Deer Grandma, Story Two
A very warm start to a November weekend. It would probably be the last opportunity I would have to hang the wash out on the clotheslines north of our small farmhouse. Dan had gone deer hunting after finishing the milking and other barn chores. With a family of four young children, we would take turns working, watching the children, and roaming the 240 acres along the river that was now our farm and way of life.
The breeze was warm and pleasant. The lines were almost full of wet wash. With only one load left to do and the children happily occupied, it was the perfect time to take a quick walk over towards the barn and check the heifers. They were peaceful, laying in the sunshine, and thankfully, not showing any signs of calving.
With a quick walk to the northeast, I was able to see through the conifer windbreak to the river. The river, one of the main reasons we bought this farm. It was the river that my husband fished as a child. It was the river that I walked and fished with him for several years prior to purchasing this farm in 1972. It was my retreat, a place of solitude, a place to catch northerns and bass, a place to wade with the children, a place to protect and enjoy.
On a sunny day in fall, the river glistens. The light brown foliage along the banks, along with the brown-black sticks of brush, set off the water, making it bright and deep blue. It looked cool and inviting. I knew I had to take a few moments to enjoy the scene before going back to work.
As my eyes followed the river upstream, I noticed a horizontal line breaking up the vertical lines of the brush and trees. Just on the other side of the river, about the same color as the dead foliage, stood a deer. It appeared to be a large animal. Parts of it were tucked behind the brush, but much of the chest and head were visible. It appeared to be looking right at me. I stood still, trying to detect whether it was a buck or doe. If it was a doe, I’d just watch and enjoy. If it was a buck, I would go back to the house to get my rifle.
Did I see antlers, or was that an illusion caused by the brush? Could it be my imagination running wild because we could only tag a buck that season? At 200 yards away from the deer, I knew the only way to find out was to get my gun and look through the scope. How could I do that undetected, since the deer appeared to be watching me?
I chuckled when I thought about the deer saying to itself, “Oh sure, I’ll just hang around here for ten minutes or so waiting for Betty to get back so she can shoot at me.”
I dropped to my knees, then belly, and crawled out to where the windbreak was thick. Keeping the stand of conifers between me and the river, it was a short walk back to the house.
The baby was still asleep and the other three were playing in a nearby room. I asked our oldest child, Kate, if she could keep her eye on Paul in case he woke up. I told them I would be just northwest of the house and that there was a deer by the river that I wanted to get a closer look at. They were interested, but happy to let me go and continue their play.
It seemed like it took forever to get my rifle. The shells were locked away in a different place and that took even longer. As I walked out of the house, the rifle felt comfortable. I had spent quite a few hours practicing with it that summer and fall. A neighbor to the north had a shooting range and I’d walk there to visit with him and others, neighboring men and women, who enjoyed shooting sports. Stationary targets were set at every 100 yards from 100 to 500. There were also moving targets to practice on – – bouncing tires rolled down a hill in an old gravel pit. My .308 was zeroed in at 100 yards and I had the drop memorized for both 200 and 300. I figured the shot would be about 200 yards.
Perhaps I could lean against the small pole on the birdhouse. Then I smiled at the foolish thought that the deer would still be standing there waiting for me. As I approached the opening in the windbreak, I slowed down and cautiously peeked out. To my great surprise, the deer was still there. I leaned against the birdhouse pole, slowly put the gun up, and looked through the scope. No illusion. There were antlers – hefty, sturdy ones. Time to get serious.
The plan to use the birdhouse pole to shoot from wouldn’t work. I could not see the deer’s check as clearly as I needed to. I circled the sling around my arm for an offhand shot and took a couple steps to the north. I brought the sights onto the buck’s lung area and adjust the crosshairs up four inches. I took a few regular breaths, exhaled slowly, and squeezed the trigger.
First order of business was to check on the children and let them know that I’d be taking a walk to the river. They were fine and occupied in their playing; baby Paul was still asleep. Next, I would need to check and see what really happened to that deer. He had disappeared very quickly after the shot.
The walk to the river was full of anxious thoughts and hopes. Once getting there, I wanted to keep my feet dry as possible, so I picked my way across on the rocks in a shallow area. By that time, I could see Dan coming from the north. He was puzzled by the shot. Who was hunting so close to the barn?
I told him, “Well, I saw this deer just standing here . . . “
It took a while for Dan and me to get the deer across the river and into the old, wooden trailer behind the tractor. It was an old and very heavy animal. Up at the house, the three older children clambered onto the trailer and posed with mom, baby, and the deer. We had to take a picture – – after I hung up that one last load of wash.