After many nights of drinks and cigars and trying to explain the amazing, frustrating, exciting and exhausting sport of hunting to my cousin, he came out and literally gave it a shot. I'll let him share his perspective on his first hunt, but I wanted to share what was my first time hunting with someone who was brand new to the scene.
Early AM we met up, both feeling under the weather but excited to be going out. I had set up a ground blind weeks earlier that had been very touch and go. There were either lots of deer in that area throughout the day, or not even a squirrel. In the back of my mind I was thinking there was a good chance we saw nothing at all, and his first experience would be the sting of getting skunked. We got in relatively quietly, and with little time to explain the finer points of what to do when you first sit down, I started to go over some basics. I tried to pick certain important things, but not be overwhelming. I was excited to have someone with me who was interested, and it was too easy to just want to rattle off all the things I have learned about hunting over the years. I told him to watch the deer as long as possible after the shot, that I would bleat and stop the deer so he could have a shot, what kind of shot to wait for, to move slowly and deliberately etc.
The inevitable question comes up: "What should I shoot/would you shoot?" Reluctantly, I tell him that I don't agree with shooting fawns, does with fawns, or button bucks. I tell him that hell, it's your first crack at a deer and the last day of 6 day, take anything that isn't in those categories. I wasn't sure how I wanted to answer that, because I believe killing anything is a personal choice and shouldn't be influenced by other people's moral compass. At the same time, I was doing my best to manage this herd I had on my little piece of property, and wanted to continue to do so.
I hand him my rangefinder so he can get the lay of the land... it decides to not work for the first time ever, which I found hilarious and very typical of my luck. The whole time I'm peering out of a little window on my left that I had unzipped, knowing that the deer always come from one of two paths that intersected in front of us. At just before first light, I see a doe browsing in the grass to the left of the blind. She is positioned in a way that my cousin can't see her. All he wants to do is look, but I'm trying to fill him in on the details so he stays still. I think back to my first sit, and realized how much I moved around, constantly looking and listening for movement all around me in anticipation. The doe eventually moves away.
Soon after, a fawn comes in. He is able to recognize that it is young and doesn't draw down on it, which I thought was great given this is his first time. I know I personally was always ready to draw on something as soon as I saw it when I was new. After a minute or two he practiced scoping in on her. Great move, I thought. The third time, though, she was starting to get an idea that there was some movement, and picked her head up. I told him to be still until she left or she may blow the hunt. She ate and licked away at the mineral block for a while. So much that she actually started sneezing for a while, which we both laughed at.
After the fawn left, we sat for another hour, quietly chatting about work, hunting, Christmas and everything else we could think of. The time came when I knew we had our best shot at seeing something and we got quiet. I had patterned some deer that bedded on the adjacent property and knew that some days they would come investigate my property between 730 and 830. I grab my doe in a can and bleat twice. Not long after that, a 6 point with great genetics came in down the grassy, frozen path to our right. His pace was quick, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "this is going to be tough." I tapped my cousins leg and whispered, "buck, buck, buck!" (probably would've helped if I stayed calmer lol). He brings up his shotgun and the buck freezes. I'm thinking we just got busted, and of course, he stopped behind the only group of trees and brush out there. But sure enough, he comes out, trotting and looking around. I stick my fingers in my ears... we are sitting close to each other. He's at about 10 yards and clears the two small pin oaks in front of us. As I start to bleat for him to stop, a shot rings out and I see fur fly. He drops to his knees with his front legs while his rear legs are trying to run, he's literally dragging his face in the dirt trying to get away- a pose I've never seen before. I'm thinking he may have shot high, since he was zeroed at 75 and spined him. I grab my shotgun and he racks in another round as we stare in silence. The buck crashes 5 yards from where he was hit.
Here's what I felt bad about afterwards. For a second or two we started to celebrate, but then I locked in on the fact that this deer may be spined and our job may not be done. I alternated between congratulating him and telling him to next time wait for the deer to be stopped, not scolding him, just trying to inform, and later I felt that may have taken away from his experience. Nevertheless, after seeing him stop breathing, we celebrated. As he would later put it, "We both almost jumped through the roof of that blind." I think we both said, "I can't believe that happened" about 20 times. The lucky guy goes out and gets a buck on his first ever hunt, on the last day of 6-day, within 2 hours! I was careful to tell him to not get used to this... that this was a special occasion some guys wait all season for. Much like myself, my cousin is almost always in control of his emotions, but today I heard the adrenaline-shaky voice, saw the hands shaking with excitement and disbelief. It was awesome.
We approached the deer and I was so interested to see the same reactions I had when I took my first deer. I just stared at my first deer for a while, not touching it, as did he. I was apprehensive about the depth of my cuts, the amount of blood, the smell, all of it that he was now experiencing. It was a blast watching someone fumble around like I did the first couple of times. It turns out the shot was perfect. There was quite literally nothing left of the heart. I was very impressed with his control and shot timing. So glad I could get someone else into the sport, and be there to impart some of what I have learned. Trying to teach someone else really helps you re-teach yourself some of those very same things. Plus, hey, now I have someone to help me haul bags of corn around and track at dark in 10 degree weather! Hooray!