Confessions of a Young Deer Hunter

My dad shook me gently as I slept.

“John, it’s time to get up.”

I rolled over and looked at the clock.  It was 5 AM.

“What?” I asked.

“Remember, we’re going deer hunting today.”

I was up and dressed in 30 seconds.  5 minutes later, we were in our truck, clad in camouflage pants and tops covered with bright neon orange vests and caps, driving down a dirt road looking for the camp of the men who had invited us to join them.

“Do you think I’ll get a deer?” I asked my dad, eager to get started.

He smiled.  “You could, I guess.”

Another half hour passed and I found myself placed far in the woods with a bazooka strapped to my shoulder.  Way off in the distance, I heard the howling of hunting dogs barking furiously, trying to scare the deer in my direction.

I knelt down in the grass as I had been told to do by the leader of the hunting crew.  I tried to amuse myself by watching the birds fly over the trees, but they were few and far between.  After a few minutes I turned my attention to the weapon I was holding.  The wood and metal were pretty in a strange sort of way.  I looked forward to getting the chance of shooting it.  And then…

I heard the sound of crunching leaves.

Ever so slowly, I stood to my feet and my jaw dropped.  Not twenty-five feet from me stood four deer: two bucks and two does.  Quick panting breaths poured from their nostrils.  Nervous anxiety suddenly seemed to fill the air.

With much effort, I raised the gun to my shoulder and aimed at the larger of the bucks.  However, since they were so close to me and I was about to fire a shotgun, I figured that I might injure all of them, possibly killing more than one with one shot.

My finger tightened on the trigger.  And then…

He turned and looked at me.  The buck’s eyes seemed to ask, “Are you really going to shoot me?”

No possible way.  I lowered my gun and watched as the four of them walked away, wishing that I had a camera.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t kill him.  I couldn’t fire that gun.  The exhausted look in his eye, the sweat on his fur, and the far off barking of the dogs seemed to tell me that the whole thing wasn’t fair, to him or to me.

I haven’t been deer hunting since.

So, why, after 31 years am I making this confession?  Because I’m tired of holding it in, I suppose.  Believe it or not, I’m not against hunting or hunters.  Some people hunt because they need the food.  Some people hunt to help control the deer population.  Some people hunt for sport, but share the meat with family, friends, and others who may be in need.  These are all admirable reasons, I suppose.

I only have one request: be humane.

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