By Gina Rumbaugh
-- It was Nov. 19, 2006, during the second day of rifle season. The alarm would be blaring any minute now. I thought to myself, how nice it would be to just turn it off and sleep in for change, but a little voice inside my head said, "No, you better go. Today might be the day." I listened to that voice. After all, my husband, Jeff and I had seen several deer the previous day.
Reluctantly, I rolled out of bed and began my morning ritual of brushing my teeth, washing my face, and applying a little bit of mascara and blush. Silly? Maybe, but I like to be prepared for anything. I pulled my long, unruly hair back in a braid so it would easily fit under my orange hat. I woke Jeff, telling him it was his turn in the bathroom. Then I began putting on the layers of clothing that would hopefully keep me warm for the next several hours.
Fifteen minutes later, we emerged from our comfortable suburban home into the early morning darkness. It was cold and there was no wind at all. As Jeff warmed up our old 1978 Chevy pickup and checked the battery on the four-wheeler, he commented that these were the perfect conditions for the deer to be moving. For the second time that morning, I thought to myself, "Yes, today might be the day." So we headed out.
Just as the sun began to illuminate the horizon, I climbed off the back of our four-wheeler, and Jeff continued on to the spot he had chosen approximately a quarter of a mile away. With the help of my small flashlight, I quickly found a tree to sit under. I would be on the ground and was thankful for the seat cushion, which I placed next to the tree. With minimal movement, I was in place and satisfied with my position. I had a large tree to my left and a smaller sapling behind my back. The ground was sloped so that with my feet out in front of me, I could bend my knees for the perfect height to rest my Winchester .270 rifle.
After about an hour and a half, the cold began to be a hindrance to me. It wasn't a bone chilling, finger freezing, toe numbing cold, but my nose began to run. I didn't want to make a move that might be seen; however, I had no choice. I had to lower my gun and reach into my pocket for the pack of tissues I had brought. I blew my nose as quietly as possible. Then as I lowered the tissue and returned it to my pocket, I caught a glimpse of a doe approximately 150 yards away as she turned and took flight.
Anxiously I scanned the forest with my eyes, but did not see or hear the doe again. For a little while, I kept my gaze fixed on the location where I had seen the deer. I had been told that during the rut, bucks would travel a few minutes behind a doe. After 10 minutes or so without another sighting, I became a little disheartened. Had I literally blown my chances of seeing my first buck?
I sat thinking about how I came to be in this place. While I had been married to a hunter for 20 years, I had only been involved in hunting for the last three. When our daughters were small, it never occurred to me that hunting might be something I would enjoy. Then a few years ago, my husband and I became painfully aware that we no longer had anything in common. We had lost the closeness we once shared. But our strained relationship changed for the better when my husband asked me to go on his annual hunting trip to Colorado. I went as an observer, but to the surprise of both of us, I loved it. Riding through the aspen covered mountains by horseback was like nothing I had ever experienced. In no time at all, I was spotting elk, deer, and turkey.
Upon returning to Oklahoma, I enrolled in a hunter safety course so that I could get in on the action. The first year that I actually carried my own gun to the woods, I sat right beside my husband and watched. The second year, we hunted a couple hundred yards apart. He got a doe, but I didn't see a thing.
During this, the third year, I was totally on my own. But I had learned enough from watching Jeff and the numerous hunting shows on television that I was comfortable in my surroundings and knew what I should and should not do. I had learned that being still and quiet was essential to being a successful whitetail hunter, so that is what I focused on for the next 15 minutes. Then I saw the buck!
At the exact spot where the doe had been half an hour earlier, there was a buck with a large rack. The buck had its head down grazing and was totally oblivious to the fact that I was watching from across the ravine, approximately 150 yards away. Ever so slowly, I raised my rifle three or four inches so that I could see him through my scope. I thought I must be seeing things when I counted at least eight points. Then I began to shake, and for a minute, I thought I would be overcome by buck fever. I took a deep breath, offered up a prayer, and pulled the trigger.
The next few seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. The animal jumped straight up in the air and bolted into the dense brush. I loaded another round into the chamber of my rifle just in case my first shot was off. No longer being able to see him or hear him, I stood up to get a better view. Suddenly, I saw the buck charge up the opposite side of the ravine and fall over backward. Unbelievable! I had killed my first deer.
After dancing for sheer joy, I became overwhelmed with emotion. This was indeed the day I had been waiting for. I wondered if Jeff had heard my shot. Would he ride up momentarily on the four-wheeler? Should I stay here and wait for him? The anticipation was too great. I slung my rifle across my back and started to make my way across the ravine and through the thorny brush to find my buck. It took me about 30 minutes of searching, but I found the place where the buck went down. Even when I spotted the light brown of its coat lying in the tall grass, it was surreal.
After flagging the spot with some of the tissues in my pocket, I began the long trek to the spot where Jeff was hunting. I might have been cold all morning, but now I was burning up as I struggled through the waist-high grass in heavy boots and thick coveralls. When I thought I could go no further, I just started calling out his name. After a brief time, I heard the idle of a four-wheeler. Then my husband came into view. He took one look at the tears running down my face and asked what had happened. I could barely speak, but managed to convey the words, "Eleven-pointer."
He accused me of joking. Then I watched his jaw drop to the ground when he realized that I was serious. His look of awe turned to elation when he grabbed me in a bear hug and bombarded me with a barrage of questions. I hardly had a chance to answer one question before the next one was out of his mouth. He wanted to know everything, and I was glad to tell him.
For the next few days, my thoughts were consumed with the details of that hunt. Like a video in my head being played over and over again, I would see the buck appear in the ravine and then raise his head and look straight at me. I will never forget that moment or the emotions I experienced at that moment. I had begun that day with some reluctance, but thank goodness I listened to that voice that told me, "Today might be the day." It was indeed! I had not only been blessed with the sight of a big buck, but had actually killed the first deer I ever got a shot at.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma