Beginner's Luck

By Mark Penwarden

I was fresh out of a hunter's safety course at the age of 26. The instructor did a great job and gave helpful tips. He recommended different ways to bag that first white tail.

I practiced shooting my rifle, a Winchester Model 70 Super Grade in .30-06, at the local range until I felt comfortable. That took a few hundred rounds (not in one outing!). At last ready to hunt, I went north in the state of Michigan to my uncle's residence. My first time hunting deer!

I wake up at about 5:00 AM. Get ready and head out. I am quite nervous during this whole time and trying to remember the million little things that you are supposed to do. (Like not shutting the car door too loudly.) I am sitting on my stand at around 6:00 am. By 7:00 AM, I start wondering about this whole hunting thing. At 7:30, I don't understand the whole deal. I wore summer BDU's and my legs are freezing. (A very poor choice; my uncle thought I had thermals on underneath.) There is a slight mist and some sprinkle activity. I am getting wet and I'm freezing. "Is this what hunters do?" keeps going through my mind.

I wake up early, sit in the woods, freeze and watch the woods, painfully slowly, become light. What a blast. I try not to move, as I've been told movement is easily detected.

I told everyone that if I hate hunting I'm selling my new rifle. I sit and stare at the trees. It is, admittedly, peaceful and enjoyable, outside of the afore mentioned circumstances. I am considering telling my uncle that we should get going. It is cold, damp and I am rapidly becoming miserable. I decide to tough it out.

At 7:45 AM, I hear a noise. Over the hill comes a good-sized buck. I wait for it to turn so I can take my shot. My breathing is uncontrolled. I am breathing so hard I expect the deer to hear me and take off. My heart feels like it is pumping through my chest. I try to calm down, but my adrenaline is flowing. I watch the deer slowly walk towards me. I wait for the lifetime it takes before it turns broadside to me. (Probably a minute or so.) I steady myself long enough to get off a good shot. When I stand to call my uncle over, my whole body is shaking. My first time out and I shoot a buck in about two hours. So, this is why people hunt. What a great and amazing sport!

As we get the deer dressed and loaded, my uncle turns to me and says, "Is that rifle for sale?" No, it is not!

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Copyright 2011, 2013 by Mark Penwarden and/or All rights reserved.