My lucky shot

Written by Bob on November 18th, 2009

1964-Bob's DeerLR
The big buck taken from the West Woods near Wanamingo in 1964 with my brother John Otto.

WANAMINGO, MINN – When I was a young boy, I liked to hunt and I claimed my share of game – mostly squirrel, rabbit, and pheasant. But my biggest thrill came when I shot my one and only white tail deer. An eight-point buck, weighing over 200 pounds that I bagged in the West Woods near Wanamingo.

I was just 16 on that November Saturday in 1964. It was my first time deer hunting and I was excited. I spent a sleepless night before the hunt, tossing and turning in bed. When morning finally came, I headed out the door for the West Woods with my 410-gauge shotgun propped on my shoulder just as the sun’s first golden rays peeked over the horizon.

Unlike savvy deer hunters, I didn’t scout the woods to learn where deer traveled or grazed. I didn’t set up a deer stand. And I didn’t work as a team with other hunters – some as drivers, some as shooters.

Instead, I trampled alone through the woods hoping lady luck would smile on me. And send a trophy buck my way. I spent most of the day traipsing through tall oaks, maples, and pines, and fighting my way through dense thickets of blackberry and raspberry bushes. I’m sure the deer heard me long before they saw me.

I had to be the noisiest hunter in the woods. And surely my bumbling way must have scared up herds of deer, sending them fleeing toward the smart hunters’ deer stands.

I had spent nearly the whole day in the woods without seeing one white tail. Then late in the afternoon, I got lucky.

“Do you mind if I walk through those rows of trees,” I asked Roger Nelson, who was standing at the edge of the woods. In front of Nelson were two rows of downed and dead trees about 50-yards apart.

The rows were so thick and piled so high, that a deer couldn’t possible break through or leap over them. Creating a valley that forced any unlucky Bambi caught in it to run right toward Nelson and his deadly 12-gauge shotgun.

“Yah, go ahead, we haven’t seen a deer come out of there yet,” Nelson said.

I left Nelson and hadn’t walked more than 40-yards when I saw him. He was huge; his antlers were huge. The biggest white tail deer I had ever seen came bounding toward me in ground gobbling leaps.

I raised my shotgun and took aim. At that moment, the buck spotted me and veered sharply to my left, trying to circle around me. But I leveled my shotgun and followed the big buck’s every leap, sighting him over the top of my gun’s long, steely barrel, and taking aim about two-feet in front of his chest. The whole episode seemed to unfold in slow motion.

I squeezed the trigger. The shotgun’s blast shattered the late afternoon stillness. And the bullet sped like a heat-seeking missile toward the big buck. In a split-second, it slammed into his muscled chest.

The buck stumbled as if he had tripped. He lurched forward awkwardly before dropping to the ground like an old man suffering a massive heart attack.

From 30-yards away, I could see the big buck lying silent on his side. I sprinted toward him, ready to shoot again if he so much as twitched a muscle.

But my lucky shot had pierced his heart. Forty-five years later, my lucky shot remains my first and last. I’ve never gone deer hunting again.

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