Slowly, small groups of white-tailed deer made their way to me, pausing often to look in any direction they heard a noise. Then, I saw him. A seven-point buck fearlessly glided into the field. Steve and I looked at each other.
Steve’s look said that if I was going to harvest a deer that day, this would be the one. I slowly raised the rifle to the frame of the window, centered my scope and waited, barely breathing, for my moment.
The buck paced back and forth, but, just as I was about to aim, something spooked the herd and they all scattered. My buck was gone. I’d not taken the shot.
Would they come back? Had I lost my chance? I was about to give up hope until I noticed one of the does shyly peeking out from the trees and tentatively crossing to the clearing.
The remaining does, spikes and fawns slowly walked back out from hiding to finish their meal. On our right, the bucks emerged last, and with them, mine. He made it to the clearing. I steadied my hands, but every time I was about to take my shot, he would move to cover again.
“He’s teasing you,” Steve whispered.
This back-and-forth game continued for a while, until finally he walked into the clearing and stayed. He stood there in a perfect position for me. I took a deep breath, moved my finger to the trigger… and squeezed.
Another hunting mentor told me that when I pulled the trigger on my first hunt, I’d never hear it. The notion seemed odd to me then, but now I knew just what he meant.
I didn’t hear the hooves on the ground from the deer running away, didn’t hear Steve congratulate me and didn’t hear the shot.
I walked up to the deer after some time passed, and once I saw that he was dead, I wept.
I paid my respects to the magnificent buck by taking part in a first hunt tradition, the smearing of a small amount of the animal’s blood on the face of the hunter. It felt ancient and primal.
Steve cleaned the deer, explaining the intricate process to me along the way, and we went into town to drop it off for processing.
I’ll be eating venison all year, and savoring it, just like when I was a girl at my family’s table.