© 2012 Aaron Atkinson

Second Chance Buck

Laura and I have decided to buy less meat from the grocery store. She didn’t used to eat meat at all, so its a natural reversion for her. For me it’s the combination of a graphic slaughterhouse documentary I recently watched and wanting to eat healthier through avoiding cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics.

I’m suspicious that Laura takes this to mean that we’re moving in a vegetarian direction. And while she’s partly correct, I plan on taking our new diet down a slightly different path – instead of buying meat, I intend to catch and shoot more of the meat that I’ll eat. We’ve got pheasants and quail in the freezer, along with some crappies and trout. But something is missing – the red meat. And so, for the first time in my life, I thought it would make sense to shoot a deer.

I’ve never had a problem killing fish and birds. I eat what I take, they are pretty small critters, and I always feel like it’s fair chase. That said, I wasn’t so sure how I’d feel about shooting a deer, mostly because it’s a big, beautiful animal. When I saw him lying there in the grass, I felt remorse but also satisfaction. I’d taken a life, but I’d eat most of the meat and thanks to my host, Dennis, I’d also donate a portion to a local homeless shelter. And as I think back on how the hunt had unfolded, I felt quite at peace with the whole affair.

I first notice a flicker of his white tail at more than 200 yards. While well within range of the scoped Ruger .30-06 I’d borrowed, I just didn’t feel comfortable taking that long of a shot. As the initial surge of adrenaline faded from my system, I watched him slowly meander away through the grassy field. Within a few minutes he was out to 300 yards, then 400 yards. There would be other deer. This one wasn’t meant to be.

And then he jerked his head up, flagged his tail in alarm, made a 180 degree turn and in great leaping strides he headed straight towards my stand. When he finally stopped, he turned broadside to look back in the direction of whatever had spooked him, and I wasted no time in taking advantage of my second chance buck. I raised the rifle, put the crosshairs behind his shoulder, flicked off the safety and pulled the trigger. The woods boomed like thunder, and the recoil jolted the gun upwards. When I looked back, the deer was gone, consumed by the waist high grass.

When we approached him a few minutes later he looked totally peaceful. There wasn’t even a spec of blood. As we cleaned him, we saw why. The shot had been a couple of inches high and I’d hit a rib. The 150 grain bullet struck with such force that it broke apart on impact. Half of the slug ricocheted down and lodged in the heart and lungs, while the other half had travelled up and broke his spine. He was dead in a moment, the cleanest possible kill. Also, the rifle I’d borrowed was sighted in at 100 yards. From where the deer laid, we measured the distance to my tree stand at precisely 100 yards.

When I arrived home, Laura asked me if I felt any remorse. I told her the truth, that I felt none at all. He had his chance to escape, but fate or a coyote had led him back. He stopped at the perfect range, offering a turned head, broadside shot. And the bullet resulted in an instantaneous, clean kill. And in the event that I did feel a glimmer of guilt, it was washed away by the first heaping spoonful of venison chili I ate later on that chilly December night.


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