The hunter positioned a loaded magazine in the receiver of the Remington automatic, gently squeezing it in place. He pulled the bolt back, eased it forward chambering a round. Placing the weapon on safe and setting down with his back against the tree. Pulling the old green blanket up on his lap, rifle resting in his left arm, trying to stay quiet in the early dawn hours.
The bitter cold wind whispered and rustled through the early morning grays of the Northwest Missouri woods, driving the hunter deeper under the well-worn blanket. He had picked this spot well, he thought. Choosing this small bluff over the spit of timber between two open fields to the south. The bluff overlooked a small creek with a tree line just beyond it with an open corn field just beyond that. He had hoped that the cover, water, and food in the stubble of the cornfield would tempt the creatures of the forest. A small pasture was a short distance to the west. He had found an ancient spear point in the creek bed that ran along side it many months ago. He had hoped that the spirits of these old hunters were with him today.
He looked to east to see the young deer step out of the thick tangled cover, head high, sniffing the air. To the edge of the creek, head now low, drinking the cold water. Excited, but the hunter knew it was too long of a shot, head on at that. His marksmanship skills and eyesight weren’t that good, he didn’t want to risk just wounding the animal. He had open iron sights on his rifle, regretting not leaving the scope on and learning how to use it. The deer lifted its head sniffing the air and disappearing back it the woods. Shit, he thought the fox piss he had sprinkled around his stand and in the area had masked his scent but apparently not.
The hunters mind wandered as the sky had lightened, watching the harvested field turn from dull gray to bright gold, as he had on so many days in the field. He thought of the well-worn Remington he had with him. Scratches on the two-piece walnut stuck and some of the bluing gone from the steel receiver and barrel. Well worn, but well oiled and maintained like so many tools that he owned. He had bought the weapon from a farmer buddy that owned two of them, an ‘ought six and a .243. He borrowed two hundred dollars and after intense negotiation, paid for the .243, farmer-bud keeping the telescopic sight. The hunter had to mount a scope on it that he already had as the rear sight that had been removed to fit the scope that had been on before. Old fashioned, he didn’t like or trust telescopic sights, know how to use one and couldn’t hit shit with it trying to sight it in. Off came the scope, a gunsmith in Kansas City replacing the missing rear sight. The hunter took the weapon home, installed swivels and sling he had purchased from the ‘smith, disassembled the weapon and gave it a through cleaning and oiling. Afterwards it shot like a champ….
The young buck he had seen earlier not fifty yards in front of him. Casually walking down the tree line, nose to the ground. Fox piss worked after all….
The hunter tossed off the blanket, and took a hasty but steady kneeling position pushing the safety off with his right index finger. The animal saw the movement, turned and trotted toward the middle of the open field. The hunter drew a quick sight picture and squeezed the trigger, a loud boom echoing through the quiet timber and fields. Stock shoving him hard, bolt ejecting a smoking empty, clacking into battery chambering a fresh round. The deer jumped high and started to run. He led the animal slightly and squeezed off another round as the animal jumped into the thick cover on the far side of the field. Shit….The rifle performed flawlessly, he hadn’t. So he thought.
He was moving fast, across the creek and up the edge of the thick tangled cover on the far side of the cornfield. Finding a blood trail, envisioning an hours long chase of a wounded animal. The young buck lie just inside the thick cover, both bullets having found their mark. Barely clinging to life. A loud report, the weapon cycling, stripping the final round out of the magazine, chambering it. Ending any chance of further suffering. The hunters prayer, thanking his Creator yet again allowing him to feed his family. The hunter now had work to do, and a long ways to pack out the animal.
He felt out-of-place in the well-lit and heated grocery. Jeans stained with blood and bits of hair, a common sight in a small town store. Still, he wasn’t the average customer. His lady had helped him unload the deer at a neighbors who was handy with a knife and would properly butcher the animal. He watched her pick the cans and dry goods off of the shelves. Short, stout, very top-heavy, but nimble and quick. Ruddy complexion and a cute smile. She was an old school farm girl who was a hell of a lot better at raising a garden than he was at harvesting meat.
He enjoyed the hunt but not the killing, he had never gotten used to it and his lady knew this, sensing his feelings. She simply said that was part of it. Part of life. She knew his feelings about one shot kills and knew that they didn’t always happen. She had talked about seeing animals flattened by large-caliber bullets, seemingly well-placed shots, only to get up and run. Wild animals were tough, able to withstand punishment that humans couldn’t imagine.
It had gotten dark while they were in the grocery, and much colder, but the heater worked well in the old wagon. It had been a long day in the field, and they both had a catching up to do about the days events. The drive home would allow that, and a hot supper and shower would be a fitting end to a hard but productive day….