It was Saturday morning, a nice clear day with the weather a little on the cool side, just enough so you were comfortable wearing a long sleeve camo outfit. Dom has a favorite place to hunt, it was actually Tony's favorite place, but Tony has let Dom take it over. Its not so far from camp, that Dom can't walk there. Even a spry 80 year old is not going to walk too far, so this is a good place for him. As luck would have it there is another good spot about 150 yards north of where Dom likes to hunt. This particular morning I have chosen this spot to hunt. Both of us are on ladder stands, leaning against pine trees. The stands are high enough that if either of us shoots at game, the shot will be downward, making it a safe situation for both of us, even though we are fairly close to each other.
What makes these two spots good for hunting is they both overlook a prairie that runs north and south between two pine islands. This prairie has several cypress heads in it with one almost directly between Dom and me. The prairie over the last years has started to grow in thicker with myrtle bushes. This combination has all the makings for a good spot for deer. The deer like to travel on the edges of the prairie as they feed. It is thick enough that they are comfortable they can hide, but open enough that they can see danger before it gets to them. Over the last years we have always seen deer, mostly does in this area. But where there are does, there will eventually be bucks. The spot my stand is in, is also a good spot because the pine islands come closer together here and wild hogs like to cross between them at this point.
I had left camp in the dark and traveled quickly to my stand. I like to be on the stand as it gets light. This way I get settled in and can enjoy the sounds of the swamp as the morning breaks and the critters wake up. Dom on the other hand will not step foot in the swamp, until it is light enough that he can see every foot step. The man does not like snakes. So, as the morning starts to get light, I can hear Dom crossing the standing water in the prairie. He is going slow and is trying to be quiet, but on a quiet morning like this, a man can not move quietly in the swamp. My stand is very tall, about 20 feet in the air. At that height I can see very far, but Dom is just out of sight. I soon hear Dom arrive at his stand and climb up on it. We are settled in and the swamp noises return and everything seems natural again.
As the morning passes, I see a young golden colored raccoon feeding along a game trail. One of the things I like about my tall tree stand is that critters never notice me, even when they pass directly under me. I watch this raccoon feeding here and there, reaching the bottom of the water, trying to feel a crayfish or other morsel to eat. Before I know it an hour or so has passed. I open my pack and take coffee out. There is nothing better then a hot cup of coffee, while sitting listening to nature on a pleasant morning. My mood has become about as complacent as can be. After pouring a second full cup of hot coffee, I notice movement almost directly below my stand. Its a broken horn buck, half a six pointer, because the three points on one horn is not matched by the missing horn on the other side. Its moving slowly south. I put my coffee down and raise my rifle, the scope reconfirming that it is a buck. As I watch it slowly walk further away, I realize it is taking the game trail that passes Dom's stand.
I have taken my share of game over the years, and in the mood I am in, I start to think, how many more deer will an eighty year old man have the opportunity to get. So I watch, I am shooting a rifle with a scope that will drop a deer at 200 hundred yards. So I wait, if the deer turns right or left, away from Dom, he is mine. If he continues down the game trail, I hope that Dom is awake, because it will be his. The deer continues down the game trail and passes from my sight in the thick stuff. It has taken at least 10 minutes to get to that point, I'm sure it will go by Dom. I lower my rifle, and wait for the sound of a shot. 5 minutes, now 10 minutes, just as I think that Dom must have been napping, I hear the crack of his rifle. I listen for the deer running in the water, if it is wounded, I am going to finish it quickly, if I can. I hear nothing but silence.
The smile on my face, soon is replaced by the realization, that Dom's son Tony, is hunting miles away and Dom is going to need help bring his deer to camp. So I set my rifle on the seat and climb down. It takes me less then 5 minutes to walk over to Dom. He is standing in the swamp, about 70 yards from his stand. His deer lying in the water. Dom is puzzled and a little worried. The deer has no antlers, His eye sight is good and he can't believe he can hit a deer in the neck at 70 yards with open sights and now it doesn't have antlers. Of course, having already seen the deer, I know that the antler is nearby, under the water, having broken off when the deer fell. I reach around until I find the antler and hand it to Dom. He is excited and he tells me how he saw the deer, how he took the shot and how the deer dropped instantly, not even kicking. His joy is greater then mine would have been and I know I have done a good thing. But, now my work begins. I tell him I will walk to camp and get a buggy to fetch the deer. Soon I am back, I gather our gear and take him and his deer back to camp. I process the animal and soon enough, it is in the cooler, to become a meal.
My smile comes back and all the work is forgotten, when I see Tony arrive, his father is waving the antler back and forth, as he animatedly describes his hunt. I can see that Dom's success has put a little more spring in his step and a little more life in his heart. I get more satisfaction from that, then being successful myself.
This story written August 28, 2001