By Michael Oder
-- It’s practically a sin in Texas for a man to see his 45th birthday having never hunted deer. At least that’s what my neighbor, Jack, told me. He bought some property out in west Texas and told me he was going to take me hunting so I could get my first deer — and get to heaven.
We finally got everything arranged, and we loaded up one early December morning. I had purchased my hunting license the night before. I had no rifle, but Jack promised he had everything I needed. With one last trip to the store for some camouflage, and I was set.
After six hours on the road, we finally got to Jack’s place. We got everything unloaded and were in the blinds for an afternoon hunt. I watched a lot of white-tailed does and spikes mill around the feeder. The hogs came in, and I have to admit I was excited about all the animals I saw.
Early to bed and early to rise, I was back in the blind by 5:30 the next morning. It was still dark, so I set up all my borrowed equipment and kicked back to wait for the sun to come up. Although I had not been a hunter, whitetails are quite abundant in Texas and I know one when I see one. And I couldn’t wait to see more.
As the sun came up, the feeder went off, startling me from a light nap. I heard some rustling off to my left and looked out to see a buck with flat antlers walking right toward the blind about 45 yards out. I learned later that morning that this was a fallow buck. Even though my heart was racing, I was able to see another set of antlers behind the first buck.
Those antlers were not flat; they were wide and tall. I knew it was not a whitetail, but I knew it was a shooter. I slowly raised my rifle and took aim. The first buck came within 30 yards and turned to my left. The second buck was coming straight at me at about 35 yards. I put the crosshairs dead in the middle of the buck’s chest, took a deep breath and squeezed. It jumped and took off around some tall bushes.
It was the most exhilarating feeling I had ever felt in my life. I sat for several minutes and tried to catch my breath. After about 20 minutes, I came out of the blind and started to look for my first deer. I went to where the buck was when I shot, and after quite a bit of searching found one spot of blood. I headed in the direction that I thought the deer went but came up empty. After 30 minutes or so of searching, I walked back to camp and found Jack.
He was excited when I walked up. "I heard you shoot! Did you get something?" he asked. I just smiled and told him I had.
He asked what it was and I answered, "I am not sure. It could be an elk for all I know. It has antlers this big," as I held my arms over my head.
Jack laughed and said, "Really? Well, let’s go look to see what you shot." We loaded up in his truck and went back to the blind and searched for almost an hour with no luck. I got a bad feeling that we might not find it.
We went back to camp and got two other hunters to help, and we even picked up Jack’s black Lab, Sadie, for good measure.
Back at the blind, I re-lived the shot for everyone and pointed out the direction the deer ran. We looked for a blood trail and found two drops heading off in slightly different directions. Then the dog’s nose saved us a lot of work.
Sadie brought us to a large bush where we found the biggest buck I had ever seen. I knew it was big when one of the guys asked Sadie what she was growling at, followed by, "Oh ... My ... Gosh!"
Well, I guess you can say that I’m hooked. My buck turned out to be a gold-class axis buck, and now all I watch are hunting shows. I’m still looking for my first whitetail, but it will come. I have taken my two sons hunting, and that was an unbelievable experience. I’ve learned so much over the last several years, not just about hunting, but wildlife conservation and herd management. I wish that I had the opportunity to become a hunter earlier in my life, but I am doing my best to make up for lost time.
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