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Boy to Man

My dad, brother and I carefully sighted in our rifles. Each one of us were able to hit any target we aimed at. The time had finally come for my first deer-hunting trip. We arrived at camp late Friday and spent the evening setting up camp. There’s nothing like cooking dinner over an open campfire with tiny sparks dancing in mid-air just before landing in the fried potatoes. Camp food was the best food I had ever had. The little specks of black pepper in the fried potatoes tasted similar to charred timber and ash. Now that I think back, maybe it wasn’t so much the food as it was sitting there listening to some of Dad's old stories.

I’m not sure if I slept that night or not, but I was the first one up the next morning. I had the campfire going and the coffee done before the other two even stirred. It must have been a lot earlier than I thought because it still seemed like hours before the black sky in the east faded to blue. My Dad and brother finally got up and we had a cup of my extra strong, grainy cowboy coffee with breakfast. My brother casually set his cup down and just kind of abandoned it. No one said anything, but I noticed a little shiver-shrug as Dad forced down the last swallow, as it was now time for the hunt.

We gathered our weapons of choice and headed out across the terrain. Every-so-often Dad, trying to be inconspicuous, would spit tiny pieces of coffee grounds from between his lips. We walked for what seemed like miles. We followed fresh tracks until we came across a steamy fresh clump of deer dung. I just knew the biggest buck I'd ever seen was just behind the next bush. I was about to become a man; bagging my first kill. As noon approached, I finally decided the next bush wasn't anymore a hiding place than the last. By the time we returned to camp, my stomach hungered for the venison that was obviously still behind one of the bushes I failed to look behind.

That first morning turned out to be more of a scouting expedition than anything else. We had a plan for the evening hunt though. Dad would take the bluff overlooking the draw. He had a clear view of where my brother and I were. My brother took the corner tree stand directly West of Dad. It wasn't really a tree. It was more of a windmill shaped stand about ten feet tall with a swivel chair on top. This was to sit and let the deer come to us. So I took the tree stand up the fence line to the North of my brother.

I was settled in waiting for the big one when I saw a good sized doe wander into range. I slowly brought the rifle up to my shoulder, set the cross hairs over her heart. What was that I saw out of the corner of my eye? It was another doe only a little bigger. My heart was pounding now. I pulled the rifle up again with the bigger one in my sights. Hold on, I see another one just a little bigger than the last. Once more I ease the rifle into place, set the cross hairs of the scope just behind he shoulder. I paused once more to look around just incase. Okay, no more, time to get down to business. I slowly squeezed the trigger until the shot rang out. I had my first deer, but why are all three just looking around? Okay, so I missed. They were just standing there looking around trying to see where the loud bang came from. I raised the rifle to my shoulder again, not quite taking as long this time. I shot again. They still didn't know where the shot came from, but trotted off on their merry way. Sitting there in disbelief, I fired the rest of the shots as fast I could work the bolt action on my rifle. I could have thrown rocks and scared them more, probably even hit one.

After a little razzing from my brother, a satisfying supper and a good night sleep, it was time to prepare for our last hunt of the trip. Dad said that we all needed to pull our own weight at camp and it was his turn to make the coffee, he was pretty insistent about that.

My brother and I switched spots this time. I had the corner stand and a fool proof plan. Just after sunrise was the perfect time to set my plan into action. I pulled out a set of antlers to attract a big buck. The idea was to bang and rattle the antlers to replicate two bucks fighting. The dominate buck in the area would come to challenge whomever is trying to take over his territory. If nothing else at least come to see a good fight. I banged and rattled for a good half hour when suddenly I heard a snort. There were two bulls fighting! Neither were on the on my side of the fence so I wasn’t in any danger of being gorged to death or anything. My plan worked, just not quite how I imagined it would. Well, the rivals snorted, argued and butted heads for a good hour and a half to two hours despite the rocks I threw. I think that just made them angrier.

The morning was young; I still had a chance to bag the big one. After a while a passing squirrel caught my eye and was soon in my sights. I had to ask myself, “How much meat could be on a full grown squirrel?” Probably not enough to feed the dog. Besides I'd never hear the end of it if I shot the poor little rodent. Suddenly, I heard a rustling in the brush and was surprised at what I saw. I had never seen a real live armadillo before. Don't think it didn't cross my mind to prey on this little critter, but with my luck so far the bullet would ricochet off of the armor and put my eye out. I did however climb down from the stand to catch the odd looking creature. When I reached to grab his tail, he swung his head around and of course I let go. This happened several times before he decided to crawl into a hole. That was my chance. I grabbed his tail when the rest of his body was in the hole and pulled as hard as I could, but he wasn't coming out. I'm not really sure what I would have done if I did get him out, so I eventually just let him go.

It was about time to meet up with the others and pack up camp. So I gathered up my gear, you know, the priceless antlers, and headed back down the path. Dad watched, through his binoculars, as the monster twelve point buck emerged through the draw about twenty yards behind me. The old deer just stood there watching me. I can only imagine what he might have been thinking.

We were home now and something seemed different. It was more of a feeling I guess. The hunt was over and we had no tribal ritual nor did I make my first kill. I'm not really sure what or when it happened. All I know is I left home a boy, but returned a man.

You can view my other articles at sharkness

Category: Non-Fiction


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