We spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon touring the Hornady factory and putting together a special web presentation on how a bullet gets made. (Look for the show online soon!) Having warmed up thoroughly, I’m feeling much more human…but even more nervous. We only have a couple more days to hunt, and I’m really hoping I don’t mess up any more opportunities.
Getting back into the ground blind is more pleasant than it was this morning. Steve puts his personal T/C Contender with 50-cal. muzzleloader barrel in my hands—“I love this gun,” he murmurs, “I promise it won’t hangfire on you”—and we settle in to wait. He’s picked an awesome spot to set up. We’re concealed in a stand of cedars, smack in between a feeding area and a bedding area where a row of trees funnels the deers’ movements into a manageable space.
The light goes hazy and yellow. We have about an hour to sunset, and there is something in the air. Something anticipatory. Something like the four does nosing their way gently out of the trees, 120 yards out. And I’m not tired, now, and I’m not cold, and I’m not afraid.
Time slows for me as every nerve cell in my body goes on alert. My heart swells, counting a bass cadence as I settle the Icon’s fore-end on the shooting sticks. I find the largest doe in the scope, centering the crosshair on its shoulder. Silently, Steve reaches over and thumbs the hammer back. Wendy, you’re an idiot whispers a distant part of my brain. The more immediate part—the part that is in control now—simply acknowledges that we are now ready to shoot. “Do you have it?” murmurs Steve.
“I have it. I have it. I have it,” and I am squeezing the trigger. The gun roars.
I lose them in the sight picture as the gun comes up in recoil, and great clouds of smoke billow up. When I come back down out of recoil, they are gone. I look at Steve. “You got it!” he cheers. “You did it! Great shot! Awesome shot! Double-lung at least, and I think you broke the shoulder too!”
A goofy grin finds me, attaches itself and won’t let go. “YES!” Only later do I realize that I didn’t care at all how silly I looked or sounded.
After the Shot
I approach her slowly, wonderingly. I am falling back on the things I have been told, the years of stories and articles. I know to approach cautiously from the rear. I know to poke with the muzzle, making sure the animal will not rise.
I drop to my knees, and I rest my bare hand on the deer’s shoulder, still warm, and this is when the tears come to me. I didn’t want to cry. It felt shameful, somehow, but the adrenaline letdown and the bittersweet wave of emotion have crested and I can’t stop. Tears slip down my cheeks, already icy in the deepening sunset. With an act of will, I force them back down. We take our photos of me and the doe, and then it’s time to load it onto a sled to get back to the truck.
We’re halfway there when Kyle and Tom come jogging out of the treeline. “Did you get one?” they call. “We saw four does come in, but only three came out! Did you—you did! You did!” They thump me hard on the back, grinning hugely.
"So, did you cry?” asks Tom.“Yeah,” I admit. “A little.”
We’re friends and we bust each other’s chops, but this time nobody said anything. A note to you gentlemen readers: If you want to get and keep women in the hunting fields and woods with you, please be cool about this stuff. It makes a big difference.