The air temperature was 30-degrees as I followed Dad to my stand in darkness. The air didn’t feel cold, but it was cold enough to preserve crusty patches of white from a light weekend snowfall. With our boots crunching through the snow and my corduroy pants swish-swishing with every step, I feared the noise we were making would alert every deer within earshot.
It was my fourth opening day. I was 15 and I hadn’t killed a buck yet. I saw one three years earlier, but buck fever seized me, caused an errant shot, and turned a great opportunity into a big disappointment.
Each year I saw plenty of deer, but I hadn’t seen antlers since I was 12. “Right place, right time,” Dad would tell me. He almost always got a buck so he was confident it would happen, but Dad’s voice wasn’t the only voice this kid heard. A whispering interior doubt tried to discourage me with each passing deer season, but my stubbornness prevailed. I was able to push doubts aside.
Opening day gunfire gave those years the soundtrack of a skirmish. Shots encouraged me — especially multiple shots. They told me a buck was still running and might run by me. I studied the head of every deer that scurried by my stand, hoping I’d spot an antler.
Popular songs in those days included “Light My Fire” by the Doors, “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher, and “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. They became part of my own deer hunting soundtrack. Deer hunting lit my fire. My tenacity ensured that the beat would go on. I was a believer that even the poorest odds would swing my way if I persevered. After all, Dad promised I’d find myself in the right place at the right time. I was going to get a buck.
Finally, the moment came. Three young bucks approached and all I cared about was that they had antlers on their heads. I could take my pick. They stopped about 30 yards away. A four-point aggressively lowered his head at the five-point, but the five-point backed away. I settled my crosshairs and sent a 50-grain bullet from my .222 through the neck of the five-point.
He dropped like a rock and kicked a little. The other two ran off. I had finally found the right place and the right time. In my corduroy pants, I swish-swished my way to the deer and reached down to grab an antler.
When I touched the antler he shed it right into my hand. I looked at his other side and that antler was missing. He had two antlers when I shot, but now he had none. There I was with an antlerless deer on the opening day of buck season.
Dad congratulated me anyway. While we field dressed the deer along came a school classmate, Dennis Dickey, who lived just over the hill. I told Dennis what happened and he began looking. He found the other antler, and I still have both to this day.
In the 53 years since then I’ve shot bigger bucks, but none more memorable. Even though I have no photograph from that day, many more details than I’ve shared remain as fresh and vivid in my mind as though it happened yesterday. Dennis is gone. Dad has finished hunting and probably remembers little from that day. But I remember it all, and the memory fills me with optimism every time I step into the deer woods.
And the corduroy pants? Were they a good luck charm? Or did I succeed despite their noisy swish-swishing? I don’t believe luck comes from the clothes we wear, because I decided that day never to wear corduroy pants while deer hunting again.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.