From the Pen of Carter P. Smith
My wife and I have vastly different circadian rhythms. I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person. She is not. When we embark upon any kind of an outdoors-related adventure, I have long since learned that afternoons are best for preserving marital bliss. Mostly.
So there I found myself one December afternoon waiting and waiting in the truck for her to come out of the ranch house. It was the middle of the rut, and the weather was cold, damp and overcast with a slight north wind. It was perfect deer hunting weather, and, I must confess, my patience was running low.
Just as I was about to take the rather ill-advised step of honking the horn to try to hurry her along, she emerged from the house looking resplendent in her hunting get-up. I couldn’t help but notice that in stark contrast to my 2-day-old stubble, grimy camo hat and mud-stained coveralls, her hair was perfect, as was her make-up. I was stewing inside as I thought about the time that had been expended on such frivolities when we could have been sitting fruitfully in a deer blind.
It was the height of the rut, after all, not date night.
In a rare display of wisdom, I managed to restrain myself from commenting about what we might have seen had we been a bit less dilatory in getting to the blind. We were finally off, and besides, she told me earlier that day that she was going to get serious about trying to take a buck. If so, it would be her first. She had long since taken her first wild hog, but up until then, she had contented herself with merely watching deer, not hunting them.
We settled into a blind juxtaposed between two big canyons and accompanying hillsides. Not only was the setting picturesque, but it generally harbored a lot of deer, a consideration not lost upon her impatient husband-guide, who was now supremely focused on trying to locate a buck for his better, and I dare say, better dressed, half.
True to form, the animals were moving. Early on, a group of does, fawns and young fork horns marched by in choreographed procession. A band of toms scurried about under a motte of oaks, scratching around for an errant acorn. A big, coal-black boar hog came barreling down one of the drainages, moving too quickly to draw any kind of fire from us. Four axis deer quietly slipped over a distant hilltop, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Late in the afternoon, we spotted a young buck on a hillside staring intently into one of the draws.
We quickly saw what he was looking at. A doe came darting out of the draw, pursued by a much-larger buck. For 20 minutes or so, they kept flitting into sight, always moving and always partially obscured by brush. Stacy had long since grabbed her gun, a Ruger bolt-action .243 that I had purchased for her in the hopes that she might have some use for it at a time like this.
Alas, both deer disappeared into one of the brushy canyons. Meanwhile, the light of the day was quickly waning. To her credit, Stacy kept a tight grip on the gun and her gaze focused on the hillside that she was sure the buck would ultimately ascend. Sure enough, as on cue, the doe moved up the hill with the buck in hot pursuit.
I threw up my rangefinder and marked a big juniper halfway up the hill. It was about 250 yards away, a little long for her first shot. But I told her it was ultimately her call. She didn’t need to be told twice. Just as I was finishing my pronouncement, the buck reached the tree, stopped and turned broadside, and I heard the telltale sound of the thump of the bullet hitting the buck behind the shoulder. He dropped in his tracks, and I let out a whoop that shook the blind.
We reached her buck with the last rays of light in the western sky. When I asked her to sit down by the deer so I could take her picture, she gave me that all-knowing smile and quipped with all her radiant charm, “Now do you understand why it took me so long to get ready?”
Deer season opens soon across Texas. May it find you, your family and your friends in a deer camp somewhere enjoying the abundant game our state has to offer and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you now more than ever.