This is a excerpt from my new book “Moments With Six Shooter”, if you’d like to read more, click here to visit the “Moments With Six Shooter” book page.
“There are many uses of outdoor October, and I savor them all. I could drink that ale-golden month to its dregs and never touch a gun. But without hunting, some of the savor would be missing.
Lovely and rich as autumn would still be, a certain condiment would be gone, and I think I know what it is. It is seeing the grouse and pheasant and quail and mallards at close hand, as any predator might, and seeing how fine-tuned, ingenious, and intricate their responses to predation can be. I might watch game birds and animals at all seasons under a range of conditions and yet never know them as I do when I am hunting them well and they are doing their usual fine job of parrying my thrusts.” – John Madson
I sat amidst the trees, a sentinel posted high and shrouded in greens, yellows and browns. The autumn morning breathed in fresh and exhaled rich, fully alive yet still in its early awakening. The warmth of a new sun cast upon me, first hitting a chilled cheek, and then slowly blanketing the rest of my body.
10:00 AM, the morning of October 2nd, 2011, and I was fully present. It was the second day of the archery season in Michigan and I was where I was meant to be. Hunting.
The sit had been slow to this point and I lazily panned my gaze across the horizon, seeking and searching for anything out of place. A patch of fur, a flash of white, a shadow in the wood. And then, there it was. My eye caught a flash – almost like in a film, when an obnoxious glimmer of seemingly artificial light sparkles in the distance to get the protagonists attention. As I squinted my eyes into the sun, and just as the wind pushed aside the interfering branch, I saw him for the first time. Six Shooter.
To be clear, I had actually seen this deer before, many times in fact, but only digital renditions. Trail camera pictures were the only way I knew him, but if I were honest about how many times I’d stared at these photos, you’d understand why I felt as though we were old friends.
I had just moved down to southern Michigan, and he was the first and only buck I had found on this new property that I was interested in hunting. Wide, far reaching beams, and a few tall tines. He only sported six points, but each was regal and perfect in it’s own way. I dubbed him “Six Shooter”, and then counted down the days until the hunt could begin.
Now, here we were. Face to face, no computer screen in between, for the first time.
Standing proud in the middle of the grown-over power line, he lackadaisically licked at his side and then raised his head, looking either direction across his domain. The perfectly crafted, tall tined frame of his rack sat atop his head like a crown made of ivory. His dark, burnt orange forehead stood prominent against the greens, yellows and purples of the surrounding wild flowers. His chestnut brown coat rippled with each step he took, and my pulse quickened with his approach.
The whitetail deer. What wonderful, majestic and curious creatures they are. For somewhere around 11 million US hunters, deer are the ultimate object of our hunting desire, and inhabiting 45 of the 50 states, they provide opportunity far and wide. Today’s hunter has access to larger whitetail populations than almost ever before, and days filled with multiple deer sightings have become commonplace. It’s estimated that there are between 30-40 million whitetails living in America!
But as wonderful as it is to see large numbers of deer, I’ve come to find more enjoyment in the company of the individual. When time is taken to watch a single deer, it’s incredible what unique features, behaviors and intricacies you can uncover. A subtle hitch in a step, a knick missing in an ear, a layered coat flecked in red, brown and grey. When watched up close, the individual deer is a masterpiece.
In this wonderful, early October moment, I couldn’t help but marvel at the majesty of this individual. This living, breathing creature seemed to perfectly represent all that is good in this raw, natural world.
While we remained within 80 yards of each other for most that day, six or seven hours in total, Six Shooter never did once close the distance. I stood vigilant, bow in hand, breathing heavy, sweat beading on my brow, and waiting for an opportunity. But it never came. Eventually, finally deciding he had taunted me enough, the buck slowly eased his way through the shoulder high brush, and passed through the line of timber just out of range.
I was hooked.
I remember returning home that night and racing to connect my camera to the TV, excitedly sharing the footage of my encounter with anyone willing to watch. “Look!”, I said, “Isn’t he beautiful?
Three, long sleepless nights later I returned to the same location, and relived almost an exact re-run of the previous hunts events. I ascended into the treetops, and settled in, anticipation turning my stomach in tiny, tight circles. Minutes later, he appeared again in the grass, nipped and picked at leaves, and meandered aimlessly for an hour. Meanwhile, there I sat, transfixed by this animal, and frantically fighting to keep control of my breathing.
Finally, as the evening light faded away, Six Shooter disappeared again, leaving only a rustling trail of grasses and a spellbound hunter. And as air again filled my lungs, I shook my head in admiration, and smiled in awe of the creature I had just beheld. A million years of survival instincts, blood and muscle, hide and bone, all bound together into a single, individual deer.
A perfect representation of all that is good in this raw, natural world.
To read more, click here to visit the “Moments With Six Shooter” book page.