I learned on my first-ever hunt on Nov. 26, 2011 that sometimes hunting consists of sitting and seeing nothing. On Dec. 10, 2011, I learned that a two-year-old buck can yield about 44 pounds of meat.
My adventure began outside of Schulyer, Va., on a privately owned estate nestled below the mountains that is known to be a hotbed of whitetail deer. Two of the groundskeepers, Andy Wyland and R.E. Phillips, Jr., offered to help me bag my first deer. Both Andy and R.E. know every root, twig and rock of that land, and as seasoned hunters, knew how much this meant to me.
At 6:30 a.m., R.E. took me up the mountainside in his panzer-like truck that had no problem maneuvering over the muddy brush-filled paths. The morning sun began to stream through the trees as R.E. parked the truck and we hiked about 50 yards through the woods before we came to a promising spot. About 15 minutes after we sat down, R.E. pointed out a doe coming up over the hill in front of us 100 yards away. I couldn’t get a good shot at her, and she kept moving past the trees and eventually out of my range. R.E.’s phone vibrated in his pocket—it was Andy, calling to tell him that a few bucks were on their way up the mountain toward us, so we moved to a better vantage point on the ridge.
It was barely 8:30 a.m. when a five-point buck wandered into my sight about 100 yards away. I watched as he slowly wandered along the ridge, and then paused. I aimed my .270 at his vitals knowing I didn’t have long before he moved on. I squeezed the trigger. For a moment, I thought I had missed. I turned to R.E. who, with a big grin on his face, told me that I got him, and that the deer had dropped right where he had been standing. As soon as I picked my jaw up off the forest floor, I squealed so loud that I’m pretty sure the residents along Route 20 thought a wild pig had gotten loose.
R.E. and I climbed up from our spot and found him splayed out on the ground, surrounded in a spray of blood-coated leaves. It was then I discovered that I didn’t shoot him in the vitals. I shot him through the muzzle.
I knew before I started hunting that I wanted swift kill shots so that no animal I hunted would ever suffer. When I woke up that morning, I prayed to God that I would only have to use one bullet, and that the animal would die quickly. I believe that these proud, elegant creatures deserve to pass on from this world as respectfully as they graced it. My prayer was answered.
After the deer was gutted, we met up with Andy who had come from the other side of the property and we drove back down the mountain to see my dad at the groundskeeper’s office. We called in my tag, and my dad and I took my buck to the fine folks at Appleberry Mountain Taxidermy in Schuyler for processing and repairing the skull for a European mount.
I am still wrapping my head around how I wasn’t even awake four hours before taking down my first buck. Without veteran hunters, I wouldn’t have had a chance landing a buck like I did.
On Dec. 10, 2011, I learned that hunting is more than just an outdoor sport. It is a connection with nature at its finest, a privilege to be a conservationist, and a chance to retreat from the man-made world to a quiet kingdom. As much as wished I had learned this earlier—at the age of 25, I feel it was perfect timing.