We had planted some corn in the summer, hoping for an early fall harvest. It was a corn that I was familiar with but hadn’t tried before. I liked the corn’s colors on the package, it is supposed to be a type of Indian corn that a man up in Montana had created. The crop is currently about two feet, maybe a few inches taller, in height, not ready for the harvest yet, but I am looking forward to trying it. It is supposed to be multi-colored and very healthy.
Eric Smith and I, along with his oldest son, Tyler, have been out hunting this last week. Over the spring and summer, we used some of the surplus feed corn that Jenkins has up here at the ranch to encourage more deer traffic into our borders. The deer are not scarce, but they aren’t overly abundant either. Early in our stay at the ranch, due to our food stores, we attempted to stay within our traditional hunting times for big game, but after the first year we realized we wouldn’t have enough of a protein source to go around and would need to hunt and trap more frequently.
This was Tyler’s first time hunting, he was fourteen and it was a part of his rites of passage that he had been preparing for. Eric had introduced his to the basics of marksmanship when he was about eight years old, using a small .22LR single shot bolt-action rifle. The rifle was a popular choice among parents for introducing their children and/or grandchildren into the world of firearms. It was called “the Kit” and had a picture of a young cartoon fox (also called a kit) on the packaging. I write this down for the reader to understand and get a representation of how the great majority of gun owners in this country actually brought up their children in a “gun culture”. It was purposefully and responsibly done. Tyler had become a proficient shot with his “Kit” and had kept it for small game hunting, like rabbits.
We had stalked in early, about an hour before sunrise and settled in to our blind. It was located about 50 yards east of small clearing where we had been spreading some corn around. We wanted our backs to the sun when the deer came in for a morning snack. The night had been dark, a waning moon with heavy cloud cover, which meant that even though the deer had exceptional vision at night, we stood a better chance at seeing them active during the morning than if there was a full moon with no cloud cover.
Tyler was patient, but we could tell he was getting antsy as we waited and waited. We didn’t hear or see movement until about two hours after sunrise. Slowly, a single doe edged into the clearing. A mule deer. She was smaller, barely into adulthood. As Tyler was slowly raising his rifle and getting a clear sight picture through his scope, Eric and I noticed more movement from where the first doe had come from. Eric put his hand on his son’s shoulder and in a low voice, told him to wait. A small stream of deer came in; another doe with two fawns, then another single doe, then a young two-point buck. We sat and watched them for about ten minutes and then a larger four point buck stepped confidently into the clearing.
Tyler clearly had his choice in this small group. The dominant male, the satellite buck, or either of the single doe. Tyler wouldn’t take the mother, he understood the fawn would need her. We left the choice to him. Carefully, Tyler took aim and began to slowly inhale and exhale, going through the steps of firing the shot.
The report of his .243 bolt-action rifle sent the deer fleeing for cover. We waited for about five minutes, which seemed like an eternity to all of us and then we carefully approached the clearing to get a blood trail. I heard Eric yell out, “Dead deer!” as Tyler ran to an edge of the clearing opposite where we had set up. About ten yards into the brush, we could see the hind legs of a deer sticking upward towards the sky. It was the older buck. Upon further inspection, Tyler’s shot was well placed, hitting right in the spot all hunters aim for – just behind the front leg – lining up with the lungs and heart. In an attempt to clear a felled tree, the buck had run out of the energy and life to make it and did more of a tumble than anything. After dressing out the buck, we saw that the damage was fairly extensive to the heart and lungs. The hollow-point projectile had all but shredded the heart. The buck was running while dead.
Tyler received a hero-like welcome upon returning to the ranch for his first successful hunt. It was a good day. Eric couldn’t have been more proud of his son.