Movement caught my eye from across the clearing. I whispered to David “Go ahead and get ready.” As he quietly readied his rifle, a group of five does exited the woods and made a beeline for the feeder, with its bounty of corn on the ground beneath it. They moved with little caution and seemed unconcerned with anything other than eating. We could hear crunching through the cool, crisp morning air as the does rapidly consumed the corn. Satisfied that they were completely focused on eating, I again whispered “Take the shot when one gets clear.” I could see that David had started to breathe heavier and more rapidly from the excitement of the moment. However, he kept calm, removed the safety, and took aim through the scope. Several seconds later, he squeezed the trigger.
Several weeks earlier, David and I were fishing together one evening at one of the many ponds near where we were going to college. We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving break and I told him the story of shooting my first trophy white tailed deer. Even though he was from rural Pennsylvania, David had never hunted big game before. However, he was interested in learning how. I invited him to come down to Texas during the beginning of Christmas vacation and he could hunt with my father and me on my family’s land in East Texas. He quickly took me up on the offer and we started making plans.
Having been shooting with him before, I knew David to be both a capable shot, as well as a person who both understood and practiced good gun safety. David had already taken a hunter’s safety course and it was a simple matter for him to purchase a temporary non-resident hunting permit in Texas. We spent several evenings before the hunt discussing shot placement on white tailed deer at various shooting angles, judging trophy quality, and general behavior while hunting.
Christmas vacation soon came and after picking up him up at the airport, my father, David and I drove to our hunting area. We brought my Winchester Model 70 rifle chambered in .308 Winchester for David to hunt with. The next morning, my father walked to his stand while David and I walked to ours together. Hoping to replicate the success I had previously enjoyed there, we hunted the same stand that I had shot the buck during November. Unfortunately, we did not see anything that first morning. In the afternoon we again had bad luck when the wind changed and started blowing our scent directly to the feeder. We were alerted to this when we heard a loud snort from the cut area to our northwest. Two does were standing there looking directly at us, and one was stomping the ground with her foreleg. After a few seconds, they turned and bounded away into the woods.
The next day dawned cool and clear, with a steady wind out of the north, perfect for hunting our stand. I had a good feeling that our luck was going to change that morning. The feeder went off right on schedule and just over an hour later, the group of does appeared and began feeding. As David began to squeeze the trigger, I turned my attention to back to the deer. The rifle cracked and the largest doe bolted for the woods, gravely wounded. The rest of the deer were on her heels and they quickly disappeared into the brush. David and I gave each other a high-five and I reassured him that he made a good shot and the deer would not go very far.
After waiting a few minutes, we started walking across the clearing towards where we last saw the deer. There was a very clear blood trail on the ground that led into the woods. Just inside the wood line we spotted the doe; she had made it less than 30 yards before expiring. David made a very good shot that hit both lungs and the bullet broke the opposite shoulder before exiting. She weighed 124 pounds live; not bad for a first deer in the piney woods of east Texas!
Shooting that first deer is a very important right of passage and typically a happy experience for most deer hunters. No matter how many more years a person hunts or many more deer a person harvests, it’s impossible to completely duplicate the extreme excitement and happiness associated with that first deer. I still vividly recall and treasure my first successful deer hunt and I am proud to have shared that experience with David.