We’re sitting on our heels, knees firm against the grass-covered hilltop about 200 yards south of a gravel road, waiting, killing time.
The deer season opens at noon, in about 15 minutes according to my wristwatch, just like it has for as long as I can remember and years before that.
My 24-year-old daughter, Lauren, is hunting deer for the first time and understands the legality behind not pulling the trigger until noon. Yet, she suggests that noon on a Friday in early November seems like an odd time to get things started.
All of this is new to her. From dressing in 400 square inches of fluorescent orange above the waist (plus an equally colored cap), to maybe, hopefully pulling the trigger on an animal significantly bigger than the ducks and geese she’s shot in the past.
Time is dragging, but that’s our only complaint. The temperature is a little north of 50 degrees, a gorgeous day compared to many deer openers past.
An SUV pulls next to my pickup, parks and no one gets out. I look through binoculars to see if it’s someone I know, a rig that I recognize. I don’t.
What are they doing, Lauren asks.
Probably waiting for us to get moving and maybe kick a deer their way, I say.
Well, that’s rude, she adds.
Yep, this is all new to her.
Lauren’s brothers are maybe a half-mile and several hills east of us. I expect they’re doing much of the same, checking the time on their phones as neither wears a watch.
I know their plan when they do get moving without having discussed it with them. They’ve hunted these hills before and know what to do. They’ll hit the scattered patches of buckbrush, some no bigger than our living room and others big enough to swallow our house, and bellycrawl to the crest of each hill to keep from spooking deer that might be bedded beyond them.
Lauren spots the deer first. Her young eyes pick out six, maybe seven, mule deer moving right to left way out of shooting range. The wind is right, and we hurry to get in front of them, knowing if we pick the wrong finger draw as an ambush point, there’s a good bet our one good look through binoculars at 500 yards may be our only look.
We’ll never know.
My cellphone vibrates in my front pocket and before I even look at the screen, I know it’s one of my boys and I have a good idea why they’re calling.
They’ve got deer bedded. Look to the southeast, one of them says into the phone, and you’ll see us sitting in the grass at the bottom of the hill and the deer are bedded north about 100 yards out … watch the wind … you might want to hurry.
We make our way there and Lauren says little, which is unlike her. She’s nervous. I know, and understand, that she doesn’t want an audience when she shoots, especially not her brothers who will ride her the remainder of the day if she misses.
Piece of cake, I tell her, it’s a shot you can make.
I tell her when the deer stand, things could happen fast, so pick an animal and get ready. With her rifle anchored on wooden shooting sticks Grandpa made years ago, I hear her thumb the safety and take a breath.
As we hike back to the pickup, I tell her that things aren’t always going to play out this way. For starters, I add, we seldom get this lucky with the weather. Second, this might be the last time your brothers offer to drag your deer out to the road for you.