Every once in awhile the stars align themselves just so, and the Red Gods smile on you, and you have a really good day. I had such a day recently. Growing up here, kids mostly had to entertain themselves. Many of these activities involved being outdoors.
Sometimes we would try to dam up the little creek that ran by the edge of our property. The intent was to have a big enough hole of water to swim in. That intent was rarely realized. Often, we would take to the mountains, one on either side of where we lived. The Hickerson was to the east, and Little Mulkey to the west. We would take a hatchet and cut a grapevine and pull it up the mountain and jump up as high as we could and swing down the mountain. Most of the time the grapevine held and we didn’t get hurt.
Sometimes we would go fishing, but there wasn’t much to catch within walking distance except minnows. But in the fall, my brothers and I anxiously awaited hunting season. The people who ran the schools back then knew there wouldn’t be a handful of boys in attendance on the first day of hunting season, and often, absences were excused or there was no school that day.
I have written here before about my father taking his three youngest sons over to Five Forks where Mr. Ashby Butler lived. Mr. Butler and my father worked together. Near Mr. Butler’s house there was a thicket with what seemed like a rabbit behind every bush. I won’t repeat those tales here, but mention them to let you see how we spent our time in the outdoors, and probably why we came to love it so much.
I started hunting when I was 8 or 10 years old, and was hunting by myself by the time I was 12. We hunted mostly squirrels and rabbits. The big thing these days is deer hunting. Back then, in the 1950’s, there were no deer. Or, as the saying goes, they were as scarce as hens’ teeth. They were so scarce that the weekly paper carried a report from all the game checking stations in the county of who had been lucky enough to check in a buck. And they were all bucks. You were not allowed to shoot a doe.
This year, black powder or muzzleloader season in this part of Virginia came in on the first Saturday of November. My son and I are blessed to have some special friends who let us hunt their property. We both knew we would be in the same vicinity when legal shooting light arrived on the first day. As it turned out, we arrived at the property within minutes of one another, and were able to talk briefly about where we would be hunting.
I got into my tree stand well before daylight, and settled in for shooting light. My son was approximately 300 yards off to my right and down over a hill. As dawn was breaking, I saw a deer, that I thought was a doe, moving through the brush and weeds in my general direction. I took the smokepole of its hook and waited for a good shot.
Years ago, when the Virginia Game Commission put in place the black powder or muzzleloader season, you had to use open sights; no scopes were allowed. I recall I was about at the end of my rope as far as my eyesight and my use of iron sights were concerned when the commission changed the rule and said scopes were allowed. Good thing. I probably would have had to quit black powder hunting.
I had the scope on the lowest setting for the most light and the widest field of view. When I brought the gun to my shoulder to pick up the moving deer, what I saw in the very right hand side of the field of view was a set of horns, bopping up through the weeds. It was a nice buck. I immediately turned all my attention to the buck. Just then he came to an abrupt halt and locked in on me. I don’t particularly like quartering shots coming towards me, but it was what I had. I took the shot.
The smoke from the powder obscured the view and the noise was still resounding in my ears when another shot rang out, about 300 yards to my left. To my left? I wondered who was down there. I had just finished field dressing a nice big 9 pointer when my son’s pickup truck started down through the field towards me. I had jumped a doe when I went to the buck, and I wondered if he had gotten a shot at it.
He pulled up in his truck and said, “I believe yours is a little bigger than mine.”
I asked him if he shot the doe. “No,” he said. “I got a nice eight pointer.” Then he asked me if I had heard the shot immediately after my own. I told him I did, but it was in the wrong direction.
“That was me,” he said. “I was lined up on the deer when you shot, and when you did, he took off, and I shot.”
He explained that where he intended to be someone had put up a stand, and he moved around me to find a place where he was less likely to be disturbed by another hunter.
Jason guessed the weight of my deer at 150 pounds, field dressed, and 130 for his. I thought they were more like 140 and 120. When we got them up on the pole with the scale, his estimate was not off as much as a half pound for either deer. I think his skills have surpassed the old man. I am grateful for that.
I have been hunting for over 60 years; it is what I grew up with. It is what we did. Some days are better than others. On this day, the Red Gods smiled, and this old man is content.