As he sat in his hard wooden tree stand overlooking a deserted farm field and watched the sun finally come up over the Adirondack peaks many miles to the East, Denny G. mused that, if nothing else, deer hunters certainly had a lot of time to think about things. He had done a lot of thinking this morning.
After getting up in the middle of the night and downing a quick coffee and donut, Denny had been delivered to this spot in the dark and advised that someone would pick him up for breakfast. That had been hours ago. He had climbed carefully into his stand and managed to load his rifle. He wondered if he would get a chance to use it. John had told him that a big buck had been seen in the area, but he wondered if that was just talk, if they put him here because no one had ever seen a deer here, and he would be safe. He wondered what the club members thought of him as a hunter. He wondered if he would be able to shoot a big buck if he had the chance. He wondered if anyone would remember to come back for him. He had his son Scott’s new semi-automatic rifle with the fancy scope; he wondered if he would be able to fire it. There had been no time to test it the day before, just a few hurried instructions from Scott, who wouldn’t be able to come to camp until today. He would miss opening morning.
Denny was not really an avid deer hunter. Although he had grown up in Maine, where everyone was a deer hunter, work and other obligations kept him from hunting more than a couple of weekends a year. He enjoyed coming to camp: the joking, the meals, the card games, and camaraderie of visiting with all the gang. He didn’t even mind being teased about his Maine accent, even after all these years. And now Scotty was into guns and deer hunting, and it gave them something to do together. But he would like to at least see a deer today.
The October sun was just beginning to melt the frost from the hayfield when he noticed a movement at the edge of the hardwoods, as a small deer eased onto the field. A doe? Were does legal this year? The rules changed from season to season. Or was that just for black-powder season? Should he shoot? No, better not. He would have to check the rule book when he got back to camp. As the deer raised its head from feeding, he imagined he could see a small antler. He studied the animal with his telescope, and decided it did have spike antlers. Those were legal, but not very long. Should he wait for a bigger buck? He estimated the deer was over 100 yards across the field, and he had never shot that far.
Just as he settled the rifle to his shoulder, a twig snapped, almost under his stand, and he looked around. There stood a larger buck, at least a 6-point, studying the field. He carefully swung his rifle around, and when the sight covered the deer’s front shoulder, squeezed the trigger. There was a dull click, but enough to make the deer jump forward a few steps. When he had loaded this morning, the locking bolt must not have closed tightly…he remembered now that Scott had warned him about that. He had to pull the bolt back and slam it forward tightly, then the gun would be ready to fire. At the noise, and before he could aim again, the deer ran across the field and joined the other buck. Both deer stood looking down the field, but not toward him.
At the far end of the field stood a monster buck, antlers gleaming in the sunlight. Geezamighty! He had never dreamed that they ever grew that big! He would be the envy of the whole club if he harvested this one. Surely none of the members had ever killed one this big. Maybe none of them had ever seen one as big. But it was nearly 200 yards away, should he shoot? Should he wait for it to come closer? The smaller bucks were closer, but they were forgotten now.
As Dennis tried in vain to control the shaking rifle barrel, the huge deer started across the field toward the others. It fed slowly behind a small rise, out of sight. The other deer! Now they were looking in the other direction, back toward the camp. Now another hunter came into sight, coming toward him across the field. He recognized Scotty by his walk…he had arrived in time for the morning hunt after all. Just at the wrong time, and in the wrong place. Geezamighty! Of course, he had no way of knowing that anyone was in the stand, he didn’t even know that the stand was there.
Suddenly Scott spotted the two deer. He crouched and began carefully stalking across the field toward the bucks. With a flash of white in the sunlight, before Dennis could raise his gun, they were gone. The big buck merely disappeared, neither hunter saw him run. Dennis never saw it again, except often in his dreams.