Do You Remember Your First Deer Rifle?

Posted by admin On July - 9 - 2010

Do you remember your first deer? Most likely, especially if you’re an avid hunter, you do.

It’s kind of like your first kiss. You remember the setting, the mood, the sounds and the smells. You remember the way the deer looked as it came into view and how you felt when you realized that this, in fact, was the one.

You probably remember the way the rifle or the bow felt in your hands. You remember the shot. You remember your reaction. You remember dressing it, or getting help dressing it.

That first deer is such an amazing memory, isn’t it? Mine came when I was 11 years old. My dad and I were hunting a patch of hardwoods just on a ridge from a cedar swamp. My deer was nothing spectacular–a mere spike horn with about eight-inch tines.

For me, there is an underlying feeling to the memory: fear. I was so scared to shoot the rifle we had brought with us. My dad and I had practiced all summer long. He shot his impressive 30.06 while I used my older brother’s 30-30 (he was in the United States Marine Corps at the time and wouldn’t be needing it for hunting season). We practiced every weekend until I could hit everything I aimed for. We discussed the anatomy of a deer and where a killing shot could be placed. We talked about what to do if the deer is moving, or if it’s coming at us or away.

What we hadn’t talked about was what I was supposed to do if my dad forgot the 30-30 at home when we went out to camp the night before.

I was mortified when he told me. His 30.06 was something of a legend to me. Not only was my dad a crack shot, his 30.06 managed to give him quite a kick, too. Knowing that, I was positive the gun would demolish me when I fired it.

“It’s no different than shooting your 30-30,” he had told me that night.

In the end, he was right. I didn’t even notice the kick when I took down that first deer. Afterward, I was far too busy trembling to worry about any ache in my shoulder.

The 30-30, the next year, went back to my brother and I sought out and found my own 30.06. I used it ever since.

This year, however, I won’t be. Instead, I found myself speechless and with tears welling up in my eyes this week when my dad came out of his bedroom and handed me a gift. It was his 30.06. The very one I shot my first deer with (and missed my first deer with, but that’s another story).

I had discussed with him that a company was asking me to review one of their gun pads that claim to reduce recoil by up to 70 percent. I said my 30.06, which we all knew kicked like a mule, would be a good way to test it.

“I wanted to wait until fall,” my dad said as he came out of the bedroom, “but I might as well give this to you now.”

As a writer, I have learned to express nearly any situation into words. I’ve written about funerals and births and amazing sports victories and crushing courtroom defeats. But, for the life of me, I haven’t been able to come up with the words to describe what that one moment was like to me. I am actually kind of glad that I can’t. It keeps it a bit more special that way.

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