By Cody Altizer
Human beings are naturally selfish, and you can’t really blame us for being so. At the end of the day, just like any living creature, our first instinct is to survive. Everything else, however, is done by choice. But it is natural, of course, that when we harvest a deer our first reaction is to think what it means to us personally. I’m guilty of it, especially this past season.
I put more time in the woods than any other season, and was able to shoot my biggest buck ever November 25th. I was very blessed, but very selfish and egotistical at the same time. I thought of how hard I worked throughout the entire offseason planting food plots, running trail cameras, making mock scrapes, moving stands time and time again. I had worked hard, I had put the time in, I had sweated, I had pushed myself to exhaustion. Me, me, me. It wasn’t until just the other day that I realized that there was a second party in the harvest. The deer.
Before I continue any further, please don’t accuse me of anthropomorphism (giving human like emotions to animals). I just think these thoughts are warranted. Hopefully, it provides perspective.
I shot that buck, nicknamed High n’ Tight (HNT), at 60 yards broadside right through the lungs. If I wanted to nitpick, I would say the shot was a little far back, but I still took out both lungs and he died very quickly. HNT was a prototypical 3 year old with a lot of potential. Had I shot more, bigger bucks than him, I likely would have let him walk, because he had all the ingredients to mature into a giant deer. He was a very photogenic deer, I had over 100 trail camera photos of him as a 2 year old, but he was also very shy. The morning I shot him was the first time he had been spotted on the hoof during daylight hours.
It all happened very quickly that morning, I saw him, lost sight of him, and determined that if he gave me another shot I had to take it. He looked that good. He was in a hurry to return to a bedding area, so I had to stop him before I could make the shot. Luckily, he heard me, and I pulled the trigger. Just like that, my season had gone from bad to great. Just like that, his life ended.
When we harvest a deer we often think about the personal journey it took to harvest that deer. Often times, we even think about that deer’s journey if there’s history present. Rarely, however, do we think about how each other’s journeys runs parallel to one another until the fateful moment we pull the trigger.
HNT was born in the spring of 2008. He and I shared the same 260 acres for 3.5 years before I killed him last fall. During that time it’s hard to tell how many times he slipped past me without my knowing. How many times he watched me clumsily walk to my stand in the dark and laugh to himself as I did so. As a fawn in his first summer he likely watched me from afar set up trail cameras with his mother and think to himself, “just what in the world is that thing doing with two legs and why does he smell so bad?”
I was devastated when a logging crew moved into our property in the fall of 2009 all but killing any chance I had at a mature buck that year. He didn’t care. It was his first fall with bone on his head. He was just interested in the ladies. He had a free pass and didn’t know it, and he surely didn’t act like so.
The winter of 2010 brought dumping snow and brutal cold, and as I was confined to my house for a week while snow plows worked to get us out, he was likely confined to his bed as to not burn necessary calories that would save his life into the winter. That we had in common.
Then later that year I moved to Illinois for change, adventure, and excitement. Yet he stayed right at home where he grew up, because that’s where he felt safe, secure, and comfortable. We parted ways without having ever met, and without the notion that we’d meet in the future.
Finally, in 2011, I was back home in Virginia hunting whitetails. It’s where I felt safe, secure, and comfortable. I was familiar with every nook and cranny of the woods we shared, as was he. We had come full circle. By this time we had become enemies. I had trail camera photos of him, and he was surely wise to my presence because I had not one daytime trail camera photo of him, nor had I ever seen him on the hoof. I wanted to kill him, he wanted to survive.
I’m not sure if the above makes any sense to any of you dedicated readers. It’s the offseason and I am bored. Deer season is right around the corner, and these thoughts help make time go by a little quicker. I can see opening day, but it’s still fuzzy yet. Maybe posts like these will help ease the building tension that leads to opening day. Maybe you think I’m a fool for writing such nonsense. Regardless, like me and HNT, I guess we won’t know until we meet.
– By Cody Altizer