Dedicated to Karl C.
It was the first week of rifle hunting season in November.I was thirteen and it was the first year I could shoot a deer.I had completed my firearms safety class and I was ready to shoot my first buck.The problem was that I had to wake up at five in the morning.For thirteen year old Kaleb, this was almost unbearable and he wanted to fall asleep again as soon as he could.But, his father would not let him.So, I knew I had to suck it up and make the best out of it.
When getting dressed, we put on as many layers as we could.After I was done putting them on, I felt as if I were the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.I disliked the feeling of not being able to run or have any flexibility.Once we were dressed, geared up and ready, we went outside and were greeted by the frosty morning breeze.
I could taste the moisture on my tongue as I opened the door.It was pitch black and the only thing I could see was a dim light coming from our old, broken lamp post.So we ended up taking out our flashlights and walking to the shed to grab our rifles.My rifle was a Tikka .270 and my dad’s was a Remington 7mm.Both were accurate and powerful so they punched good sized holes when we shot at our practice targets back home.Before leaving to our stand, my dad gave me another brief on our plan,
“We are going to go to the North Stand.” my dad said, “Wait on the ground until I’m to the top, then you can climb up.”
“Ok, Dad” I replied.
“Don’t forget about B.R.A.S.S.”
“I remember. Breath, Relax, Aim, Slack, and Stop.”
“And walk with your heels, not your toes.”
Annoyed, I replied, “Dad, for the millionth time, I know.”
“Okay, just making sure you won’t forget anything.”
We walked until we reached the stand.Just as planned, Dad walked up first and I followed.To be honest, I was a little scared climbing up it.It was my second time climbing up a ladder that high and I was small compared to the size of the tree stand.But I wasn’t going to wimp out so I gathered my courage and continued up the ladder.
Once there, I received a stare from my dad.For a moment, I thought had done something wrong.Then, he calmly put his pointer finger to his lips indicating that we could no longer talk until either our prey was killed or the hunt was over.As we still do today, my dad and I would communicate by hand signals or mouthing out words.We whispered if it was a last resort.
The hours went by as we waited for a deer to come in front of us.The sun rose over time and most of the fog disappeared except for a thin, grey layer of haze.My rifle was even colder than before.I signaled Dad for some hand warmers and he gave me some. Around four hours passed and I was losing my patience.It would’ve been ten more minutes before I asked my dad if we could leave the stand.But then we heard a crunch.It was time.
Dad peeked out the window to see a six-pointed buck along the right side treeline.I could taste the venison already.I grabbed my rifle from the corner it was leaning against and slowly rested it onto the lower left corner of the window.My B.R.A.S.S. technique was rushing through my head, but I still remained calm and focused.My breathing was controlled, my aim was dead on, my arms were steady, and I was ready to squeeze.I had to make sure I didn’t jerk the trigger otherwise I would anticipate the shot and miss my target like I would sometimes at home.I had to surprise myself with the trigger squeeze.I turned my safety off and was ready to fire.
I started to squeeze.My aim was right on target.Then, a sudden kick hit my shoulder as if someone punched me.I smelled the gunpowder.I heard the cracking shot coming out of the barrel.The round had made a slice right through the buck’s stomach.Its guts dropped down the next step it took.I pulled the bolt back and re chambered another round in.The deer was down but not dead.I had to put it out of its misery.I took a second shot.
The round made perfect thump as the round traveled right through my prey’s cranium.A perfect head shot.
My dad cleared his throat, “Awesome shot, Kaleb!”
Like hungry dogs, we climbed down to examine the scene.As we arrived, I was brutally shocked by the amount of blood and gore that came from the deer.For a second, I doubted myself that I had done a right thing.I had just killed such a beautiful animal.What did this deer do to deserve this?I was confused and unsure of what I did and if it agrees with my morals as a Catholic?
I should’ve had a “one shot, one kill”.But then I came to terms I tried my best and was fast to put the deer out of its misery.It was the way of life.And like any other deer hunt, we repeated the same rituals.We took some pictures, skinned it, hung it up to drain, and waited while sitting back and drinking a nice, cold pop.
This time was a little different from the others.I wasn’t helping a friend, family member, or my father skin his deer.This time, it was my turn.As I sat down on our bench with my dad, celebrating and making memories, I realized something.I was finally a hunter.I had gone hunting many times, but this hunt was my hunt.I could finally say I had the power, patience, and skill to kill an animal.
It had only taken me six hours to earn the title, Hunter.I was eager to return for the next year and the one after that.I realized this was my escape from the world.To lose myself in a hunt and return joyful, whether I had caught any game or not.It makes me look forward to the day when I can watch as my first son or daughter shoot their first deer.Sharing memories and laughs as I was with my father.Sitting around the fire in the dark of night telling stories until we get tired and decide to hit the hay.Cherishing the last glimpse of the star lit forest until you go back inside.And waking up and doing it all over again.One could say it’s the way of life.
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