My hands were shaking and my breath was coming in quick, ragged gasps.
I was having a hard time holding the binoculars steady.
The small herd of deer I was watching at the bottom of the hill was at least 120 yards away — but my heart was hammering so hard in my chest, I was afraid all that thumping was gonna scare ’em off…
The deer didn’t seem to pay us any mind, however. They were too busy nibbling daintily at the sage brush and flicking their little black-tipped tails. As far as they were concerned, it was just another quiet, frosty autumn morning.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, though, I finally heard the sharp POW! of Lindsey’s .243 Winchester at my side.
Almost immediately, I heard the echoing WHACK as the bullet made impact.
I held my breath.
Still looking through my trembling binoculars, I watched as the little buck below us reared up on his hind legs. The rest of the deer around him scattered in all directions, but he seemed to freeze in place, front hooves pawing at the air — and then, almost in slow motion, I watched him topple over backwards.
He thrashed around a bit, stumbled to his feet, staggered a couple yards, and then collapsed.
And that was it.
With an absolutely perfect shot, Lindsey had officially dropped her first deer, and I couldn’t have been more excited!
It was only a 2-point, but even a half an hour later, after all the gutting was finished and the blood on my hands and forearms was starting to dry and crack, I was still shaking with adrenaline.
I wasn’t even that excited when I shot MY first deer!
By the time I had the little buck loaded onto my shoulders and started ambling slowly down the hillside, the clear October sun had finally decided to make its dazzling first appearance.
Lindsey was walking beside me, carrying my coat, my backpack AND both rifles (not to mention a couple of grocery bags filled with the heart, liver, kidneys, and several yards of intestines).
But despite all the extra weight, we quickly found ourselves at the bottom of the hill, meandering through the stubble of our neighbor’s grain field. We then dropped the buck next to one of his haystacks, and continued walking hand-in-hand the last 1/4 mile down the gravel road to our house.
As much as I love hunting out of a tent, way up in the backcountry, there’s definitely something special about stepping out of your own backdoor, dropping a buck, and being home by breakfast time!
And this was actually the second deer we’d hauled off the hillside that week.
I’d already shot mine two days earlier.
Of course, that didn’t make our 3-year-old any less excited. She was still in her jammies, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes when Lindsey and I came walking through the back door and into our kitchen.
She saw the blood on my hands, gave an excited little squeal, and asked:
“Did you shoot another deer, Dad?!”
“Nope, Mom did.”
She paused for a moment, frowning a little, while she processed what I had just told her. Mom shot a deer?! You could almost see the paradigm shift taking place in her little mind as everything clicked together. And when she finally snapped out of it, she informed me, in a very matter-of-fact sort of way:
“I know that. Mommy’s a very good shooter.”
“Yes, little monkey. Yes, she is.”
After donning a fluffy pink coat and chore boots on top of her footy-jammies, our little monkey accompanied me and Lindsey as we drove the truck to pick up the deer from the haystacks — and she insisted on hanging out with me at the tailgate while I skinned it.
Heck, she even stood by my side while I flushed the green nastiness out the intestines (to be cleaned and used later for sausage casings).
Everything was just so exciting and new for her!
In the days following, I couldn’t help but share in her excitement. The butchering, the wrapping, the grinding, the sausage-making, and especially the post-hunt “delicacy” meals (e.g. tongue tacos, heart Philly cheesesteak, etc.) were all so fresh and invigorating.
I tell ya, I LOVE filling the freezer!