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Our First Season Together

Jeff StoryBy Jeff Story

-- After all my talk about beautiful hunting locations, my new bride, Virginia (Ginni), wanted to try deer hunting. Being in the military (USAF) and stationed in North Dakota, Ginni and I started to prepare for the upcoming seasons. We bought a new Hoyt MT Sport Z200 for her and began to practice.

Ginni and I traveled to a farmstead where I had permission to hunt. She decided to try one of my climbing stands, so I took her in and explained how to climb it and left to go to my stand. The evening came and went, and after returning to the truck, she said she would like to move the stand and that it was hard to climb. I explained that it was in a great location and I had shot at and missed a big 10-pointer there.

We returned on a Saturday afternoon, and I again took Ginni to one of the stands and decided to take a walk to try to get the deer moving and get her a shot. I told her I would be back just before dark. It seemed that I had walked all over North Dakota by the end of the day. I had seen a couple of deer, one big-racked buck and a doe or two that were nowhere close to bow range.

StoryI then went back to get Ginni, but all that was there was an empty stand at the base of the tree. At first I thought maybe she had killed the 10-pointer and was tracking it. I took out my cell phone and called her, whispering very softly, "Where are you?"

"In the field," came the stern response.

I whispered, "What field?"

She said, "The field just out from the stand." She sounded upset.

I went to the field, and there she sat at the edge of the woods, and she was M-A-D. I said, "What’s wrong?"

In a rather loud voice, she said, "I can NOT climb in that stand. I don’t have enough upper body strength to pull myself up! I want to move the stand anyway; I have located a better place."

The first thing that went through my mind was, "What does she know about a good spot?" However, since I was already in the doghouse, I got the stand and moved it to a tree overlooking a cow trail at the corner of an alfalfa field. The tree had several limbs that Ginni could climb to get into the stand. She climbed the tree and was satisfied, so we went to the truck. I finally got the courage to ask if she had seen any deer. She replied, "All I saw was a few turkeys, and they saw me and took off. I was so mad I just came out and waited for you."

The next evening, we returned for an enjoyable hunt, or so we thought. The wind was blowing, as it almost always does in North Dakota. I took Ginni to her stand and assisted her in getting settled, trying to get out of the doghouse. Then I walked to my stand and got situated. About 30 minutes into the hunt, Mother Nature decided to pick up the wind a notch or two — to about 30- to 40-mph gusts. We stayed in the stands until dark, and I saw a few does out of shooting range. Ginni saw one doe in the horizon about 200 yards out. When I went to get her, she kindly explained that she could not have shot at a deer if one had climbed in the stand with her because she had a death grip on the tree to keep from falling out during the wind gusts.

Well, a day or so went by and I decided to go back and try again. I called Ginni before we got off work and told her I wanted to go. She had an event with one of the children but said I could go "if I wanted." I should have picked up on that subtle hint, but as I mentioned at the beginning, I was still somewhat of a newlywed. I went home, grabbed my PSE Mach 4 and all my equipment and started down the road.

Next I called Ginni to see if she minded me hunting out of the stand we moved; she hesitated but agreed. I think she was torn between wanting to know if anything was moving by the stand and fear of me taking her buck.

I arrived at the stand, put out some cover scent and marked off a couple of yardage locations and climbed up. At dusk, two bucks came in. I then heard a loud noise in the leaves behind me. As I slowly turned, there were Ginni’s turkeys. I thought, "I sure am glad she’s not here. I would probably be in trouble again." They came to within 15 yards and were scratching and pecking at the ground. I watched and just enjoyed them just as God meant us to enjoy such sights.

The turkeys picked around for what seemed like forever before they finally disappeared back into the woods. I could still hear them, and it sounded like they had split up and some were coming back. I turned and saw a deer headed my way. I got my bow and got ready for a shot at what I hoped was a buck. As the deer moved through the brush, I caught a glimpse of a rack. Sure enough, it was a big buck.

I started to get buck fever but quickly gathered my composure. The buck came out to just about where the turkeys had been, and I had ranged them at 15 yards. He was standing broadside looking into the alfalfa field, so I went to full draw and started to count points, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7" — that was all I needed. I let the arrow go and connected right behind the shoulder.

I called Ginni to let her know I had hit one and ask her to bring the kids. I figured they would all want to see the buck and Ginni could learn to field-dress a deer. I don’t know if that was such a good idea. She exclaimed, "You shot it out of my stand, didn’t you!"

I thought it was my stand and that she was just using it, but I must have been wrong. To this day, when we talk about this deer, I still hear, "He shot it out of MY stand!" Anyway, I got to the buck — a beautiful 12-pointer — shortly before Ginni and the kids arrived. It was my first with more than 8 points, and I was very pleased. I field-dressed it as they watched, and then they helped drag the deer to the truck.

When gun season rolled around, I wanted to help Ginni get her first deer. We discussed my favorite gun spot, which is on public land. I told her that I had a prime area overlooking water and some real thick brush. She said, "Yea, kind of like my other stand." I guess I was still in the doghouse.

As we headed in on opening day, I told her that the season opened at noon and that she needed to be ready before that or we would go home empty-handed. As we entered the area, we jumped a deer and watched as it ran out of sight. She just looked at me in disbelief, and I again told her it would be okay.

At 11:30, other hunters began walking in from the other end of the property — the deer began to move! Two does and a buck bolted by, and Ginni looked at me with a deer-in-the-headlight-look and said, "Will they all come by that fast?"

Chuckling, I said, "No, they might slow down a little." Not meaning to put on any added pressure, I said, "Oh, by the way, that gun has never missed a deer, so don’t jinx it!"

At noon, the first shot rang out and I told Ginni to get ready. Does were running everywhere, and all we had were buck tags. Then the bucks began to come through. A 6-pointer stepped out at 100 yards and I told her to get into position and take the shot when she was ready. She looked through the scope and said, "He’s not big enough."

I could help thinking, "My first buck was a spike, and I was happy to harvest it!"

We sat and watched more than 20 deer, bucks and does, come through — everything from spikes to a nice 8-pointer which she couldn’t see. I had my old Hawken muzzleloader, so I took the shot and missed. I tried to get her to shoot at every buck that came through, but none were big enough for her. I had told her prior to the season that if she was patient she would kill a big buck, but I never dreamed she would pass up so many.

At about 1:15, a huge buck appeared in the bottom where the water hole is. I could see with my naked eye that it was a shooter. Ginni got ready and was looking through the scope as I watched through the binoculars. I told her that she better shoot this one or I was going to.

She was still just looking and I said, "You need to shoot this one!"

Still no shot! "What is she doing?"

I looked down just as Ginni took a deep breath. I quickly looked back to the deer just as she squeezed the trigger. The deer lunged forward and fell. Ginni was so excited that she jumped straight up and started out of the blind. I told her to sit down and let him alone for a little bit so we could make sure he was down for good. She said, "If I see orange going that way, I’m out of here." I agreed.

It seemed the longer we sat, the more Ginni moved around, so I said, "let’s go get him." I don’t think I got all of that out before she was gone. We walked over to where the buck had been standing, and there was blood in the snow. We walked a few steps and Ginni said, "He’s gone!"

I told her that he was right there under an evergreen, and all you could see was a little brown on his rump sticking out of the snow. I got down to pull the buck out of the snow so she could get her hands on it. As I rolled it over, rack just kept coming. I’m talking big rack, mass and points. I counted 13 points with some small kickers around the brow tines. We took pictures and drug him up behind our blind so I could try to get a buck, too. Then I heard, "My deer has 13 points, and the one you killed out of my stand has only 12. Mine has bigger mass, too."

We got back in the blind, but I didn’t have much confidence. Ginni asked what I considered a shooter buck, and I told her that it had to have at least 8 points and the rack had to be past the ears on both sides. At about 3:30, Ginni was looking through her binoculars when I noticed a real nice buck standing on a hill. I got my .25-06 that Ginni had been using and looked through the scope. I whispered, "That is a shooter." I clicked off the safety, squeezed the trigger, and down went the buck.

Ginni said, "What are you shooting at? You scared the crap out of me!" We went over to my deer and she said, "Mine is still bigger than yours," as she snickered.

When we returned home with our trophies, I think Ginni called everyone she knew and told them about the hunt. And I enjoyed every second of it. I had taken a non-hunter and made a life-long hunting buddy out of her.

Ginni wanted to get the pictures developed the next day, so we started taking pictures of the kids and around the house — anything to use up the roll of film. Then I looked at the counter on the camera, and it read "38." I had never seen a roll of film with 38 pictures on it. I showed it to Ginni, so we opened the back of the camera. The roll was there, but when she loaded the camera, the film didn’t advance. Ginni’s heart sank, and I explained that we still had the deer and could take more pictures. She said it just wouldn’t be the same.

The next morning, we pulled the deer from the garage and took pictures in the yard. Then we skinned them out and drove to the taxidermist with a short stop to get the pictures developed. Ginni’s 13-pointer scored 140 4/8, while my 12-pointer scored 106 6/8. The 8-point buck has yet to be scored. There were no pictures taken of the 12-pointer, but it’s hanging on the wall with the others.

Our first hunting season together was a memory that will last a lifetime.

Jeff Story
Jonesborough, Tenn.

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