My First Buck

I think this is my sixth year hunting deer, and I haven’t shot one. You can’t shoot something you’ve never seen. Until today I’d never seen a buck during legal shooting time. Oh, once there was a deer. It probably was a buck but it was in the last few minutes of hunting for the day and he was in a dark spot at the edge of a field. I’m told he acted like a buck but I couldn’t be sure and I don’t take chances.

I went to a new place today. After picking my way through the slash piles I walked the tree line, looking ahead, behind, to the side, stopping to listen. There were piles of droppings and a lot of tracks. Two deer had been bedded down together in one spot. At the ends of two trails where they meet the clearing I listened for anything resembling a deer coming toward me.

Eight ounce red squirrels can sound like moose when they’re on the forest floor. Juncos, tiny birds that weigh a couple of ounces, sound like what I think deer must sound like coming through the trees when they’re in the dry leaves. They caught my attention several times.

I sat, looking, listening, waiting, and then I moved to another spot. Snuggled up to a fallen, long-dead pine tree, hidden by the brown needles still clinging to the branch, I waited again. There were still frosty spots here and there but the ground wasn’t cold. Noise. In the woods, behind me, coming toward me. Not a squirrel, not a junco.

Turning. Slowly. Slowly. I slid off the safety and got ready. I saw his legs first as he walked through the trees. My heart was pounding and my hands shook a little.  My rifle was half way up when he stepped out.

There he was. The first legal buck I’ve seen during legal hunting time. He was mine to shoot.

I took a deep breath and watched him, savoring the moment. My heart and hands calmed down. He was 40′ away and didn’t know I was there. All I had to do was find him in the scope and gently…squeeze…the trigger. He moved. He walked 10′ forward, putting himself in a 10′ space between two trees. I had a perfect shot.

He sniffed a low-hanging branch the same way I’ve seen them do it on television. He looked at me, and I looked away, not wanting to spook him by making eye contact. I’m patient. I waited him out. He walked a few more feet and winded me. Game over? He spun around, took three leaps, and stopped. He walked away, turned around and walked back. I clicked the safety on and placed the rifle across my lap.

There I sat on the ground, snuggled into the branches of the dead pine, watching my first buck that I could shoot. He was legal, but barely. I’m sure his antlers were 3″ long but not much more than that. When I thought “first legal buck” I always pictured a spike horn. I could live with a spike horn as my first deer, he’d be great eating. When I saw “first legal buck” my thought was “toddler.” Maybe I’ll see him again in a few years. I took his picture as he walked away. Squint and look closely. He’s there.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.