Everyone Remembers Their First Time

I love talking to hunters about their first deer. Even the story isn’t all that epic it’s always memorable.

Man, was I excited to finally take my gun safety class. I don’t remember much from the class. I do, however, remember that when it came to our field day not a single one of could identify the wigeon. 

Anyway, I passed the class and now I could finally hunt. I ‘d been in the woods for years up to that point, just sitting with my dad being all cold and stuff. But this year was it! It had a gun and I was absolutely going to shoot my first deer.

Our morning routine was normal. Eat some breakfast. Make some hot chocolate. Make sure the sandwich and candy and water was in the backpack. Brush teeth. Climb into the orange.

Our stand, if you can call it that, was a couple of trees on a sidehill that were close enough together that my dad and uncles were able to fashion some 2x4s and make a bench between the two trees. It was on the ground and pretty cozy. My dad sat looking down the hill, leaning up against the tree on the right. My brother, Vaughn, sat in between the trees on the couch portion. He wasn’t old enough to carry a weapon yet but came along like I always used to do. And I sat looking down hill, leaning up against the left tree.

We got to our spot. It was dark. And I was ready. For the first time ever I wasn’t cold. Just locked in.

At 7:35, we heard it. A deer crashing into the woods from the field on top of the hill. It was back and to our right.

I froze.


Didn’t even turn around to look.

I could feel my dad’s eyes look at me to see if I was ready (I wasn’t), then look back towards the deer (sprinting throught the woods), stand up and drop the deer.

Seven point buck.

“Good shot, Dad.”

“Why weren’t you ready?”

“I don’t know.”

Oh great. I definitely blew it. I knew I was going to see a deer. I knew I was going to get a deer. That was my chance and I choked.

So, I zone out for the next two hours. I don’t even think I blinked. Just stared off into the distance, mad at myself, zoning off down the hill.

That’s when I saw it.

Just after 9:30.

An ear flicker.

Then a deer head pop up.

There it was. Strolling up the hill right at us. The wind was in our face. It had no clue. So very subtly, I look at my dad and whispered “Dad, I see one.”

My dad, who was standing up to get some hot chocolate and zipping up his backpack said, mostly full voiced, “What?!”

“I see one.” And I pointed down the hill.

“Well get your gun ready.”

Vaughn decided he would chime in with a full belly laugh followed by a very vocal “Yeah right!”


My .410 is shouldered (yes, I shot my first deer with a .410) and I’ve got a bead on this thing.

Here it comes straight up the hill.

50 yards out.

40 yards.

30 yards. My dad whispers “Corey. Shoot.”

25 yards. My dad whispers a little louder “Corey. Shoot.”

20 yards. It’s still just coming up the hill. My dad says, full teacher mode “Corey…. Shoot it.”

And that’s the story of my first deer. Panic. Missed opportunity. Self pity. Very loud talking. And a trusty, bolt-action .410.

I got one.

Just like I knew I would.

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