Amazing Grace

This article is about my first fall deer hunting adventure for 2008. I will begin this story by explaining that it was not a normal year for me. Being a mother of 2 children (2 & 7) I do not think there is such a thing as normal any more, but by out of the norm I mean this is the first time in years that I could not bow hunt, due to an injury and a medical disability that I had developed. That fact in it self broke my heart, as I am an avid bowhunter. This set back did not break my spirit though, as I just had to realize God closed that door for me temporarily, but opened another door. Maybe it was to force me to learn more about deer hunting with a rifle.

The injury I had developed was diagnosed as “Tennis Elbow.” The condition was severe and affected mostly my right arm. When the pain was at its worst, I lost the use of my right arm and right hand completely. The medical disability that was diagnosed was the early stages of Fibromyalgia, which results in excessive swelling and pain in both hands and arms. I had very little grip or strength and being right handed, this meant I could not pull back my bow. I could not even hold a coffee cup without using 2 hands because I could not hold the weight of it or grip it for very long. It hurt to write or type. I could not even reach up to grab a cabinet door, so to reach out and climb up a tree was difficult. I wore an arm brace on my right elbow and forearm and needed to use an arm sling for support.

I realized if I was going to hunt at all this year, I would have to rifle hunt using a bi-pod to help hold my gun steady. In thinking through my hunting opportunities I learned that I could hunt in Missouri during pre-rut and did not want to miss out on the excitement of mid-November hunting. In Kansas rifle season is during post rut so hunting it is quite different then, as deer are then exhausted and less visible during the day. I contacted a friend who I had met at a Bowhunter education class, who I knew hunted in Missouri . He offered to be my guide to hunt in Missouri for the weekend of November 15 & 16. The property which my guide had permission to hunt is near Galt , Missouri and is owned by the Hatcher family. A lot of preplanning had to take place first. Due to my husbands work schedule I needed to find 5 different baby sitters, to cover for me while I was out of town for 3 days. Let me tell you it was no easy task and required a lot of answered prayer. It was totally a God thing that I even was able to go!

I had purchased a Marlin Lever Action 30-30 in stainless steel earlier this year, before I realized what was to come, due to the fact that Kansas made some changes to their regulations. They would now allow you to purchase a deer tag that allowed you to hunt both archery and rifle season with the same tag. Before practicing with my new rifle I took it in to have the stock custom fit and have a special soft recoil pad added by Dale at The Gun Shop, in Olathe . My choice for ammunition, after speaking with more experienced rifle hunters, was the Hornady Leverevolution 160 grain which is a boat tail designed bullet with a polymer tip. This ammunition is designed specifically for lever action rifles. Because of the design the Leverevolution round has greater velocity than the average 30-30 round and is more accurate and shoots flatter at longer distances. I had a 3 X 9 variable scope mounted on it as well.  Unfortunately, I was not able to put in a lot of practice time with it before it was time to leave for my hunting weekend.  But did have it sighted in zeroed at 100 yards.

I left home on a Friday around noon . I hit the interstate and met up with my guide who I followed to our destination. Once I was out of the metro city limits on the interstate it did not take long to realize that I was part of a mass exodus or pilgrimage to a Holy land , the land of Milk and Honey, God’s Country what ever perspective you have. But it was like that of migratory birds flying south for winter, except we are all going north by SUV or pick up for hunting season. Each of us headed to a rural farm land to go deer hunting to enjoy the land God had made and to hopefully harvest an animal. It was such a feeling of excitement, being on the road with other hunters. Trucks were going by with hunter orange hats in the dash. Trailers went whizzing by with generators, coolers and 4-wheelers packed onto them. And then there were small hunting campers, like my little 17 footer, being pulled behind other vehicles. Everyone had a smile on their face.

It was great to see all of this!

The evening that I arrived it was a down pour rain, and there was little light left or time to waste. After my mini practice session with my rifle I improved my confidence at shooting at 100 yards. My first practice shot was a bulls-eye and the other 5 rounds were within 2 ½ inches. That evening I met the land owners and their family, who also allowed me to park my camper on their property. They had other hunters from other states that were expected in that weekend as well.

On Saturday my guide was generous enough to fix everyone breakfast, which was very thoughtful. He enjoyed making others feel welcomed. He considers hunting as a time of comradery, opportunities to create fond memories and a time of celebrating each others success. I am thankful there are people in the world like this. The Hatchers and other hunters were always friendly toward me. It is funny their biggest concern was whether I wore perfume to my tree stand, which was actually said in fun. It only took a few seconds to figure out that I smelled like dirt scent all the time. I decided not to bring my doe urine with me on this hunt or that would likely have really grossed them out.

The first morning was bitterly cold with wind chills between 0-13 above. The winds ranging between 20-30 miles per hour. After climbing into my tree stand it began to snow. The snow was hard little chunks and looked like styrofoam pellets as it drifted and blew, making a spattering sound as it hit the fallen leaves on the ground below. It was very peaceful. It was very quiet. Not even the crows were calling. I was so thankful for my warm insulated clothes, toe warmers in my boots and my hand warmers in my pockets. That morning I only saw a very small button buck, but could hear the echoes of other hunters in the county as they fired their rifles that were hopefully successful. I tried to call using rattling and grunts but nothing came into it. It was just too cold and there was not much movement in my area.

That evening was my first experience in a tower stand. With the brutal 30 mph winds it was very difficult to stand and look out for extended periods of time, without my eyes watering and cheeks stinging from the brisk wind. My guide brought a propane heater for our comfort which made it bearable. Unfortunately the deer did not like the cold weather or brutal wind much either and all stayed bedded down for most of that day. We only saw a couple does just before dark in the far distance out of rifle range. That evening I was exhausted and shortly after returning to camp turned in early for the night, barely taking time to eat dinner. I was up in the night a few times applying an ice pack to my arm as it would wake me up throbbing with pain. I was anxious for the next day, knowing it was to warm up and that the winds would die down to around 20mph. The next morning I went to the same stand as I had the morning before. It was a stand located on the edge of a core bedding area, which was still somewhat secluded. Not long after settling into my spot I was entertained for a while by a cute little squirrel that was very curious about me. He climbed up the tree and onto my backpack that was hung in the tree. He checked me out from about 2 feet from my face. He probably thought “What is this? It smells like dirt but it has eyes.” I was thankful he did not decide to raid my pack of the peanut butter crackers that I had in there. Then about 7:25 that morning I started to hear a buck coming up from behind me through the trees. He was announcing his presence with a grunt. I began to use a doe bleat to call back to him and he came right in toward me very fast. I hurried to try to steady my rifle for a shot and before I knew it he was 30 yards from me. I lined up for my shot but then was distracted by an issue I was having with the lever action on my rifle. I tried to stay focused on my cross hair sights. I did not realize had not turned my scope was on 9 power. I pulled the trigger but it was a clear miss, as there was no reaction from the buck to indicate he had been hit, and no blood. This time grace was on his side and I learned an important lesson. He was a very respectable buck also.

That afternoon I set up at ground level on the downwind side of a meadow, next to a cedar tree. It was Sunday, November 16th at about 2:00 pm . A doe had come up behind me and then ran back into the brush. After being informed of this by my guide a short time later, I decided to look deeper into the brush. I saw what at first looked like it could be a log. I looked closer with my binoculars and there back in the trees was a doe, probably the same one. I could see it was a doe, only because as she stood back there she was grooming herself. She stood there relaxed licking one side and then the other, which exposed her head each time. I had about an 18 inch triangle shape opening through the trees to see through, which was centered perfectly on the vitals of her chest. I could not have asked for a more perfect opportunity. I took my time and focused on preparing for my shot. I was on 6 power, set my gun on the rest, made sure I was kneeling with perfect squareness on the ground, lined up the cross hairs, held my breath and pulled the trigger. Just as I did this she had reached back to lick again. It was a fatal shot and she dropped straight down. As I went back into the woods to verify she was down I was amazed at the distance, as it was between 80 to 100 yards away.  She was a very nice sized mature doe of about 3 ½ years old and probably weighed 100 lbs or more. That was such a blessing to know I would be able to have meat for the freezer. It was by the grace of God that I even was able to take this trip, was able to deal with my disability yet still hunt, was able to learn to shoot my gun in such short period of time and was successful to harvest a doe.  No sooner than I came out of the woods back to my spot, with the thought that I may still have the chance to harvest something else than another doe appeared about 125 yards away. I decided not to shoot her and hold out for a possible chance for a buck to use my last tag on. Later that evening I decided to continue hunting on the ground but moved to a different location, but saw only more does. It turned out to not be in God’s plan for a buck on this hunt, but success none the less.

After my guide hauled my deer out of the woods for me we were in a rush when we returned back to camp. Realizing that I would be getting home later than planned I was worried that I would be keeping my young sitter up too late on a school night. With few good byes I had to quickly pull out and hit the road. The following weekend I was sick and not able to return for one last chance to hunt in Missouri . I am thankful for the wonderful experiences I had.