Director of Consulting
Shoshone Adventure Consulting
The holiday season has finally arrived. Across most of the country, the whitetail rut has come and gone, the orange army has invaded public and private lands to fill tripod stands and box blinds over food plots, and bowhunters are praying that the big buck captured on trail cameras all summer somehow made it through gun season unscathed. In other words, Christmas is right around the corner. As hunters and outdoorsmen and women, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for this season. Today, the sizzle and crackle with accompanying unmistakable aroma of fresh backstrap frying in a pan of butter and garlic is a joyful reminder. Not just a reminder of hunting the whitetail in my skillet, but of how blessed I am to be living the field-to-table lifestyle and how thankful I am for hunts with close friends and family this year.
But for me this year, Christmas came early when a mature 8-point whitetail buck made the mistake of venturing into a food plot after a morning shower on a picturesque corner of Southeastern Oklahoma. Until this fateful morning, I had never killed a whitetail deer.
Despite being a born-and-raised Alaskan who has hunted every season, I’m well aware that whitetails are not exactly hiding behind every tree. At the risk of coming off as a hunting novice who has no business writing about whitetail deer hunting at all, I’ll attempt to bolster my street cred with telling you I’ve harvested a pile of sitka blacktail deer in Alaska and added mule deer and coues deer in Arizona since moving to Idaho. I’ve hunted from Alaska to Africa over my lifetime. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m 45 years old and I had never had a whitetail buck in my crosshair until this year.
This is how it happened.
Hunting had been slow most of the morning. In fact, between my two friends and me, we had three food plots covered, and no one had seen movement besides three hen turkeys.
Then the rain started.
Over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours bear hunting in fabric pop blinds, so I knew it was just a matter of time before the seams in the ceiling would start leaking. And leak they did. When the first raindrop hit my cheek, I was already thinking about hot coffee and biscuits and gravy and mourning an unsuccessful hunt. It was the last day of the season, and here I sat in the dripping blind, watching an empty field as another chance to harvest a whitetail deer slipped away. I could already hear the jokes about my ineptness when it came to hunting deer. I was used to the friendly joking and banter, but it still bothered me.
The rain shower stopped just as suddenly as it had begun, and the woods became quiet, so quiet you could hear individual raindrops falling from the trees and landing on the dry leaves below.
Something moved to my left, but I couldn’t tell if it was a squirrel or a buck. I squinted at it, praying for the latter. Then the buck slipped out from a clump of trees into the clearing in front of me. With my heart picking up speed, I slowly picked up the rifle in my right hand while balancing my shooting sticks with my left. As I lowered the rifle on the sticks, the buck entered the view of my scope and the cross hairs fell on his shoulder. Slowly, I squeezed the trigger, and for that beautiful Oklahoma whitetail, it was like turning out the lights. In a span of five minutes, I had gone from dejected in the realization that my hunt was over to being the happiest hunter in the world.
As I walked up to the buck, I was very proud of myself and thankful that this creature had walked into my life. It is the feeling only a hunter knows that lives the field-to-table lifestyle and appreciates nature and her bounty. Hunters are very blessed when they enter a holiday season with freezers full of meat and stories to tell around the fire about our adventures. It is a universal scene that is not bound by borders or language, only the understanding that hunters are the ultimate conversationists and stewards of our lands.
Yes. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for.