On Halloween, Eric’s birthday, we took off work and headed up to a Block Management Area where we had a reservation. Block Management is hunting access to private land orchestrated by the State. It’s a wonderful program. Anyhow, we had almost two sections of land, with a big butte in the middle all to ourselves. We started at the northwest corner of the area and skirted all the way around the butte to the southeast side, seeing absolutely no sign. I figure there would be no deer for us today. I was okay with that. It was a beautiful day and I was so happy to be out hunting and feeling good.
Finally, we started seeing a little bit of sign. We got on a ridge with Eric working one side and me working the other. Eric signaled that he had seen 2 does bedded down on a little flat area on the side of the ridge. We decided that since I’m 6 months pregnant and won’t be wanting to put an incredible amount of work into hunting, I’d take the shot if one was presented. So we snuck out to a spur off the ridge where I had a good gun rest and a good view. Turned out I could see 2 does and 2 bucks. The bucks were standing and I decided I wanted the 4-pointer. Spindly rack, but a big, healthy buck. He was standing facing me and then bedded down that way, so I didn’t have a good shot at him. One of the does was bedded down quartered away from me. I knew she would be an OK shot. The other buck (slightly smaller, but still good-sized) was standing broadside to me, but he was licking his side obsessively. He just wouldn’t quit. Where his head was, if I’d have shot him in the heart-lung zone, I’d have blasted him through the head as well. What’s the point in taking the buck when you’re just going to ruin the mount? I also remembered that I’m a meat hunter and should take what tastes best.
So I decided on the doe, settled in on her, and shot. She never got up, just died where she lay, so the rest of the deer didn’t really know what happened! Turns out there were several does in the area and they all decided it was prudent to leave, as did the smaller buck. The big buck, however, just stood there. So I told Eric that if he wanted the buck, take it! Since he’s really after elk this year, he was only going to shoot if he had a perfect shot. He crawled over to my gun rest and set up. The buck stood there and waited for him, broadside, so we ended up with a buck and doe!
After we dressed them out, I let Eric drag them to the nearest road while I walked back to get the truck. Of course, I took an ill-advised “shortcut” and ended up making the whole thing over a mile longer than it had to be. It was waaaay too much hiking for me at this point in my pregnancy, 6+ miles over rugged terrain for the whole day. I felt about 80 for a few days afterwards! But it’s worth it. We got a lot of meat!
It was amazing how different the experience of shooting a deer was this year. Last year, the decision to shoot was fraught with ambivalence and followed by so much sorrow, regret, and then elation all mixed up with a healthy dose of adrenaline. This year, I knew I was going to shoot one of those deer, that decision was made once I saw them. Following the shot, I still felt a little sad and deeply grateful to the deer and to the land, but I was mostly happy to have so much good meat and a wonderful day in the woods with my husband.