The Hunt is On

NKQualtieri

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Well, I got a chance to go out for the first time this fall yesterday, so I thought I'd share the story with you guys and then add on as I continue the hunt. So it’s not a “live hunt” so much as an ongoing one, but hey, semantics, right?

One of my co-workers was awesome enough to take me out dark and early yesterday morning after a few other opportunities have fallen through, and we headed out of Bozeman to a spot that is not so much a mountain hunt, but more of your riparian habitat, whitetail-in-a-field, kind of MT hunt. A fill-the-freezer type of hunt, if you will.

We pulled up to the spot, got our gear together, and started walking. The sky was just turning and a trio of deer busted us from about 400 yards away. Not a ton of cover, nothing we could do about that.

We posted up for a bit and watched a young buck walk the line of the fence toward us. Beyond the fence lines all around us were scores of whitetails. Uncountable numbers. With the river below us they were all making their way towards daybeds. The light continued to grow and shed the reality that the deer were all around us. But out of reach. The buck busted us, turned tail, and ran into the dark ether beyond another fence line.

The sun began to grow higher and the deer continued moving further and further away, the closest deer at hand were at least a quarter mile off, that was it for the morning. Walking back to the truck, my co-worker walked out to the lip of a hill--he's much taller than me so I couldn't see what he could--and said:

"Shoot that deer!" To which my response was "Right now?"

I love being caught off guard in the early am.

Anyway. The forky sat about 60 yards below us. I chambered a round, sat on my butt, and looked through my scope. He was stopped broadside the entire time I got settled in, then he began to walk. My heart was beating through my chest and it almost felt like it was moving into my rifle. I can't explain it. He was right there. But I didn't want to screw it up, or take a bad shot, and he just wouldn't get to that still broadside position again. The white flag came out for both of us and he was gone.

"It happens fast, doesn't it?" my friend said as I lowered my rifle. Holy smokes. Yes.

A few thought-provoking things on this first experience...I was really nervous prior, and it wasn’t a good kind of nervous. it was fraught with doubt and a sinking feeling that I couldn’t shake. I went out to the gun range on Saturday and I felt good about my shooting at 100 yards but not as good as I wanted to feel at 200. I didn’t know if I could pull the trigger, I didn’t know if I wanted to. I’ve been looking forward to the gutting/processing aspect but I didn’t feel that excitement at all.

So when I got up at 4:45 in the am, I began going through my morning ritual. Poured my coffee. Lifted the fog. Went to meet my co-worker. And once we started for the hills, I thought about what a successful hunt would mean.

I could write at length of the things that account for the roots of that nervousness. Like how I have never once killed an animal that I have eaten, and how that is a norm in our society. Or how there is a level of violence and death that come into play with every animal that I’ve eaten, and only now at 31 have I come around to the point where I can begin to take some responsibility for that. And that the reason that I have come to this point has been more a part of place than anything else, of living in a state where hunting is more normal and accessible than a lot of the US.

And now on the hunt for my first animal, all of this weighs heavy and is in the process of coming to fruition.

At the point where I held my crosshairs on that deer, I knew I could do it. I knew I could pull the trigger and that I would when the right opportunity hit. It’s a sense of agency I didn’t know I could have.

I am less nervous, and more anticipatory, and this upcoming weekend, I’ll try again.

And in the pattern of another illustrious HT-er, here's my one photograph from this hunt, I like that idea, it's succinct--but I couldn't find who posted it so credit is missing.

A brilliant Montana sunrise:
 

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kansasdad

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NKQ: Beautiful words about a grand weekend of an adventure.

I wish all new-ish hunters would have the mental thought processes that you have in considering what you are doing. Unlike many of us however, we were teenage boys, so nearly 85 % of the brain power is likely to be turned off at any moment, so the deepest thoughts might be, "gee I hope I get him".

Here's to an already successful hunting season. May it evolve even more throughout the rest of the season.

(kenton started the one pic thread)
 

Pinecricker

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Dec 23, 2014
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Pulling the trigger on an animal is a split second thing that is impossible to practice with out actually doing it.

My advice is, take the shot you got. Don't wait for the text book, perfect opportunity, because it never comes. Real life hunting is not like in the TV shows, where the guys sit around shooting the shit for 10 minutes before they take a shot. Remember, those shows are full of "re-enactments" and fancy editing, etc. They are not representative of 99% of what you will encounter in the field.

Also, you will shoot more accurately than you think when you get the adrenaline kicking in. Don't over-think it. Just do it. Don't hesitate.

Once you kill the first one, the experience will come a lot easier. The nervousness will turn into a warm feeling of accomplishment.
 

VAspeedgoat

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I'll agree with the "just do it theme". I have noticed with my oldest son that he has messed up some oportunities now that he is on his own a little more. He doesn't have me there barking to shoot. Also he is older and is thinking more on his own so even when I'm there I try to shut up. But having said all of that, its just part of the learning curve so maybe its noy a missed opportunity after all.. It sounds like you had a great time and a nice place to hunt. You will develop that 0 to 100 reaction time quickly.

Good luck and please keep us posted.
 

Hunting Wife

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I've been waiting to read your hunting posts! Glad you got out and got a feel for things. If it helps, after more than a decade I still don't sleep well the night before I go hunting and I'm nervous in the morning before I get out there. Worried about screwing up, knowing what could go wrong and what's at stake if I don't do my best. And I always feel a little bad when I first walk up and see the reality of what I've just done. But there is also a pride and a feeling of accomplishment - it's a complex mix, that's for sure and no way to really prepare for it until it happens.

Good luck on your next outing! Looking forward to the next installment.
 

WapitiBob

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When I was a kid, back about 50 years now, we rode our bikes out to the edge of town with our shotgun or 22 over the handlebars. We jump shot rabbits and quail. Back then you learned to get on the animal quickly and take the shot. The kids of today don't have that opportunity to learn like I did. Range time like you're doing is good for executing the shot but target acquisition can only be learned by doing and it's tough now days. Keep after it, have fun and don't worry too much about messing up. Take a shot you're comfortable with.
 

RobG

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Anyway. The forky sat about 60 yards below us. I chambered a round, sat on my butt, and looked through my scope. He was stopped broadside the entire time I got settled in, then he began to walk. My heart was beating through my chest and it almost felt like it was moving into my rifle. I can't explain it. He was right there. But I didn't want to screw it up, or take a bad shot, and he just wouldn't get to that still broadside position again. The white flag came out for both of us and he was gone.
OK, here is what is going to happen the next time. Right after you get in position and are ready to shoot the buck will start moving. Don't worry, this always happens. You'll wait for it to stop. This time it will stop. It will give you a shot. You'll put the crosshairs perfectly on him. Then you will squeeze the trigger, softly at first, then harder, then even harder, then you'll give it a good jerk before realizing you still have the safety on! Then the deer will run away. These things make for better stories. :D
 

1_pointer

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Loved the story. Taking my sons hunting has helped me to remember many of the things we start to take for granted as we gain experience. Keep after it!

While sitting in a ground blind with my son, I asked him if he thought hunting was boring. He responded, "Yes. But, when you see on and 'specially when you shoot one it is sooo worth it!".
 

VAspeedgoat

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OK, here is what is going to happen the next time. Right after you get in position and are ready to shoot the buck will start moving. Don't worry, this always happens. You'll wait for it to stop. This time it will stop. It will give you a shot. You'll put the crosshairs perfectly on him. Then you will squeeze the trigger, softly at first, then harder, then even harder, then you'll give it a good jerk before realizing you still have the safety on! Then the deer will run away. These things make for better stories. :D

Lol, my first buck, I dry fired twice before I realized I didn't have the gun loaded. Good thing the buck was preocupied with a doe.
 

bobbydean

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My first deer hunt was in the 70's while in college.

Borrowed rifle from one of my older brothers, pre 64 Winchester in 270, Should have bought it from him. Stupid. He was into guns shows and trading.

My older brother was my mentor and had hunted with friends for years, Our father was in his 60's and had never mentored the hunting instinct. Scrabbling for a living, I am the youngest of 12.

Brother advised climb the ridge and find a point. Glass! Found my point and glassed. Several hours, Finally a 4 point on opposite ridge. Clean miss,

Golden opportunity. A big 10 point jumped up under my feet. Less than 10 yards. I almost dropped my rifle. Heart left my chest.

Finally at 100 yards, got a shot and he dropped. Could not find a mark on him, Put another bullet through the heart. After field dressing, my brother and I surmised that I had hit him in the eye socket. If he hadn't turned to look at me, I would have missed.

Still is my biggest deer ever and bigger than any my brother has shot.. He is still thrilled for me and laughs about it every time we talk about hunting.

Still, my biggest thrill and biggest deer.

NK, every hunt is different. Enjoy the hunt!

I am rooting for you!
 
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Pinecricker

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OK, here is what is going to happen the next time. Right after you get in position and are ready to shoot the buck will start moving. Don't worry, this always happens. You'll wait for it to stop. This time it will stop. It will give you a shot. You'll put the crosshairs perfectly on him. Then you will squeeze the trigger, softly at first, then harder, then even harder, then you'll give it a good jerk before realizing you still have the safety on! Then the deer will run away. These things make for better stories. :D

LOL - So true.
 

NKQualtieri

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Finally at 100 yards, got a shot and he dropped. Could not find a mark on him, Put another bullet through the heart. After field dressing, my brother and I surmised that I had hit him in the eye socket. If he hadn't turned to look at me, I would have missed.

Wow! What an amazing story Bobby!

Thanks for the vote of confidence, everyone. Excited to learn more, still in that place of feeling in the dark on what success will encompass, but I definitely find myself thinking about different scenarios that could happen and what I could do to react. It reminds me a lot of when I played soccer/lacrosse and would visualize games prior to the match. I love that meditative aspect of sport.

Looking forward to getting out again and sharing more--in the words of Samuel L Jackson in Jurassic Park, "Hold on to your butts." :)
 

NoWiser

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I can't wait to see how this story progresses! Good luck!

My sister is just starting to show interest in hunting. I took her out and helped her kill her first turkey this spring. She isn't sure that she is quite ready to try big game. I'll have to show her this thread when it plays out a bit more.
 

MNElkNut

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My daughter shot her 2nd deer on Sunday. She is 11. Both have been button bucks but they are trophies to her. it has been soooo much fun going through this with her. I have learned a lot about coaching people new to the sport. First, some of the skills that I take for granted are difficult for her. Finding a deer in the scope is one. Her knowing when she feels confident in the shot is another. She takes a very long time to be sure...which is a good thing in general! But it has cost her two bucks. So I need to work with her on that aspect. She needs to know what is "good enough". I think she is trying to be too fine.

Here is a neat story. We have a small to medium 4X4 whitetail at 12 yards from our stand in the willows. It is toward the sun and she cannot find him in the scope behind a thin willow bush. He is standing like a statue and she just cannot make him out. Pretty soon she is shaking. I think, that is so cute! Then I look down at my hand and my hand is shaking and my knees are too! I am thinking to myself, I dont shake like this, what is going on??? I am not shaking for the deer, I would have passed him up without a second thought. Her excitement was just contagious. How fun is that?

If I had any advice for a new hunter it would be simply this. Enjoy your hunt and do it on your terms. Dont let anyone influence you (ie if you are cold, go warm up. if you dont want to shoot a doe, dont. If you want to still hunt vs stand hunt, still hunt). Hunting is different to everyone. Some people see it as nothing but putting meat in the freezer and many of us feel it is much deeper than that. Sorting that out is really fun! I am really looking forward to the next installment.
 

NKQualtieri

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Bozeman, MT
My daughter shot her 2nd deer on Sunday. She is 11. Both have been button bucks but they are trophies to her. it has been soooo much fun going through this with her. I have learned a lot about coaching people new to the sport. First, some of the skills that I take for granted are difficult for her. Finding a deer in the scope is one. Her knowing when she feels confident in the shot is another. She takes a very long time to be sure...which is a good thing in general! But it has cost her two bucks. So I need to work with her on that aspect. She needs to know what is "good enough". I think she is trying to be too fine.

Here is a neat story. We have a small to medium 4X4 whitetail at 12 yards from our stand in the willows. It is toward the sun and she cannot find him in the scope behind a thin willow bush. He is standing like a statue and she just cannot make him out. Pretty soon she is shaking. I think, that is so cute! Then I look down at my hand and my hand is shaking and my knees are too! I am thinking to myself, I dont shake like this, what is going on??? I am not shaking for the deer, I would have passed him up without a second thought. Her excitement was just contagious. How fun is that?

If I had any advice for a new hunter it would be simply this. Enjoy your hunt and do it on your terms. Dont let anyone influence you (ie if you are cold, go warm up. if you dont want to shoot a doe, dont. If you want to still hunt vs stand hunt, still hunt). Hunting is different to everyone. Some people see it as nothing but putting meat in the freezer and many of us feel it is much deeper than that. Sorting that out is really fun! I am really looking forward to the next installment.

Thank you for this, I really love the story. In my case, the deer was so close and I had my own issues finding him with my scope. It wasn't until after the hunt that my co-worker asked me about my magnification, which was at full blast. So for next time I'll be turning it down for sure, which is something I never would have known to do on my own.

And trying to be too spot-on is most definitely an issue for me as well. "Good enough" will be two words that I take into the field with me this wkend. Appreciate it.
 

1_pointer

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NK- What happened with you and your scope is why I really like fixed power scopes, for me and for beginning hunters. Just one less thing to fiddle with, go wrong, or have to think about.
 

RobG

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I like variable power but always keep it on 4 or 5 in case I have to take a quick shot. With a longer shot you almost always have time to bump the magnification up.
 

TRS_Montana

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Nov 19, 2014
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Helena
If I had any advice for a new hunter it would be simply this. Enjoy your hunt and do it on your terms. Dont let anyone influence you (ie if you are cold, go warm up. if you dont want to shoot a doe, dont. If you want to still hunt vs stand hunt, still hunt). Hunting is different to everyone. Some people see it as nothing but putting meat in the freezer and many of us feel it is much deeper than that. Sorting that out is really fun! I am really looking forward to the next installment.

This is fantastic advice. You can absolutely paralyze yourself with self-critique and perfectionism while hunting. Just remember that there isn't a single hunter that hasn't made mistakes, whether those are bad shots, blown stalks, or whatever. Just do your best, be ethical, and enjoy being in the woods. Whenever I am having a bad day hunting, I imagine the 3+ million people in Los Angeles who have no idea what it feels like to even go hunting and it usually makes me feel a bit better.

Thanks for documenting your beginning! Looking forward to hear more about your experiences.
 

twodot

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indiana no more
Your most excellent post reminds me why my wife has always been my favorite hunting companion. Nothing better than girls who hunt. Good job, keep after your buck and keep it fun. That excitement you experienced should never wane, that's what it is all about.
 

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