For the last two years, I’ve had zero success during deer season.
In 2011, the only deer I got was one that a person graciously hit in front of our house. It ended up in our yard, and I shot it in the head and dragged it around back to carve up for the freezer.
In 2012, I sat in my deer stand for hours and hours. I scouted for rubs—and found some—but I never saw a single, solitary deer. Not one. Frustration.
This year, however, I met with unprecedented deer hunting success at The Ozark House.
Here’s how it went down:
I had been scouting for rubs, and found five or six on cedar trees just on the west side of what we call “the bald spot”—a hilltop at the northern edge of the property that is basically solid rock. A few wisps of grass grow across the bald spot, and around the perimeter, a thick hedge of cedar trees offer a nice haven for deer.
On opening day, I grabbed my gear and ambled through the woods, thinking about how rugged the terrain is and how miserable it would be if I actually killed a deer and had to drag it all the way back to the house.
I set up my seat amidst the cedar grove, and pulled out Steinbeck’s The Winter of our Discontent, and waited. The sun was just beginning to rise.
Right on schedule, shots began to ring through the woods, as my neighbors found success before me. But I was confident in my hunting spot, and I waited. I should mention that it was breezy and in the 50s—not ideal hunting weather, but certainly nicer for sitting than breezy and in the 20s. The weatherman had forecast rain for the afternoon, so the clock was ticking.
I saw him striding up the hill, antlers riding high. Well, actually he was limping. I didn’t know why. Eight points. Legal take.
Then he vanished.
I slowly stood up and crept around the cedar tree I’d been sitting behind, picking my way among the fallen leaves. Soon I spotted him again—he had laid down.
I waited… and waited… for him to stand up so I could have a clear shot. I rustled the leaves; I blew on my grunt call. He looked around, but refused to stand. As he sat up a bit straighter, I saw I had an open shot at his left shoulder. I took it.
There are those shots when you hit perfectly and the deer just drops and dies within seconds. I’ve never had one of those.
Instead, this fella jumped up and bounded away, sans limp.
In that moment, there’s always the inevitable thought, “Did I MISS him?” Then my unfounded self-assuredness kicks in. “I CAN’T have missed him!” Then the doubts, “Was my hand shaking? Should I have sighted the gun in again?”
Regardless, I walked toward the area where I saw him bounding away.
Blood. Then I looked up the hill, following the trail, and saw him.
It was a good shot.
I field-dressed him, preserving the vitals—liver, heart, and testicles—in a ziplock bag. I, of course, sliced my fingers in the process.
Then I began dragging him home. Over hill and dale, through creek beds, across logs and rocks, and finally up the mountain upon which we dwell. I made it, and I felt like I had earned him.
We put about 70 pounds of meat in the freezer. I cut up the carcass, froze the pieces in a trash bag, and I am progressively feeding Ozark Pup the pieces. The other day, he got a nice rack of ribs.
We, on the other hand, have already been enjoying venison liver and deerburgers. (I won’t say whether or not I ate the testicles, deep fried, and whether or not they tasted like chicken.)