I must have been 7 when I first started tagging along with my Dad on weekend deer hunting trips. Not the entire weekend, but Saturdays and Sundays. Early mornings, usually cold, only when there were invites because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up to get on these ‘leases’ in the area where I was born and raised.
My Dad had a lot of friends/family that were into hunting, but he and my mom left that hobby alone once kids came into the picture because at that point in time the priorities had switched and their roles had also changed. Now it was to provide for the family instead of doing things together to pass time.
They’d talk about laying in a field of grain in the winter months with countless bundles of newspaper spread around the field being used as make shift goose decoys because in the late 1960s decoys and such just weren’t a thing & the times weren’t as easy as they are today.
Fast forward a couple of years of tagging along on cold ass morning hunting trips and I remember to this day; I was 11ish, sitting on my Dad’s lap with a loaner bolt .222 rifle in hand. Deer blinds were very basic, cube like structures painted with surplus paint, usually olive green, with rectangular cut holes to look out of. They were always way too high for me and the old ass school style chairs usually stored within sat too low. It was a very cold and the morning fog was so damn thick. It was easy; my job was to look left and right and see if by chance something would come out to the road.
We’d only be able to go for the morning hunt and always there was shit to do at the house so once 9am came around we’d load back up in the truck and drive home to either do yard work, which was an every Sunday morning ritual, or feed the animals. Shit was never-ending.
Back to the hunt:
I remember looking out the right rectangular cut window and seeing something that looked big, but also far as hell. I didn’t have binoculars so until the rifle was up out of the window, I had zero clue what it was. When you’re small, fuck even now, your whispering in a time when adrenaline is kicking seems like you’re always speaking way too loud. I let me Dad know there was something there and he rotated enough for me to have a good height with the rifle out of the window…just in case.
Sure as all shit, it was a deer and I saw it’s antlers which at that time I called them horns. Trophy deer weren’t much of a thing back in the late 80s, early 90’s; if you killed something you were lucky and also super fucking proud because you had meat to eat obviously, but also to give to family members which was sick. I was given the okay to shoot anything I wanted and being 12, I just wanted to kill a deer.
Around this time I was also a competitive .22lr shooter, but that was through a peep sight and also in a very controlled environment. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience through magnified optics and honestly I also didn’t know shit about them. I looked through the optic and could only see from the middle of the buck’s body to its back and also it’s head. There was a slight grade up and he was on the downslope side far as all hell, or what I thought was far.
My Dad trusted my judgment and there was zero pressure from him. I remember asking for his reassurance and his words were, “If you feel comfortable, go ahead and shoot it.” Added backstory would be that he taught me gun safety at a VERY early age and I was already walking around the yard with an iron-sight semi-auto .22lr shooting black birds around the house. Actually started doing that when I was about 4 or so. Obviously not alone at that age, but it was Christmas when I’d get a 500rnd count of .22lr Remington Yellow Jacket because I knew birds were gunna die and as long as I was back inside for lunch and dinner on time.. it was fucking game on.
I didn’t know what part of the body I should aim at, again my Dad trusted me so damn much; I took aim at the neck of this animal, took it off safe and squeezed. I must have weighed 100lbs or so and the .222 recoil, which isn’t shit, jolted me so I lost sight picture once I sent the round downrange. At this point I didn’t know if I hit him, if I missed, where he went. The only thing I was trying to do at this point was slow down my breathing because I was on an adrenaline ride that I hadn’t realized until after I shot.
Never had I killed a big animal in the wild and I was fucking excited to say the least. There’s a rule that when you shoot, you let the animal die before you rush up on it and cause it to get spooked if the shot wasn’t good so… we waited. Felt like an eternity to me, but finally got out of that cold ass blind and paced down the road, up the hill and to where this buck laid. 210yrds. What the fuck.
He was a very young buck, packing a massive 4 point rack (lol), but it was my first buck ever and to me he was BEAST. We had a hard time finding the hit because of the caliber being a .222, but on his left side the shot entered just rear of the jaw and exited right behind the ear on his left side. There was no bullshit blood on the face, just a pat on my back from my Dad saying good job and the feeling of my being happy about him being proud of me.
I told that story to all the old timers at the camp when we got back and was so pumped to tell my family upon arriving at home to clean and butcher him up. Butchering was something I had already helped a ton with, but that’s another story in itself.
The small rack was sawed off the skull and is nailed up in an outdoor shed where old wood and tools are stored. Thirty years later the memory is ever so vivid. Never will I forget it.
- Roque Rodriguez