Zack's Best Shot
By Bryan Morgan
Chris Cobbett, who normally writes in this space, has graciously allowed me to pinch-write for him this month, and I would love to tell you a story that should put a grin on the face of any veteran deer hunter as they think back to their younger days.
Considering my track record, I was somewhat surprised when my sister told me that my twelve-year-old nephew, Zack, would love to go hunting with me on the Youth Deer Hunting Day this past October 25th. Zack is an avid fisherman, and was anxious to try his luck on whitetails. His dad had a previous commitment, so Zack was willing, even anxious, to give his old uncle a shot at this guiding business.
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Our day began at the rifle range, where Zack shouldered my .243 BAR and delivered a tight two inch group on his first attempt. We decided that he could hit a deer if one presented itself and thus proceeded to a spot in Greenwood that had been alive with deer during the bow season. We saw very little fresh sign there, but were treated to a parade of very large turkeys strutting by. We relocated to a long field in Oxford, where the owner had been seeing deer. Our first sighting occurred shortly after arriving, when a very large doe waved good-bye while Zack was loading the gun. I was beginning to be concerned that this bad luck stuff was perhaps contagious, maybe even genetic. Rather that be discouraged, Zack was more excited than ever and couldn't wait to get to a blind I had built on the side of the field. We had discussed what to do in case he saw a deer from his side before I saw it and sure enough, 1 hour into our stand, out walked a nice doe.
"Uncle Butch, I see a deer." he excitedly whispered. "Alright," I said, "wait for me to grunt her to a st - " Bang! The BAR roared, the deer hit the gas, and for a second time in an hour we watched his dream disappear into the woods unharmed. I knew that he had hurried the shot and the moving target had only complicated matters. In order to set a good example, I went over to the last spot the deer was in the field and searched for blood. Finding none, I headed back to the blind that now had a very sad looking 12- year- old standing in front of it. "Do we go home now ?" he asked. "No," I said, "We still have thirty-five minutes of legal time left and we might as well use it." Looking rather doubtful, Zack crawled back into the blind and prepared to wait it out.
Our wait was very short lived, and less than five minutes later I spotted another deer coming out of the same run the doe had used. I grabbed Zack's shoulder before he saw the deer and reminded him to wait for it to stop. As if on cue, the deer dropped its head to begin feeding, and Zack slowly raised the gun to shoot. Much quicker than it had gone up, the gun came down. "Uncle Butch, it's a BUCK!" came out louder than it should have at that point. "Shoot it", I implored, praying that he made a clean hit or clean miss. An instant later, things got substantially more interesting as a second deer walked directly in front of the first, setting up the very real possibility of two deer with one shot. Once again, my hand on the shoulder put on the brakes, and I whispered, "When the second one clears, shoot the big one." I only slightly regret my choice of words. When a new hunter has a scope full of his first buck, it IS the big one. Bang! The Browning barks once again, and this time finds its mark. Buck number one goes down quickly and we then get to witness another strange happening, in an afternoon full of them. Buck number two (previously called 'The big one', by yours truly), just stands there looking around. Two hundred plus pounds, ten points of massive horns and four and a half years of escaping all hunters, and he just stood there. Meanwhile, I had a young hunter exploding with excitement, being held back so the big guy couldn't lock on our location. Five minutes later, I gave up the ghost and spooked him to parts unknown.
For those of you who have never been there, you should do whatever is in your power to be there when a special youngster shoots their first deer. Zack thanked me a dozen times before we even reached the downed animal. "Is it a four or six point, Uncle Butch?" he asked. From fifty feet away it became apparent to me that Zack's "small" buck was anything but. We reached the side of the deer and the look on his face was priceless as he realized, "Oh my God...I shot an eight-point buck!!"
The rest of the evening was just a blur: Roger and Margaret Twitchell drove down and took some great pictures...we wowed them at the tagging station...most of our family had gathered at my mom's by the time we made our triumphant arrival. They had only been told that Zack had a small deer to bring home, but nothing prepared them for his massive one hundred and seventy five pound field dressed beast. All in all, it was as close to a perfect hunt as I have ever been on.
Looking back, I can only compliment the State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for its foresight and innovation in the creation of the Youth Hunt. One imagines that Zack's hunt and its lasting memories were exactly what the department had in mind. Ladies and gentlemen, mark the date on your calendars next year and take a youngster hunting. You might just rediscover why you took to the woods in the first place. By the way, Zack's younger brother Max has already informed anyone who will listen that he is going back and shoot the bigger deer next year. I truly hope that he does and pray that I am there to see it.
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