First Deer in Bagdad
J. C. Tilton
OK, not that Baghdad, but outside Bagdad, Kentucky. But that is where my son, Joe, got his first deer this fall. The story starts a littler earlier in the year. Joe decided that he really enjoys shooting, so we put him in the 4H Shooting Sports program, where he did really well. I have been letting him look at my old Field & Streams magazines and he became intrigued with deer hunting. I told him that if he wanted a deer rifle, he could save up his money and buy one. Once he got the rifle, then I would hold up my end of the deal and take him on a hunt.
Well he held up his end of the bargain. This summer he spent some long, hard days in the hay fields and diligently saved up the funds for a rifle. We visited various places and he decided on a Remington 30-06 caliber rifle. Finally the day arrived when he had all the money saved up and we went back to the store and got it along with some ammunition. He began to do target shooting and got his scope zeroed in.
Joe's sister lives in Louisville, Kentucky and we were fortunate to find a place within driving distance of her home for the youth hunt that they hold in October. Of course the day that we left was Friday the 13th. An ominous day to begin a trip. We got to a late start because of truck problems, despite assurances that it would repaired by the end of day, it wasn't. I couldn't take my wife's vehicle because of a wedding. So it took a call to a rental agency to get another truck for the trip. Since we got a late start we didn't get to the campsite until way late and it wasn't until midnight that we could get into the sack.
The next morning we were up before sunrise and after some hot chocolate to help rid the overnight chill and a couple of doughnuts; John, an owner of the land we were on, arrived. He took us to the back portion of the property were a blind had been set up close to some oak tree's. Not long after settling in, we heard some rustling of the leaves as a nice buck browsed for acorns. I pointed him out to Joe and when he moved, Joe was able to pick him out thru the tree trunks. He slowly raised the rifle, waited for a good opening and snapped off a round. The buck wheeled and turned and disappeared in some brush down hill. We zigzagged thru the area and tracked as best we could, but could find no sign of a hit. Maybe a branch deflected the bullet, or maybe it went high and missed completely.
We settled back into the blind and after about an hour another deer started rustling thru the leaves looking for acorns. This time it was a doe. Joe was really wanting a deer with antlers and so it was difficult to pass up a full broadside shot when the doe stopped and stared our direction for a full 10 seconds before moving on down the hillside out of sight. A short time later John came back and we went back to the campsite to take a midday break. He had some other things to take care of that afternoon and after showing us some other prospective hunting sites on the property he left for day.
We grabbed something to eat and discussed strategy. Two deer had been spotted, but our tag was still unfilled. We regretted passing the on the doe. The decision was made that the next good shot he had, he would take. We got our gear back together and in the afternoon headed back to the blind. As we neared the ridge that lead up, I told Joe to walk slowly, to go on ahead, I would wait behind. My thought was that there could be deer that returned to the ridgetop to browse while we were gone - with two people crunching leaves, it could scatter the deer. But one hunter, moving slowly, might be able to sneak up there and catch them unawares.
I watched him slowly climb up the path. Suddenly he stopped. Raised the rifle to his shoulder. After a second or two - bang. “Follow up shot”, I yelled up the hill. Sometimes a deer can be knocked down, but the wound be non-fatal - a second round needs to be chambered in case they get back up. He yelled back down the hill, “I saw two of them, but only one ran away - I think I got it.” Closer inspection showed that yes, indeed he had. One shot had dropped the deer immediately.
Joe had seen 2 deer browsing side by side as he reached the top of the ridge. One had antlers, but they were small, indicating a young buck. The other had no antlers and appeared to be a doe from a distance. He wanted the young buck to have a chance to develop, so he went for the other deer. When we inspected the deer he had shot, it turned out to be a button buck. A younger buck that was still a year away from developing true horns; from a distance it is difficult to tell the difference. But Joe was excited nevertheless.
When we got back to the campsite he called several of his friends on the cellphone to let them know about his success. After the shaky start to the weekend, it was a relief that we were able to end the hunt like this. We packed up the truck and prepared for the trip home. It was his first deer and definitely not his last. Already he is regretting not being able to take that first nice buck and he can't wait to get back in the woods to get a better one. As we pulled I commented, “You know Joe, that someday you'll be able to tell your grandkids that you got your first deer in Bagdad….Kentucky that is.” Comments email: Chris Tilton