The thrill of the hunt

Well, it’s opening weekend of deer hunting season for all those slug hunters out there, and here I sit in my cozy little house trying to get some work done.

Years ago, when I was growing up on the farm, I’d be up before the sun with all of the excitement and anticipation. A gun-toting female I am not … oh no, not me!

But, the first morning of deer hunting season … in fact, every morning of deer hunting season … our house would fill with hunters. There were usually two or three of my brothers, my dad back in those earlier years, a couple of the neighbor guys and a friend or two of theirs.

Mom would have the crockpot of chili already started. I’ll bet anything she has it going already this morning. It’s a tradition during the deer hunt … that, and egg salad sandwiches. By the end of the day, nobody wants to share a ride with a hunter who has eaten chili and egg salad!

With that mental picture now in my head, I must move on.

As much as I feared guns and as much as I wanted all deer to live, there was a time when I begged, and begged and begged some more to be able to ride along and "help."

Dad would drive and I’d be in the passenger seat of the truck with a pair of binoculars around my neck. I’d look through the corn rows for the dark, four-legged bucks, and scan across the hills and valleys in our neighborhood south of Worthington.

Once in a while, when a couple of hunting parties converged – usually it was my Uncle Floyd, his four sons and their friends – I’d get to help even more by walking a field with the guys. We’d each have about four or five rows of corn to criss-cross, hoping to scare up the ever-elusive deer.

I’ll never forget what led to my being banned from the hunting party.

It was a crisp, fall morning and our hunting group combined with Uncle Floyd’s to walk one of the massive corn fields he hadn’t yet harvested on his farm.

I was the only one without a gun, of course.

They put me in a section between my cousin Kurt and I think my cousin Doug … and then we walked.

We were probably mid-way through the field when I crossed over a corn row and stood eye to eye with one of the most beautiful bucks I had ever seen. It had to be a 10-pointer, maybe a 12-pointer … I was too scared to think about counting tips on an antler with this critter staring me down and huffing through his nose.

I was wishing I had a camera.

My cousins were wishing I had a gun!

I managed to get the attention of my neighboring hunter, but because of the close proximity between me and the deer, he wasn’t about to shoot his weapon.

After what seemed like several minutes (in reality it was probably only several seconds), the deer bolted … fortunately for me, it was in the opposite direction!

Now, I probably shouldn’t say what happened next (I don’t think my brothers and cousins are faithful Farm Bleat readers, so I should be safe), but I was silently saying, "Run deer, run … they’re going to try to shoot you!"

And, oh, did he run. He leaped gracefully through the cornfield, dodging bullets and listening as a group of men shouted, "Deer, deer … deer to the left … deer to the right … get him!"

I might have gotten down on all fours in my corn row … I can’t remember. It was all so stressful!

There had to be 20 or 30 shots fired at the massive beast (in no way am I implying the men in my family and extended family can’t hit a deer), and yet, he managed to find his way to freedom. He was, I think, just very determined to live!

Well, when the hunting party finally emerged from the corn field, you can about imagine the discussion that was taking place! What happened? How come you missed him? Where were you? … and so on and so on.

In the end, though, they all seemed to turn their attention on me … the one without the gun. There were harsh glares, muttered whispers and from one or two of my brothers, perhaps a few angry words.

I didn’t dare to say, "Oh, wasn’t he beautiful," though it was certainly on my mind.

What I did say, went more like this: "Oh, I wish I’d had my camera to shoot him!"

Yep, I’m forever banned from the hunting party. That’s OK … I don’t want to go anymore anyway!

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