November has been kind of weird weather-wise in the Texas Hill Country. Last weekend was the San Antonio Rock n Roll marathon which is normally a pretty chilly race that marathoners use to set a decent mark. Unfortunately last weekend saw highs in the mid to upper 80’s. But you know what they say about Texas weather, “Wait a few hours/days and it will change.” And change it has! A cold front blew in Friday morning and the temperature plummeted into the low to mid thirties with freezing rain and sleet. Unfortunately, this was the weekend that I had blocked off to take one of my coworkers hunting . . .
Dave and his family grow or raise the majority of their food including all manner of fowl, rabbits, pigs, and lambs. But Dave’s wife really likes whitetail. So Dave comes out once a year to get two does to take home for steaks and sausage. Dave’s also the owner of the Savage 111 I just put together and he wanted to see how it would do in the field.
A nice doe hanging up outside my barn in nature’s refrigerator speaks to how well the Savage works in the field. It was apparently a late night last night that included good conversation, some local Fredericksburg brews and lamb chops Dave brought from the farm. While I turned in early, my understanding is that Dave and my parents stayed up late discussing technology, politics, sustainable farming and a host of other topics. Long story short, Dave was deep asleep when I woke up this morning to go hunting, the temperature was in the high 20’s and the coffee was warmest within a 20 foot radius of our back porch.
So I put out some corn a football field’s length from our porch, poured myself a fresh cup and watched the sun attempt to break through the muck. Thirty minutes later, I had two does happily munching away (neither was much of a shooter) when my dad left for work, scaring off my two woodland friends. These are the downfalls of back porch “hunting” I have found. So I packed on another layer, dropped some HotHands in my gloves and went a-walking, on the lookout for a big boar I saw yesterday.
And that’s when it happened, folks. Twenty minutes into my walk, with a 15 mph wind in my face, I stumbled upon a young doe perhaps in her second year, chewing on some grass facing away from me. I stayed perfectly still and watched her for a minute or two until she moved further up a hill. It isn’t the closest I’ve been to a deer, but it ranks high up there, and definitely the first time I’ve been completely exposed without being spotted.
I followed her up the hill and situated myself behind a horizontal tree branch and some brush. I unslung my rifle and took a shooting position perhaps 40 yards away from her. I got my hearing protection in place and slowly brought my rifle into position. Occasionally, she would pick her head up and look in my direction. Each time, I would stand perfectly still, close my eyes, and count to 10. Each time I opened them, she’d be head down again, eating the last of the fall acorns on the ground. Finally, I got my rifle in place, my crosshairs locked in on her vitals. An easy chip shot if I’ve ever set one up. I flicked the safety off, rested the pad of my finger on the trigger, and took a long exhale.
And then I just watched her. I never planned to take the shot. I wanted to know that I could. That I could creep up on a deer that close, get set up and take the shot if I needed to. But why would I? She’s young. At least 40 lbs. away from a viable “shooting” weight. And Nick and I brought home the metaphorical bacon on opening weekend.
There’s enough sausage and steak in my freezer to last for the next year. But more than that, I don’t really enjoy the killing. Truth be told, squeezing the trigger is actually my least favorite part. I like the eating, the cooking and the food preparation. I don’t mind field dressing or quartering either. But man I hate the killing part of things. Sometimes, it’s nice to just sit and watch through the scope.
I threw my rifle over my shoulder and put my ear protection back on my head. I turned downhill while the doe stayed head down eating. About that time, I heard some rocks tumble downhill and watched two young bucks sprint off. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who had been watching silently.