Paradise Lost

Like so many things in life, it had to come to an end . . . but what an ending.

An excerpt from the 2015 Jan./Feb. issue of  Sporting Classics, on newsstands Dec. 26.
 
 
I have been to heaven and it’s in North Dakota.
 
In the frozen glow of dawn a group of does slips silently over the hill out front, followed by a buck. Definitely a beast with horns, he looks like a ten-point in the grainy, light-starved view through my binoculars.
 
I’ve never killed a ten-point.
 

An hour later my cell phone buzzes, signaling texts from my son, Mike, in another blind. I ignore it. I am spellbound by the continuing parade of whitetail bucks, short-circuited by sensory overload.

As a South Carolinian, I’ve never experienced a “bucks gone wild” episode like this. By comparison, the rut back home is modest, and I steel myself to wait before doing something I’ll regret on this, our first day. My box blind rests atop a snowy hill overlooking a draw to my left, choked with oaks and brush, a humble creek in front, and a bare, glistening field rising up beyond. Most of the deer are coming over the ridge, across the wind, and down the snow-laden slope to the draw, where they congregate, feed, and court. I catch glimpses through the trees, tantalizing images of antlers and big bodies on the move, necks outstretched, heads low, looking for love.

 

I wonder if I made a mistake passing on the big eight.

 

I spot a magnificent, high and wide eight-pointer 50 yards directly downwind of me. He pauses to watch the action below, assesses the frantic bucks and the does fleeing their advances, and pays no attention to my scent, which must be swirling around him. Does that pass downwind of me stop, raise their noses, and light out in controlled panic, but the bucks are oblivious. This one is tempting me. Far grander than any deer I have ever seen in the wild, certainly bigger than any horns on my wall, he trots downhill toward the draw as I track him in the scope, but I do not slip the safety, and he enters the fray.

The temperature is 19 degrees, the wind is whistling though the blind, and my feet have detached themselves from my body. I’ve discovered the hand-warmers I purchased for the trip do not work. Violent shaking and vile curses produce not the first btu. 

Hearing a light tapping at the door of the blind, I slowly open it and discover Mike looking up at me. 

“Can I help you?” I whisper.

“Okay if I come up?” 

“Well . . . I guess,” I respond. “What’s going on?”

“You didn’t look at your texts, did you?” he asks.

“Nope. Too much going on here, deer everywhere.”

He sighs, “I killed a big ten-point, best buck of my life. Texted pictures to you.”

He settles in, shows me his gorgeous deer on the cell phone, and says, “Those hand-warmers aren’t worth a dime.”  

Now I have another set of eyes to help watch, and I must add, another opinion with which to deal. I raised this fellow, and I know he is a man who will speak his mind and plead his case or, putting it differently, he will butt in and try to run the show. I must be strong. 

We stay till noon, the action slows and Mike is eager to show me his buck. I wonder if I made a mistake passing on the big eight, but there are three and a half days ahead, and the prospects are delicious.

Mike has killed a wonderful long-tined ten-point with near perfect symmetry and the body of a Clydesdale. The buck was on the move, actually trailing another buck when Mike spotted him. One loud grunt stopped him for a quick look through the scope, and a second grunt stopped him for the shot. Mike’s hunt is over and he is thrilled. So am I. +++

 

To finish the tale, be sure to pick up the January/February issue of  Sporting Classics, on newsstands December 26.

 

Cover image: Matt Hansen Photography