View from the tree stand

It all happened so fast...sort of.

I had been sitting in the deer stand for two and a half hours, and I had already seen a fawn and two yearling "spike" bucks, which are young bucks with only two small spikes for antlers.  They were certainly fun to watch and one of the spike bucks got so close that, if I were inclined, I could have dramatically lept from my tree stand, jumped on his back, and ridden him back to the house.  But I decided against that.

There is a big controversy surrounding spike bucks.  Some believe that yearlings with spikes are genetically inferior compared to yearlings with three or more total antler points, and if this is the case, then it may be argued that these bucks should be culled in order to prevent them from passing on their genes to the rest of the herd.  However, a study conducted on wild bucks in South Texas indicates that bucks having spikes their first year may be more a result of environmental conditions than genetic conditions, and, if allowed to mature, spike bucks can have just as high quality antlers as higher point yearlings.  In fact, in another study, the majority of yearlings in the study area were spike bucks one year.  Thus, if a manager adopts an aggressive spike culling policy, they could wipe out many individuals that could have been high quality deer given another year or two to mature.

But I digress...as a steady drizzle started, a doe came splashing though the bottomland hardwood forest.  I was able to field identify her as a doe based on longer nose and larger size compared to a fawn.  This is an important distinction so late in the season as the fawns are getting older and have lost their identifiable speckled coat (great for non-mobile fawns) for a more solid-color adult coat better at camouflaging today's deer on the go.  She was by herself, so if she had given birth to fawns the past breeding season, they were now independent.  Since she was in such a hurry, I decided to wait a while to see if a buck was following her in hot pursuit.

So I waited, and waited, and waited until the doe walked within 10 yards of my stand and then about 35 yards out opposite the direction in which she came.  It was becoming apparent that I was not going to see a buck and that this doe, a beautiful looking whitetail, may be my only chance, and that's when the adrenaline started flowing.  I knew I could not take the shot free handed in my excited state, and I knew that if I hesitated too much longer, she might smell me and take off.  So I quickly knelt on the floor of the homemade stand, propped my left shoulder on wooden board I had been sitting on, propped my rifle on the board that made up one of the walls of the stand, and took the shot.  She stumbled for about 3 seconds, then laid still.

It was one of the strangest feelings I have felt, and as I write, my fingers begin to tremble with memory.  I imagine it is close to the feeling a cowboy out in Wyoming bar explained to me.  He traveled with the herd, and told my friend and I stories of individual cows like someone may tell you funny stories of their domestic pets or young children.  He loved his cows, and his fond recollection was a testament to this.  After one particular story that made him laugh uncontrollably, his demeanor grew solemn.  He said, "But they're gone now.  That is why I am in town: to sell these cows."  He loved his cows, but he knew he was raising them to their death so that he can make a living that literally satisfies the appetites of others.  I don't think anyone, especially myself, has such a connection to the origins of their food.

It is only natural that in this age of specialization, we have lost this connection to our source of nutrition.  Even those of us who don't eat meat, like I did for 5 years, most likely consume genetically modified plants laced with chemicals, and planted in monoculture field devoid of native flora and fauna.  But in that moment, I truly knew where at least a portion of my life sustaining nutrition was coming from in its purist, most organic form.

Some people have the stupid idea that killing a deer "makes you more of man" as if killing an animal proves mankind's ability and right to dominate all other life on the planet because our opposable thumbs have created tools that can blast away anything that stands in our way.  I can truthfully say I have no idea where this notion comes from.  It is true that killing that doe was exciting, but it was also extremely humbling, and as I drug the 105-pound deer through the soggy hardwood forest, I had never had more love and respect for my food and the environment that sustains it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I believe many times spikes were just born a bit later than there forked horned brethren and will do just fine in do time. A few studies have also shown that "culling" is an almost useless practice unless when dealing with a free-ranging deer herd.