Memories of a First Buck
I grew up immersed in a hunting culture. Some of my earliest memories include waiting by the dining room window for the headlights from my dadâ€™s pickup to flood the driveway after his annual week-long hunting trip. Excitement filled my young mind as I would wait up well past my normal bedtime. I loved that feeling of anticipation, the same as I loved the smells that would be on his clothes, the stubble of his beard, and the tales that he would surely bring back – regardless of the success of the hunt. Pheasant hunts with hoards of family members before Thanksgiving dinner were expected and much anticipated annual events. Saturday mornings meant rising before the sun and sitting in the barn with my open sight bolt action Savage .22. I would wait patiently for the rabbits to emerge from a wood pile located about 40 yards from the barn where I would hone my shooting skills. This was the life I grew up enjoying.
In 2004, I married a girl from a wonderful family. A family, however, with next to zero hunting experience. My wife, Shanna, was accepting of my passion for the outdoors, but I think it would have been a stretch to say she was understanding. That first year of our marriage, I shot both an elk and a deer, and when Shanna experienced her first taste of venison rolled in flour and fried in butter over a hot skillet, her interest in this hunting business seemed to pique. In 2010 she went so far as to buy her first deer tag. We found a babysitter for our one-and-a-half year old and spent the day looking for a buck. It was a mostly disappointing hunt. The area we hunted was littered with people, and when we finally found an area to ourselves, the rain came down in a steady, â€˜soak-you-to-the-boneâ€™ drizzle. It wasnâ€™t the best of experiences for someone on their first deer hunt, so I was pleased, and even a bit surprised, when Shanna expressed a desire to hunt this year.
We now had a 4 month old to go along with our 2 ½ year old, and finding a babysitter was not easy. My mother, excited that Shanna was interested in hunting, volunteered to give up a day of her hunting season to watch the kids. This would be the day that Shanna would get hooked on hunting. We found an area to ourselves and proceeded to run into deer – and most of them bucks – constantly throughout the day. We ran into the familiar problem of Shanna, being new to using a rifle, having problems finding the deer through the rifle scope. The rifle we borrowed didnâ€™t quite fit her right, and each time we would get on bucks, she struggled to find them through her scope. I was getting anxious, but Shanna declared at the end of the day, that that day had been the most fun sheâ€™d ever had while hunting.
The next week we were grateful when my mother volunteered to watch the kids again. Our day started out slower than the week prior, but we did run into a couple bucks and, unfortunately, experienced the scope issue again. I was impressed that Shanna kept trucking with me all day long for two Saturdays. We had put a lot of miles on our feet in difficult country. For the evening, we sat at the edge of a likely feeding area. Shanna had a dead rest and we got her comfortable looking through the scope at the opposite hillside. When two bucks appeared on the hillside, she was ready. She waited for the larger of the bucks to turn broadside and stop. And waited. And waited. The bucks were putting the distance between us while never offering a good shot. When they finally turned and stopped, I judged that they were pushing 300 yards away. I told Shanna to hold right on the back and squeeze it off. I kept my eyes glued on the buck through my binoculars. When the rifle barked, the buck melted to the ground – I let out a shout of excitement! She had done it – this girl from a non-hunting background that several years ago had never heard of a 6mm, the rut, forked horns, or any other hunting jargon. I snapped the distance to the buck with my rangefinder – 327 yards! She hadnâ€™t said much since pulling the trigger and I wondered what thoughts were going through her mind. But when we reached the buck – her buck – and she sat beside it, a giant smile spread across her lips. Perhaps this was the beginning of her immersion in the hunting culture, or perhaps you could say it started when she married an outdoor junkie from Idaho, but whatever the case, her smile told me this was not a one night stand.