I was ready to go! I had previously gone hunting with some friends to observe their hunt and quickly decided hunting was for me! Now, what did I need to actually go hunting?
Well, a quick search and discussion with friends revealed my first step. I completed my hunter safety course. (Did you know that to hunt, a hunter safety course is required in every state except Alaska?) The course went without too much trouble. Having never hunted before there was some helpful information in the course as well as a LOT of safety info. Most of it is common-sense, yet it seems there is less and less common-sense out there these days!
Once I got my hunter safety course completed, I completed the necessary steps to get a hunting license and tag. Where I was hunting I could get an over-the-counter tag for whitetail and so I didn’t have to worry about a draw. I picked up my tag as soon as they went on sale!
I then begin to slowly collect the equipment I needed to hunt. The beauty with hunting is that you don’t need too much to get started. That was good because starting off, I had nothing. I got a few basics: backpack, a knife, and game bags. And then, of course, I had to look good hunting so my wife got me some camo pants and jacket.
I was set…..all except a gun.
Finances that year were such that I didn’t have the money to get a gun right away. I started saving for one, but it quickly became apparent that for my first hunt I would need to lean on the good graces of friends once again.
Fortunately a friend who couldn’t hunt that year graciously allowed me to borrow his 30-06 for my first hunt. I was set!
As it got closer to November, I got more and more excited. We planned a hunting trip with a number of guys and got everything lined up for a hunting camp for about a week. Being brand new, I admit I didn’t have a lot to contribute to the entire thing, but I brought enough excitement to cover everyone.
Finally the time came. Late on a Sunday night we drove about 2 hours to our designated camp site and set up camp. Since I had not had the opportunity to shoot my borrowed gun previously, I went out quickly and fired a couple shots at a target to get comfortable. It was a standard set-up and so after a few shots I felt pretty comfortable with the gun and my shot placement.
That first night it was frigid, but the wall tents and stoves set up provided the warmth we needed. I would like to say that I slept great, but with the anticipating of hunting the next morning, sleep was hard to come by.
That first morning we were up and at it! My buddy dropped me off at the edge of a field and told me exactly where I should set up. He was going to another place a bit away and would be back in a couple hours to pick me up.
It was finally happening. I was in the woods with a gun in my hand and a tag in my pocket. Nothing can quite match the thrill of that amazing combination.
I settled down in the designated spot and waited. At this point I would like to say that the time flew by….but it didn’t. The waiting and watching that many are familiar with was now mine to experience. The anticipation of something about to happen mixed with the fact that nothing actually was happening eventually gave way to me simply sitting there trying to determine how to stay warm.
Eventually my patience paid off! About 2 hours into my hunt, I saw my first deer! Two whitetail bucks begin to make their way across the open field about 175 yards away. I quickly shouldered my borrowed 30-06, found the bucks in my scope, flipped off the safety…..and I hesitated.
You know that jittery, anxious feeling that many people get when they shoot their first deer? The one that makes you shake and sweat when that moment finally comes. Well, I didn’t get it. I was expecting it. I had walked myself through the entire thought process to calm myself down for the shot and to assure myself that I was calm when the situation arose. And yet, when the moment finally came, I found myself analyzing the situation.
I watched those two bucks slowly walking across the field and I thought, “You know, I think I’ll wait….I’ve got time. It is the first day of the hunt and I may get a shot at a bigger one!” They were both decent 4×4 bucks but both looked fairly young.
I pulled by head back from the scope and put the safety back on. And then I thought, “What am I doing! Here is my opportunity to shoot my first deer!” I took the safety off again and found the biggest one again in my scope.
I repeated this process 3 times….consecutively talking myself in and out of the shot. Eventually I pulled the gun down and watched at my potential first kill walked into the woods…..never suspecting how incredibly close to death he had just come….multiple times!
The second-guessing began. I wavered between kicking myself over and over for not taking the opportunity and conversely congratulating myself for being patient and waiting. I mulled it over and over again in my mind. Had I made the right decision?
Fortunately, I didn’t have to think about it too long. Fifteen minutes later the sound of a truck pulled me out of my thoughts and my friend (who had gotten cold and bored over where he was) had decided to pick me up and go look in another place.
I hopped into the truck and begin to recount my adventure. My story got cut short however when not one minute down the road, a nice buck jumped in front of us and dashed into the woods. “Interesting.” my friend said, “Let’s go take a look and see what’s in there.”
We parked the truck and quietly trudged through the snow in the direction that we had seen the buck disappear. It certainly looked promising. There was a small path full of deer track that lead down through some evergreens towards a small clearing. A little creek ran though the clearing that was all frozen over.
The scene was picture-perfect. A soft gentle snow fell on already-covered evergreens perched on the ridge overlooking the winding creek. It was still and quiet with hardly a hint of wind.
My buddy had a pair of rattling antlers that he thought would be prefect to try here and so he gave them a quick rattle. Suddenly, there was action! After just one rattle of the antlers, a whitetail buck popped like magic from behind one of the evergreens. 30 yards away it stood perfectly broadside as it looked intently at us. It happened so quickly and suddenly you could almost imagine it was a statute if it weren’t for the tell-tale steam coming out of its nostrils at every breath.
“Right there!” my friend excitedly whispered as I shouldered my gun. What a perfect situation! A great location and an easy shot for my first kill. I found him in my scope, flipped off the safety and smoothly pulled the trigger.
Instead of a “boom”, all I got was a “click.”
The gun had misfired. Later observations showed the bullet had been struck by the firing pin, but not hard enough to ignite the primer. I stood frozen in disbelief. To cycle another round would be too loud and take too long at a mere 30 yards. My hopes were dashed.
My friend however was not going to let this opportunity slip by! He quickly grabbed his gun and fired a shot just about as quick as I’ve ever seen someone fire.
The buck jumped and vanished in the woods. A mere 25 yards away we found it in its final resting place.
It was a nice buck; a 5×5 that was unusually wide but didn’t have incredibly tall tines. As we looked at that deer I had mixed feelings of excitement for my friend and disappointment for myself. That was MY deer. It was my shot to make and would have been a prefect first deer! Yet I was glad he took the shot or we would have had nothing.
That was the last deer I would see that week. I would have other opportunities later (See my first whitetail success here) and as it happened, I ended up being thankful it worked out this way. At that time though I have to say that I was disappointed. My perfect opportunity had been squander by a misfire!
I returned the gun to its owner and went and bought my own!