I shifted the burden of my heavy World War II rifle in my hands, resting the forestock on my folded left arm as I approached a steep drop-off. I intended to get a view of the terrain below in hopes of spotting a black-tail buck.
The brisk wind chilled, penetrating my rain-soaked jacket and thick layers of clothing.
I hoped to see a buck but it was doe season. Any deer was fair game for this 12 year old hunter.
The season had been long and enjoyable and was coming to a close. I had hunted several days, toting my heavy weapon without getting a chance to harvest my first deer.
I was skipping school that day. My absence was authorized by my father, who had picked me up from school earlier that day to drive me up into the hills. He was by my side now. It is always such a comfort to have him by my side as my guide on any hunt. We hoped to putting venison in the freezer for our large family.
Suddenly, pointing a finger down below us and with excitement in his voice, my dad whispered loudly and urgently-
"There they go!"
I immediately saw three deer running quickly up the side of the hill below at a distance of about 75 yards.
I didn't hesitate for a moment. I quickly shouldered my rifle and lined up the peep sight of the Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk 1, putting the tip of the front sight on one of the running deer. In the process I flipped the large safety lever to the "fire" position with my right thumb.
I pulled the trigger and a loud boom sent the 180 grain soft-nosed Nosler Partion towards my quarry.
The result was nothing. Nothing but more fear, and excitement, and urgency.
I quickly worked the rifle's bolt, putting another cartridge in the chamber. I shouldered the rifle again, lined up the sights and fired a second time.
This time I made a clear hit. The deer was down.
A hike down the steep bank with my father meant making my way through thistles, blackberry vines, and other gnarly ground cover. I twisted my ankles over fallen trees and in unseen holes. I slid down in the soft dirt and mud on my rump. I was oblivious to all this discomfort as I focused my attention on getting down to my prize, shaking with excitement and adrenaline.
We got down to where the young buck lay. I was saddened and thankful at the same time. The beauty of the animal, in this case, a young black-tailed buck- transformed into nutritious food for many family meals. There was a sense of understanding between myself, the animal and God. This was the purpose of its creation. God had blessed us with a successful hunt.
There is a deeper appreciation for life and death and the gift of sustenance that comes with obtaining your own meat in the wild. Those who have never hunted and even abhor the idea will never understand the connection between the hunter and the hunted.
This was how our forefathers survived. The men and women that settled the wilderness. I am more fortunate because of their many sacrifices. God blessed them with what they needed as they forged a hard life in a harsh land.
The animal's spirit had now been released from it's mortal tabernacle.
I had provided venison for my family for the first time in my life.