By Paul Gamblin
I am a relatively new deer hunter, although I did a fair amount of small-game hunting as a teenager.
After I got married, I wanted to continue hunting, but just couldn’t afford it. After a while, that dream just got buried, but every time a hunter friend offered fresh or frozen venison, I took it.
Eventually, the strains of wanting children but never being able to have them wore on my wife until our marriage finally ended after 18 years. I moved in with my brother to heal from the divorce, and God used him to direct me to a local church with a fantastic divorce recovery support group. After a time, God used that group to introduce me to a woman who had the same heart as I did — the fervent desire to help other people heal from divorce the way God had helped us heal. We’ve been married for 5 1/2 years now, and her son is, to me, just like the son I never had.
After moving in with my brother, the hunting bug bit me again. However, the financial pressures were still on me, and even to this day I don’t have my own rifle or shotgun yet. I began watching the hunting shows on TV and the desire grew and grew.
Finally, I found a friend who let me go with him and borrow his shotgun. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before. We met at his house, stopped by the local gas station / restaurant for a biscuit, then hit the road. We saw a couple of does on the way to his property, but once we got there, the activity stopped. Before shooting light, we got set up to wait.
I was so inexperienced, I had a fold-up camp chair and was sitting just on the edge of a clearing where there were a lot of tracks. But did I see anything? NO! I heard some twigs snapping and leaves crunching, but nothing came out where I could see it.
A week or two later, we went again. This time, I used his ladder stand to get higher so I could see farther. I could see, all right. I saw plenty of squirrels playing on some fallen logs, and I saw plenty of birds flying overhead. But deer? They were nowhere to be found. I still enjoyed the time spent in nature.
And so ended the 2006 season. I wanted to prepare for the next season, but it seemed like every time I was ready to buy a rifle, something would come up and we had to spend the money elsewhere.
When the 2007 deer season opened, I was again without the necessary equipment. AND, since I have been out of contact with my hunting friend, I didn’t have a place to go, either. But my loving wife, who knows how much this means to me, did something I never expected her to do. She talked to her ex-husband one day when he was picking up their son for visitation, and she arranged for me to borrow one of his deer rifles.
Well, I still needed a place to hunt, but Julie took care of that, too. She is a special needs bus monitor for our county, and her driver has 15 acres way out in the woods but not too far from our house. Her driver offered me her back yard any time I want to come over, and she even told me where and when the deer usually come out of the woods.
My first hunt there was on a very cold morning. It was perfect for deer movement, but I didn’t realize how cold it would get. I put on my camo shirt, jeans, hunter orange vest, hat, socks and shoes, and went over before dark to set up. It was perfect (or so I thought)...enough moonlight to see, a woodshed with half-walls that made a perfect gun rest, a chair behind the half-wall to sit in, looking straight at the natural funnel that the woods made in the lower end of her back yard, and a gun with plenty of ammo. I was elated.
As time went on, though, I realized just HOW cold the morning was. The gun barrel began to feel more and more like a block of ice instead of metal, and I kept having to put my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. By daylight, I don’t know if I could have pulled the trigger if I wanted to.
All around me, I could hear guns going off in the distance, but I still had not seen anything. I didn’t know if I had done something wrong or if it was just me. I had used scent-elimination spray, and I wasn’t readily visible since I was up under the shed in the shadows.
Around 8:30 that morning, I finally had to just give up and go home. My first solo deer hunt, and all I got from it was bronchitis.
Well, I kept going back over and over again, and I even bought a grunt call, but I kept getting skunked. That is, until the morning of Christmas Eve. I went over to Ms. Jeannette’s house, frustrated at myself for not getting out before sunup, but I decided to go anyway.
I got set up, and started blowing some grunts. I had heard that it was better to blow a few grunts and wait a while before grunting again, but that morning I just decided to keep on blowing. I guess I averaged a grunt about every 1.5 seconds or so, glassing around every so often.
After only about 15 or 20 minutes, I was glassing the tree line, and all of a sudden I saw two beady eyes, 2 big ears, a big black nose and antlers sticking up. My heart leaped in my chest!
I grunted softly once or twice, and then I slowly leaned forward and brought the borrowed .30-30 rifle to my shoulder.
The buck stepped out, turned and started trotting across the field. I blew a grunt to stop him. He stopped, turned around, and started retracing his steps. Sighting-in on his shoulder, I waited for him to stop. He did, and it was long enough for me to slowly pull the trigger and shoot.
He hit the ground, and I lowered the rifle. But then he got up and ran into the woods.
I thought, Oh, boy, now I’ve got to track him. But then the impact of the truth that I had actually shot my first deer started to sink in. I went crazy, whooping and hollering.
Ms. Jeannette came out first, and she was happy for me that I had finally gotten one. She went in to get her husband so he could help me track it.
I called my buddy from my Bible study group. I knew he would like to see it, but he was at work, so I just waited for Mr. Larry to come out.
We got to the edge of the woods and saw his trail. There was lots of blood, so I knew it was a good shot. But we didn’t really need the trail, because the buck only ran 50 yards. Getting to him was difficult, though, due to the wet oak leaves. I slipped and fell, but when we got to him, it was all worth it.
The 6-pointer had a fairly good size body. I had never field-dressed a deer before and had only read about how to do it, I decided to let the processor do it for me. It was worth the extra $20.