It was on December 6 of 2019 that I killed my first deer. It was a Friday like any other, until my dad came to school and picked me up early. Before I left, I happily told the boy I sat with in seventh hour that I was going to kill my first deer today. He just laughed and shook his head.
I left the class and met my father at the office. He had already signed me out, so we left immediately. I threw my backpack into the back of his pickup truck and off we went down the road. I turned the knob that turns the radio on and changed it to a radio station that played country music. Dad and I were acting rather silly as we sang along to the songs that came blasting out of the radio. But fun and games quickly ended as we pulled into our destination.
Our destination was Matt’s driveway; he was kind enough to let me hunt on his land. Of course, Matt was on vacation. So his buddy, Jesse, was going to take me to the deer stand and show me which doe to shoot. I didn’t know that at the time though, I thought just my dad and I were going to sit in the deer stand. Little did I know how wrong I was.
I had just hopped out of the truck and put on my hunting gear when a beat up, gray van pulled into the driveway. The van parked, the engine was killed, and out popped a man I had never seen before. He introduced himself as Jesse, the man who would be guiding me on my hunt that afternoon.
My dad unlocked Matt’s shop and we all went in. Inside the shop there was a table where Matt’s muzzleloader sat; the gun I would be shooting that afternoon. Matt had left specific instructions for us. We were to use his ranger to take us to the deer stand, I was to shoot his muzzleloader, and I could only shoot an old doe. Seemed simple enough, and I later learned it was.
My dad had the keys for the Ranger, so he got to drive. I sat in the middle seat, wedged between the two older men. (Jesse had made sure to securely fasten the muzzleloader in the gun rack of the Ranger before he sat down.) The Ranger was fired up and we drove out of the driveway. A quick series of twists and turns lead us to the deer stand. Jesse and I unloaded our supplies from the back of the Ranger and set them in the deer stand. As soon as the supplies were unloaded, my dad drove off in the Ranger. The deer would be coming out soon and if they saw or heard the Ranger they would run away. So my dad drove the Ranger back to the shop and parked it inside. Dad stayed in the shop and watched T.V. as one of the moments that will forever live in my memory happened.
Jesse and I had everything set up the deer stand, our chairs were set, the heater was running, and our pops were opened. He made sure I knew where to shoot the deer, he even looked up pictures to show me. He also ran me through what to do with my gun when I pulled it up to shoot. I had never shot this muzzleloader before so that’s why we were practicing. Obviously during practice I didn’t shoot it, for a muzzleloader can only shoot once before you
have to reload it and it scares all the deer away. (The reloading process is rather lengthy as well.)
Once practice was over, we sat in silence for a while. Silence and I don’t get along, so I started talking. Jesse quickly shushed me because I had spoken too loudly. I whispered after that. He and I talked about a wide array of things as we sat in wait. He even tried setting me up with his son, but I told him I had a boyfriend. He dropped the case after that.
After the boyfriend discussion, I looked out the right facing window and there were five pheasants eating beans. I poked Jesse and pointed to them.
“The deer should be coming out soon,” he whispered.
I smiled and nodded before going back to staring out the main window. As the waiting continued, my thoughts wandered. I didn’t have any homework, but I wondered if my seventh hour friend did. I didn’t get to think about that much more because Jesse nudged me.
“There’s some deer in the tree line. Get your gun ready,” he whispered.
I opened the front-facing window and put my gun out, resting it on the windowsill. It felt like an eternity as we waited for the deer to leave the tree line and come out into the beanfield.
“There’s a buck, but he’s a small one,” Jesse trailed off. “Shoot the doe that’s standing off on her own.”
I slightly moved my gun, looked through the scope, and placed my crosshairs where Jesse had previously told me to put them. I hesitated a moment. I had the power of life and death in my hands. Would I really end this deer’s life? Of course I would. My family needed to eat, and this doe would provide us meat all winter.
I pulled the trigger and a puff of white smoke erupted from the muzzle of my gun. The doe arched her back and jaggedly ran off, following the other deer as they ran.
I gave Jesse a big grin, all of my facial muscles hurt after that big smile. “We’ll wait a minute or two then we will have to look for her. The sun is setting too fast to wait long,” Jesse told me.
I nodded, trying to hold my composure and not act like a giddy three-year-old. He turned the heater off, then the two of us exited the stand and started in the direction that the doe went.
My dad had taught me how to track blood trails that had very little blood, but this blood trail had so much blood a blind man could track it. There were long streaks of blood that left the snow crimson red. It was obvious from this amount of blood that I had shot her in the right spot.
We hurriedly tracked the blood trail as the sun quickly set to the west. It only took us a few minutes to find her. She was still breathing when we came upon her, but she only took a few more strangled breaths before she died. I grabbed her front leg and Jesse grabbed the other and the two of us dragged her to the deer stand. The snow was too deep to gut her where she fell. It was tough to drag her through the deep snow, but somehow we did it.
There were only a few licks of sunlight left by the time we got her to the deer stand. Jesse had taken his phone out and had me hold my doe’s head up. He took a picture and sent it to my dad, before telling him to come pick us up.
Jesse dragged the doe over to the tree line and quickly gutted her. With the amount of speed he used when gutting her, I’m shocked he didn’t cut himself. When gutting her, Jesse found that both of her lungs were popped, proving that my shot was indeed true.
The rumble of the Ranger alerted us that Dad was there. Jesse dragged the doe to the Ranger and had me pop down the tailgate. I did as I was told and then helped him heft her into the back of the Ranger. I closed the tailgate and went to the deer stand to retrieve our supplies.
Before climbing down, I quickly chugged the last of my pop. The Ranger ride to the shop was filled with Jesse telling Dad the story of what happened. I grinned the whole ride to the shop, proud of the deed I had just accomplished. My family would have food this winter. The Ranger was parked in the shop and then Jesse had a grand idea.
“Let’s cook the tenderloins in the pizza oven!” Jesse exclaimed. So that’s what we did. Jesse cut the tenderloins out of the doe and put them in the pizza oven.
The two older men were telling stories of deer they had killed in their youth as the three of us sat in chairs waiting for the tenderloins to finish cooking. I was just elated as I recalled what had just happened. I couldn’t wait to get home and call the boy from seventh hour and tell him what had happened.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by the smell of meat cooking. Actually, the meat was done. Jesse had placed a plate with the tenderloins on it on the table, and he and Dad were digging it. I selected a piece and took it off the plate before those greedy men could eat it. Let me tell you, meat doesn’t get much better or much fresher than that.