The weather in the middle of August in Spokane was guaranteed to be hot and dry. Especially in the late afternoon, which was time to go hunting.
I had strapped on my harness, slung my hair into a ponytail and pulled on a hat. My camo was dusty, from yesterday and the day before. Hunting season opened three days ago. My little brother shot a doe from his tree stand last evening. My little brother.
I took a deep breath. Today is the day I’m going to shoot a buck. Both nights prior, there had been deer at the base of my little brother’s stand. But I refused to sit in that stand. I just knew that as soon as I climbed into his tree stand, there would be deer at mine. My stand was going to have deer today. I felt it.
My older brother and I climbed in the Mule. He drove me to the base of my stand overlooking our field. The deer were less afraid of the Mule than if we just walked out.
“Third time’s a charm,” I whispered as I hopped down and grabbed my bow from the bed. I walked to my stand. First, I tied my bow to the piece of twine, then I attached my harness to the rope hanging down. I climbed up.
I sat down, shifting my harness into a comfortable position. Looking down at my brother, I gave him two thumbs up and a grin. He took off to his tree stand. I pulled up my bow, careful not to knock it into the ladder or the tree. I took a quick look around, making sure no deer were in the field. Nocking an arrow, I placed my bow on a hook attached to a tree branch to my left.
Wanting to read, but deciding to wait, I peered around and listened. I fiddled with my release strapped to my wrist. I chewed on a fingernail. Swinging my legs over the armrest, I stared at the game trail coming out of the trees. An extremely loud chipmunk rustled in the leaves.
Suddenly I saw movement through the trees. My heart stopped, and my breath hitched. I could see a tan body through the branches feeding in through the game trail.
My bow was in my hands before I knew what was going on. Slowly, I stood up, flinching when my bow tinged against the metal arm rest. The deer didn’t even look up. My eyes widened as I made out antlers sticking out of its head.
I barely caught myself from laughing with glee. Instead, I took a deep breath, calming myself. I could do this.
My whole life led up to this moment. Every year, we’d pack up, heading for hunting camp, where we would stay for three weeks. Fourteen years without missing a season. My whole life. And then we moved to Spokane, on a 35-acre property, where we could hunt for deer in our backyard. I took an online class and a field course and finally earned my hunting license. Finally hunting season came. Now it was my time.
I wouldn’t blow it. Nope. I’d wait until the ideal shot. I’d be patient. The deer was completely calm.
Like I planned, the deer fed out into my small clearing. It completely ignored the feed pile in the field.
Still not looking up at me, he stopped feeding and started walking across the clearing. My body tensed, willing him to stop. He did.
The buck was broadside, 15 yards from my stand. I could see his antlers clearer. Two points, not including eye guards. He had stopped behind a branch on my tree. The twigs obstructed my shot, but I could shoot between them. I pulled back my bow, surprised at how steady I was. I took aim, forgetting in my excitement the pegs for different yardages. Right before I pulled the trigger on my release, a fleeting thought crossed my mind.
I was doing it. I was taking a shot. After countless stories on some degree of truthfulness, I was going to have a story of my own.
My finger squeezed. My arrow zipped to the deer, thunking into its back. The deer flopped down. A grin broke across my face, my brain not completely registering what had just happened. I made a strange sound, halfway between a laugh and a gasp. I did it!
I shook myself, taking action. I had obviously made a spine shot. It was completely accidental, as I was aiming for the kill-zone. The buck was struggling to get away, his back legs paralyzed. But he had flopped behind my tree, and I didn’t have a shot. I grabbed the twine, my fingers uncoordinated and awkward. My breath was shaky, and my legs felt like jelly. The adrenaline was kicking in.
A grin plastered to my face, I climbed down the ladder as quickly as I could, barely remembering to grab my book. I finally managed to untie my bow with my shaking hands. The waist-high grass was obscuring my view. I saw a glimpse of the deer. I nocked another arrow and pulled back. My bow was waving all over the place, nothing like the steadiness from before. I pulled the trigger. The arrow flung into the grass.
I missed. Looking down at my bow, I realized I only had one arrow left. I spun around, heading for the field. Time for Plan B. My dad was walking towards me and looking back behind my tree stand.
I brought my hand up to my head, sticking out two fingers.
“I shot a buck!” I whisper-shouted. He quickly shushed me, grinning from ear to ear.
“No!” I cried. “He’s down. It was a spine shot!” My legs wobbled as he pulled me into a hug. It was official. I had buck fever.
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