Friday, November 9, 2012

2012 Deer Season - Part 1, Double Does

Today is Firearms Friday, and it's November. So, let's talk about something that many of us do with a firearm during this time of the year. That would be deer hunting !! For those of you that have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love to hunt and that the fall is my favorite time of the year for two reasons - football and deer hunting.

I've been really blessed in my deer hunting endeavors since my heart transplant. For about three years leading up to my transplant, I couldn't hunt. I was simply too sick and weak to even consider it. Now, I enjoy it and appreciate it that much more. I guess it's a case of "you don't know what ya got until it's gone." I am also fortunate to have some buddies, that I can go with who help me get the deer out of the woods. I'm not strong enough to do it on my own.

I only muzzleloader and firearms deer hunt. I gave up archery crossbow hunting a few years back after losing a deer I had shot. So, when Saturday, November 3, 2012 rolled around, opening day of Tennessee's muzzleloader deer season, I was excited and ready to go. Not just because it was time to hunt, but also because it marked a special day for me. Five years earlier on that very day, my hunting buddies helped me meet my goal of getting back in the woods for my first deer hunt after my transplant. It turned out to be a special day, as I shot my first post-transplant deer. It's a day I will never forget.

So, last Saturday, I got up early, got ready, and left the house to meet my hunting buddies, Dennis and Phil. We got in the woods, and I was set up just off of a food plot up on top of a hill. From there, I could see the plot and down into a low place on my left, which has been a deer highway at times in years past.

It started getting daylight a little past 6:30 a.m., and just before 7, I heard something coming down through the woods behind me. I was pretty sure it was a deer by the sound. We knew there was a big buck in the area, so I didn't dare turn to look, plus it sounded like it was gonna pass by on my left, continue on, and then pass in front of me. I heard it stop directly to my left at a distance of about 10 yards. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it was a doe, and she was locked onto me. I just stayed still.

She walked on by and stopped in front of me and looked around, looked at me, walked around in circles, and then repeated the process over and over. She wasn't very big, so my plan was to let her walk. However, she kept hanging around, and I started getting a little irritated with her thinking, "Would you please go on." I was afraid I would spook her and blow my chances at the good buck that was in the area.

In 2011, I had a very slow season. I didn't get a deer and only saw about 9 or 10. I only had a chance to shoot one of them, and I passed on it, a big doe, because there was a huge buck in the area that I didn't want to spook. I started thinking about that as this doe kept hanging around. I began wondering, "Is it just meant for me to shoot this deer ?" I decided it must be. Plus, I figured a "bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." So, I eased my cheek to the muzzleloader's stock, cocked the hammer, and decided that if she walked in from of the gun barrel, I was taking her. At 7 o'clock on the dot, she did. I shot. I heard her run off a little distance, and then it got quiet. I didn't see which direction she ran, because it took the smoke forever to clear. I was a little puzzled, though. I actually wasn't sure that I hit her, because at a distance of 30 yards, I thought the 150 grains of powder and 295 grain bullet would have dropped her in her tracks. I kept wondering, did I hit her, or not ? But how the heck could I have missed at 30 yards ?

Since it was only 7, and I was allowed 1 antlered deer and 3 antlerless that day, I reloaded the muzzleloader. If I had missed her, I wanted to be ready in case I got another opportunity. I sat until 7:25, and then I couldn't stand it any longer. I needed to know. So, I got up to go check for blood. As I stood up, I looked back over my left shoulder. I saw another doe standing there about 60 yards from me. I slowly sat back down to see what might happen. Next thing I know, I hear deer coming though the woods on my left. I count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 does. I slowly turn to the left, because I know where they are likely to come out - in the low place mentioned earlier. Sure enough, they pop out of the woods at a distance of 75 yards. Three keep moving, but two of them stop to look at something. When they do, I cock the hammer on the muzzleloader, settle the scope's cross hairs on the nearest one's shoulder, and fire. The smoke clears, and the deer has dropped in its tracks. No tracking needed. Just the way I like it. Deer #1 of 2012. Meat for the freezer. I'm happy.

A few minutes later, I decide to get up and finally go check for blood from the very first deer I shot at. I find a bunch, so I know she didn't go far. About 9:30, Phil comes by to help me look for her. The blood trail leads to the aforementioned low place on my left. There she lays - 20 yards from where the other deer fell !! When the other five came out of the woods, and the two stopped to look at something, they were looking at the first deer I had shot at. I guess it had served as an unintended "decoy" in some way. So, deer #2 for 2012 is on the ground, ... but it's actually deer #1, and deer #1 is actually ...  deer #2. Have I confused you yet ? Anyways, I now have more freezer meat. I'm even happier. I've gotten a double dose of does on the first day out. Now, I can focus on looking for a big buck the rest of the season.

Kent - my heart donor
As I've looked back and thought about Saturday and my good fortune, I've thought a lot about "why" ? Why was I there ? Well, it's simple. I was there enjoying being in the outdoors and hunting again, because I had been fortunate enough to be blessed with a "second chance" at life. God had been merciful and a caring man had chosen to be an organ and tissue donor. Five years to the very day I got my first post-transplant deer, the Lord had reminded me how fortunate I was - with not 1, but 2 more !! He had done so in a very unique way, just as He usually does. He does indeed work in mysterious ways.

In the 20 years I deer hunted before my transplant, I shot 2 deer - just 2. I shot that many in 30 minutes last Saturday morning, and they were the 10th and 11th I been blessed to get since my transplant. I don't take any of them for granted.

I am able to enjoy life and my hobbies again because of the miracle of organ donation and transplantation. Currently, there are over 115,000 Americans who need life-saving transplants just as I did more than five years ago. You can help. For more information about organ and tissue donation, including how to register as a donor in your state, please visit the Tennessee Organ Donation Foundation, Inc.'s website by clicking here.
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