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The Season to Remember

ZieglerBy Jessica LaMontagne

-- During the 2003 deer season, my dad took a 10-point buck. I witnessed the whole thing! I think I was in a bit of shock, but felt super lucky to be hunting with my Daddy that day. It was quite thrilling and exciting to watch him take down the buck. I was proud of him and so excited and ready to go out the following year and bag one of my own. 
      
When the 2004 season arrived, Dad swung by my house around 2:30 a.m. on opening day, and we loaded up in his Tahoe and made our way to the 40 acres we hunt in Owensville, Mo. We talked non-stop about the big bucks were going to get, of course, and life in general.
 
It was dark and chilly, so we decided to take a nap in the Tahoe for an hour or so until it was time to head into the woods. After not really napping, because we're just too darn excited, like kids on Christmas Eve, we piled on the layers of clothes to stay warm, sprayed ourselves down with clay scent, and started the hike up the trail through the woods to our deer stands. 
 
I heard one, two, three gun shots ring out from what seemed like every property surrounding ours in the last few hours. I thought to myself, "I know they're up and moving around. Any second now, Buck is going to walk my way."

Hours end up passing by, and I got frustrated and bored enough for a moment that I decide to rest my rifle across my knees and reach into my pocket for a Snickers candy bar. Tearing the wrapper open and taking a bite, I looked around for any deer to walk on up, and then guess what happens to be standing just to my right, only 20 yards away? Two does are just moseying along with their heads up and down picking away at whatever they could find on the ground. They truly couldn't care less that I was there chomping away at my Snickers, crinkling the wrapper. 

I think I actually said, "You've got to be kidding me." Hours and hours of no deer and sitting so still watching for every little movement, then I move and make noise and there they appear ... unbelievable.

Among Dad's 101 stories of hunting, he's mentioned how deer can magically appear, and disappear for that matter, from nowhere right in front of you. I now understood what he was talking about. I set the Snickers down and slowly raised my rifle up to my shoulder to take a shot, and then boom! I fired a shot at the larger doe, and completely missed. The entire herd took off running, and I shrugged my shoulders. I really wanted a buck anyway. So back into position I went, with my hands properly placed on my rifle, facing forward, Snickers put away, ready and waiting for Buck. 
 
Then it happened. I heard a crunch over my shoulder again, much louder than my candy bar. I slowly looked over my right shoulder, and there was the buck I'd been waiting for. My heart was beating so loudly, my adrenaline pumping, my hands shaking. He was walking along, picking through the leaves of the floor of the woods and wasn't paying me a bit of attention. Perfect, except he was over my right shoulder. I waited ever so patiently as he slowly made his way closer and closer to me. My eyes were starting to cross as I watched him head toward me. I was sure he could hear my heart beating out of my chest.

A couple of seconds later, he put his head right back down into the leaves and took some more steps. I shifted to get into position when it happened . . . CLINK!  CLANK!  CLINK!  DING! CRUNCH!  The casing from my first shot was resting on my lap. It fell when I shifted and bounced off of each metal step all the way to the ground. 

My jaw dropped, my heart stopped and so did Buck. He stopped walking and looked up and all around trying to figure out what just happened. Then, to my amazement, he put his head back down and continued to pick around in the leaves. Talk about pressing my luck! After that, I raised my gun to my shoulder, lined up my sites, and BANG! Got him! He was mine.
 
I squealed at the top of my lungs in excitement, surely disturbing the other hunters within at least a 5-mile range. What do you expect? I'm a girl.

Dad was only about 75 yards behind me, hunting from the ground, and yelled at me to not get down yet. He hadn't seen anything, but I guess the squeal pretty much told him I got one. 

I proceeded to squeal back at him as he made his way to my stand, "I got one! I got one! Look, Dad. Look!" As he got close enough to see the deer on the ground, I made my way down my ladder and over to my first kill. I could barely walk. My knees were shaking and trembling uncontrollably! I even pointed them out to Dad, and said, "Do you see these knees?" I was unbelievably ecstatic! Absolutely thrilled! 

Dad was proudly smiling. My grin was uncontrollable. My cheeks were practically in my ears. I posed for a few pictures as Dad clicked away. What an awesome feeling! I really felt like I had checked something off of my life's to-do list.
 
Big thanks to my daddio, for helping me experience a thrill of a lifetime. An animal bigger than me, a deer, a buck -- a 7-point buck!  I'll never forget it. 
 
Jessica LaMontagne
St. Louis, Missouri

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