The Lighter Side

Maybe it’s the driven achiever in me or maybe it’s something else that can find a way to complicate the joy of something humans have been doing for millennia. If you're anything like me, deer hunting can turn into a grind. The pressure that I put on myself to kill a mature buck or fill the freezer during the brief window I get in the deer woods every year can sometimes suck the fun out of it. A mounted maple trunk in my house reminds me it doesn’t have to be this way.

BANG! Shuck-shuck. BANG!

With the flick of a tail the dreams of a 16-year-old boy bounded away. The first shot exploded a 3-inch maple between us. I quickly pumped a new shell into the chamber of my great grandfathers Ithaca Deerslayer, moved the crosshairs over, and fired again. The right side of the same maple tree exploded again at the impact of a 1-ounce slug. In my youthful excitement I never noticed the tree in line with the big bucks front leg.

The next fall I was gifted with a mount that I wasn’t expecting. My great uncle, whose land I was hunting, had cut down the wounded tree and beautifully mounted it with a thoughtfully crafted poem commemorating the event. The twinge of pain from the near-miss I’d carried all year was smoothed over with the laughs shared about the plaque.

Several decades later I had the opportunity to return the favor when Uncle Jim dropped a barely legal spike whose antlers mysteriously disappeared after processing. The next fall my children were giddy to present him with his trophy, a mount that measures the true greatness of his buck. Laughs were shared until my cheeks hurt. Hunting draws each of us for many different reasons. The laughs and smiles shared, and a mounted maple tree, remind me not to forget the lighter side of this age-old pastime.

Was it a deer or just a myth

That I saw in the woods that day?

The one the frequents my dreams

at night, and will not go away.

The deer with all the horns

which came from everywhere,

came walking towards me in the woods

Then vanished in thin air.

The only proof I have to show

you see.

Is nothing good to eat!

Three empty shells, a wounded tree

I hope to never repeat!

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