By Shelton Brower, Boyers, Pa.
"I just don’t understand how shooting an animal can bring you so much pleasure. Why not shoot at a range? You’re still shooting something.”
Whether you’ve hunted for a few short years or for decades, you have no doubt heard these types of things. And although shooting guns is loads of fun, true hunters know the pleasures found in passionate hunting. Hunting is so much more than just simply “shooting an animal.” It’s about the months spent preparing your land, and the time spent scouting and hanging trail cameras. It’s about how you use every available hour before and after work–or in my case, school–to hunt the early seasons. It’s something you talk about all year. It’s something that keeps you up all night. That’s what hunting really is.
Although I may have outgrown some of the carelessness from when I was 8 years old and hunting for the first time, I certainly haven’t outgrown the excitement hunting brings.
When my alarm clock rang on the opening day of rifle season, I was more than ready to get out of bed. The noise signaled it was time to get to the pallet sitting atop a pile of rocks that had my name on it—this was my deer stand. After a three-hour drive and a 10-minute walk, I watched the gun-metal-colored sky just start to blush. All the anticipation had led to this—the morning hunt.
A morning hunt is a special time. It’s when your senses are on edge, and usually, I’ve found, it’s when chipmunks and squirrels do their best imitation of a large deer herd. You listen and watch with intense anticipation in hopes of seeing that buck you dreamed about the night before, waiting for the deer to stroll in broadside for a perfect shot, only to be disappointed by a rodent. But at other times, the sound you hear is exactly what you dreamed about, and your dream comes true when that buck appears.
Such was the case for me on this particular morning, at least in part. Although I was unable to get a shot at the nice buck that walked by around 8 o’clock, I was far from disappointed. After that excitement, Dad and I talked about what we saw over lunch. We also discussed where we should go for the evening hunt. As I soon found out, Dad’s hunting experience was about to pay off. We decided to sit at the bottom of two hills, just below the famous hemlock of which every member of my family has memories. As the afternoon hours ticked away, the daylight began to slip away as well, leaving nothing but a shadow by which to remember it. Then it happened.
I had just looked at the time, noting it was 4 p.m., when the sounds of movement hit my ears. All of a sudden, some does came in at quite a clip, stopping only after concealing themselves in thick brush. Dad and I thoroughly examined each head we could spot, hoping to see antlers. The does continued to mill around for the next half hour, and we kept our scopes turned toward the movement. What happened next will never fade from my memory.
“Hey! That one on the bottom is a buck! Shoot it the first opportunity you get!” Dad said.
Seconds passed as I desperately searched for a clear shot through the dense vegetation. After what seemed like hours, God smiled and the buck Dad spotted walked between two trees, giving me the shot I needed. My .243 Winchester rang clear through the woods. We lost sight of him the instant I fired but by the way he jumped, we knew I had made a great shot.
We both praised God and walked over to where we last saw the deer. Dad stayed behind and marked the spot while I went to track the deer, but I didn’t need to go far. God had blessed the shot and the buck had fell just a few yards from where he was standing. It was an outstanding day to hunt.
When Dad and I returned to deer camp, everyone gathered around to share their stories and observe the group’s take. Four of us–myself included–shot 8-point bucks, and we took six deer in total. After processing the bounty harvested that day, we all knew something this memorable may never happen again, so we soaked up every moment. God truly blessed us.
This hunt certainly kept me up all night, and it will be one I’ll never forget.
Do you have an exciting, unusual or humorous hunting experience to share?
Send your story (800 words or less) to [email protected] or to American Hunter, Dept. MH, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA. 22030-9400. Please include your NRA ID number. Good quality photos are welcome. Make sure you have permission to use the material. Authors will not be paid, and manuscripts and photos will not be returned. All material becomes the property of NRA.