I recently read an article on the OutdoorLife website (link at the end of this post) that got me thinking about the first deer I shot. My first introduction to hunting was when I was about 8 or 9 years old (’94-’95 time frame) on my family’s property in Mississippi. We ran dogs back then and the only thing I saw in the woods that year was one of the many beagles that would chase deer towards us. It wasn’t until November of 1999 that I would tag out on my first deer on a lease in Texas. So here is the story, as best I can remember it.
My dad, brother and I had been hunting all weekend long on a lease near Brackettville, Texas. The hunting in this part of Texas was much different than the hardwood ridges and bottoms I had hunted before in Mississippi. This place was rocky, had sparse vegetation, little water and you would hunt in box blinds that stood 20 feet in the air with a 360′ view for what seemed like miles. Located near a box blind would be a feeder that would throw corn out at designated times of the day in order to feed deer. The sound of the feeder going off was like a dinner bell and it didn’t take long for the deer to show up once it goes off.
I was very familiar with the property at this point. During the summers we would load up in my dad’s Ford Explorer and head to deer camp. Summers were filled with work to prepare for deer season. We would cut brush, fill feeders with corn, check box blinds to make sure they were still safe, spray for wasps in box blinds and a laundry list of other items. It was hard work, but the fruits of our labor awaited us when deer season rolled around. This work really helped build a foundation for me as a outdoorsman. I spent countless hours riding around the property, seeing wildlife, practicing shooting my rifle and shotgun, learning to shoot a pistol and learning to drive etc. I would not be who I am today as an outdoorsman without these experiences. Without them I would have no foundation.
My dad really only had one rule for my first deer, it had to be an 8 point or bigger. Looking back on it I am glad that we were in South Texas because anywhere else it would have probably taken me much longer to accomplish that. It took until Sunday for me to see an 8 point that I could harvest. He stepped out from the brush and started towards the feeder where a few does were already eating. My dad told me that he was a shooter and to take my time to make a good shot. I settled my crosshairs on his shoulder and began to prepare to shoot.
I couldn’t pull the trigger. The term “buck fever” doesn’t even begin to describe what my body was going through. I couldn’t keep the crosshairs on the buck to save my life. My legs and arms were shaking enough for my dad to notice and he asked me if I wanted him to shoot for me. I told him no and that I could do it. Before I knew it the buck had stepped back into the brush and was presumably gone forever. I had missed my opportunity and we were set to leave Sunday afternoon to go home. All that hard work and preparation paid off, but I just couldn’t capitalize on it.
Sensing my disappointment and frustration, my dad made the decision to stay for the afternoon hunt. We went to the same stand and settled into our chairs waiting for the deer to start moving. Like clockwork, the feeder went off and the deer started pouring out, just not my 8 point. After awhile I started to think he wouldn’t show up, but just before sunset he walked out and the buck fever started to rear it’s ugly head again. This time was worse than the previous hunt because I had been thinking about it all day. My dad tried to calm me down with words of encouragement, but all I could do was stare at this buck through my scope and shake. The buck started to move towards the brush and out of my line of sight. As he lowered his head for one last piece of corn I took a deep breath, paused and pulled the trigger. Deer fled in every direction and as I regained my composure and looked through the scope I could see a brown mass laid out on the rocky ground. It had been a quick clean kill and my first deer was waiting for me to get my hands on him. My dad and I climbed down out of our stand and I rushed over to see my deer up close and personal. He was as cool as he looked in my scope, exactly what I wanted for my first deer. My dad congratulated me and we loaded him up to take him back to camp. Once there I was greeted with handshakes and congratulations from the other people at camp that day. I was a part of the club now.
I still have that deer mounted in my house to this day and one day my kid’s first deer will sit right beside it. So much of why I love the outdoors can be attributed to this lease in Texas and my family’s property in Mississippi. Spending time in the outdoors preparing for the season helped me gain an appreciation for hard work and for nature. To this day I still look at pre-season preparation as one of the best parts of the season. Any reason to get outdoors with your family and enjoy nature is worth it to me. It won’t be long until it’s summer time and I’ll be loading my kids up in my truck to go move stands and help plant food plots.
– The Family Outdoorsman