Alabama huntress' photo shoot interrupted by first buck
By Jamie Swartz
I'd like to say I was in a serious mood on the way to my deer stand. You'd think I'd have been white-knuckled and tense about the possibility of bagging my first buck, but as an avid amateur photographer, I had other things on my mind.
My husband, Billy Swartz, and I were driving to one of our leased areas we call The 220. On the 20-minute ride, I pondered my goal, which was to capture an image of our greenfield through my riflescope with my mobile phone's camera.
I was trying to figure out how I could rest my rifle on the shooting rail and get a steady photo from the box blind we'd be sitting in called Jay's Jungle.
Most of our stands are named after club member, and I chose this spot for two reasons. First, I knew it would conceal my movement while trying to get the photo I couldn't stop thinking about. Secondly, several club members reported seeing a four-point buck there.
In our club, if you've never shot a buck, you're allowed to shoot one of any size, but after that they must have at least four points on one side of their rack.
This rule originally might have been for kids, but members said it applied to me as well. As an adult, I knew I wouldn't shoot a spike or something little. I really had my heart set on a big 6-pointer.
Because the other members couldn't shoot smaller bucks, they always let me know where they saw one so I might have the chance of getting my first.
I've learned in my short hunting career that the most active time was an hour before dark, so I had plenty of time to set up my photograph.
It took me several tries, but I finally got my scope-photo, and I was trying to get an even sharper image through the crosshairs when I spotted movement about 180 yards out.
Here came the deer: one, two, three, four, five. I dropped my phone and nearly fell out of my chair!
All five were in thick brush on the backside of the greenfield, so I looked for antlers. I was able to determine one was a spike, another was either a 4- or 6-pointer, and the others were does.
My hands shook and my mind raced, but after a minute or two of heart pounding and ear-rushing adrenaline, I felt a wave of calmness come over me.
All the things my father taught me about marksmanship came quietly into my head.
I put my rifle on the rail and thought through the process: steady yourself, control your breathing, put the crosshairs on your target, and slowly squeeze the trigger at the bottom of your exhale.
I could make out the buck's outline and counted three points on one side. I clicked off the safety and it looked directly at me. I waited and eventually it returned to grazing.
Before starting the shot process over, I said a little prayer: Father, let my bullet fly true, let it find its mark and let there be no suffering.
Again, I inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger. At 182 yards, the buck dropped.
The flood of emotions and elation that followed was unexpected. I was so happy I wanted to cry, and burst and scream all at the same time! I thanked God for bringing me such a wonderful gift and providing for my family.
Later, when I examined my prize, I realized it was huge for our part of Alabama, a 170-pound eight-pointer.
This year of hunting - only my second - was very successful. I shot my first buck on November 17, a doe on November 23, and in an unbelievable turn of events, I shot another 8-point at the end of season.
My husband, who didn't take a deer this year, jokes that I better have enjoyed it, because he is never bringing me back!