It pays to practice gun shooting from both sides.
My first rifle was a .35-caliber Marlin, and I couldn’t wait to take it to the range.
There, I met June Harrill, who watched me before asking if I wanted to learn how to shoot. I must have been really bad. I was able to swallow my pride and accept the offer, and June and I became good friends. I think if you asked June how I did, he’d happily say I “learned real good.”
Once he surmised that I had mastered the basics, June began to stress the importance of being able to shoot both right- and left-handed. I didn’t see a pressing need at the time, but I respected June’s opinion enough to shut up and listen.
I’m so glad I did.
Fast forward to the 2013 Kansas deer season. Charles “Moose” Petty and I have been hunting the Sunflower State together for the last six years. We’ve had some great hunts. Moose has taken three bucks that scored north of 150 inches; my best was a 130.
June hooked me up with a Kansas farmer who has since become another great friend, not to mention a wonderful host during deer season.
Last year was the coldest hunting we had experienced in a long time, with an opening morning temperature of 21 degrees. Worse, the 25- to 30-mph winds felt more like 50 mph.
We didn’t drive all that way to sit inside, so Moose and I dutifully donned our warmest clothes and headed afield.
As I was walking to my chosen stand for the morning, my right eye suddenly teared up. I thought the wind must have blown something in there, but after turning away and cautiously opening and closing my eyelid, I couldn’t feel anything. I wiped away the tears and headed on to my stand.
About 30 minutes after daylight, a big coyote ran in and stopped at about 35 yards. I shouldered my gun to take a look through the scope only to find the lens was fogged. I could barely see through it, so I wiped it clean and kept hunting.
Not long after, five does walked by and bedded about 300 yards to the right. I liked the idea of having those live decoys in sight.
I saw a few other does and a small buck before two bigger bucks stood up about 350 yards to the left. They had been bedded there the whole time, which shows the importance of getting to your stand as quietly as possible.
The biggest buck looked like a shooter, so I got in position and pulled the gun to my shoulder in preparation for a shot. Once again, I couldn’t see.
I thought the scope had gone bad until I closed my left eye and realized it was my right eye that was bad, not the optics.
By then it was 8:50, and the two bucks bedded down again. I thought about leaving to get my eye checked, but I knew the bucks would see me if I did. Instead, I called Moose and told him I was going to sit tight.
About a half-hour later, the does to my right stood. As I watched them mill about, a big buck slipped in among them. Through my left eye, I was able to determine it was a very respectable 10-pointer. I considered taking the shot, but I wasn’t comfortable doing so at 300 yards in a strong crosswind.
As I continued my vigil, it began to snow. It was a real struggle to stay alert and ready. All I wanted to do was get out of that miserable wind, but the buck was still out there, so I waited.
A little while later, something spooked the does. They jumped from their beds and took off across the field, buck in tow.
Three of the does headed for another county, but two cut back in my direction. Now it was up to the buck. I prayed it would take the closer path, and the good Lord must have heard.
It was still a long shot, especially left-handed, so I told myself I wouldn’t take it unless I could hold rock solid and felt comfortable.
When I picked up the buck in the scope, everything felt natural, and the crosshairs were steady. Thank you, June!
I pulled the trigger and harvested my biggest buck.
My eye cleared up the next day, and the doctor had no idea what caused the problem. Meanwhile, Moose shot the big buck I had seen bedded to my left.
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This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.