to still be breathing, and I thought I could see the rise and fall of her side. Actually I was breathing so hard that I was the one rising and falling. I had to brace myself against a tree to see that she was no longer moving. I reached down and touched the doe's neck. She was dead. Then I rolled her over and saw blood on her side behind her shoulder and on her chest a little right of center. I tagged the deer and went to look for someone who knew how to field dress deer.

None of the other hunters had come back to my friend's house, so I went back to the deer, took out my pamphlet on field dressing large game and propped it open with a stick. I took out my new knife and set to work. They left a lot out of the booklet's description of the process, but by 8:15 a.m. I had done a respectable job. I found that my shot had gone through her heart, so she had died quickly. I dragged the deer back to my car on the tarp and stowed her away in the hatchback.

After visiting the check station I took the deer to another friend's house, where he showed me how to butcher a large animal. Based on his instructions, I processed the deer myself and stored about 40 pounds of steaks, roasts and ground venison in my freezer.

Deciding to deer hunt was a process that took years for me. It's not something that everyone wants to do, and I think that the reasons why people hunt are as varied as the people who do it. Deer hunting is not something that I take lightly, mainly because killing that doe was an unforgettable and not altogether pleasant thing for me. Still, I'm glad that I took the time to learn some new skills and to get to know all the people who helped me hunt.

I no longer live in Missouri, but I plan to continue deer hunting. I look forward to meeting a new set of deer hunting friends and continuing to take responsibility for the meat that I eat.

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