K: A Little Killing
A Little Killing
I was so anxious to feel the rifle in my hands I woke up well before
The cabin was colder than you would expect for Texas in November, and
cement floor held the chill better than my refrigerator at home. I
the heavy wool blanket back and sat up. It was pitch black.
This was my third deer-hunting trip, and I had not killed one yet.
in Texas felt compelled to own a gun and learn to hunt deer. So I
anxious for success this trip. There are two common types of deer
Texas: Whitetail and Mule Deer. We were down near the Mexican border at
Rio, on a hunting lease of 57,000 acres, and a small hunting cabin had
erected on the property to house the hunters during the season.
The general topic among male Texans between November and January is
size buck you bagged. Size is not determined by weight, but by how
'points'. A point refers to the tines on the deer's antlers.
I turned to my brother Rich.
"Hey, your big ass awake?"
"No. Shit, what time is it?" he asked.
"I don't know, it's too dark to see the clock."
"Did the clock go off yet, man?"
"You moron! Listen, I'm going back to sleep until the clock goes off.
Be quiet. "
Rich turned over and pulled the blanket up to his chin. Then the alarm
"God! I can't believe it." Rich said turning back to face me.
"Paul! Get up, guy! Let's go kill some deer!" Rich said to our friend
"Get up you good for nothing!! The deer'll be 'cross the border before
butt's out of bed!" I said.
Paul lifted his head and stared at the two of us.
Paul made a pot of strong coffee using the camp stove and filled
individual thermoses. It took all of ten minutes for the three of us
dress and get our rifles ready. Both Rich and Paul used 30-06's, but
didn't like their kick, so I used a .222. It was less powerful but it
fast. We climbed into an old Jeep Willis towed to the camp behind
Olds Cutlass. It would not be allowed on the street, but it was a
hunting vehicle. The rear seat was shoulder high to the driver,
good view should we come across a buck on the way to our individual
I was dropped off at my blind first. It turned out to be a metal
seat in a tree about 10 feet off the ground. The surrounding landscape
rock and stunted cedar that stood no more than five feet, with an
occasional tree tall enough to offer a view.
When I climbed up and sat down, the metal was so cold I thought I
stick to it through my thick camo pants. I opened my thermos and poured
the first cup of Paul's strong coffee. This is when tastes best to
It took them just moments to drive out of view. The blinds were set
apart to prevent accidents, and nobody survived hunting accidents. Most
I pulled an apple out of my coat, sliced it into four
pieces and put one in my breast pocket, and the others on the seat
adjacent limb. The apple helped mask the human scent.
I sat there, freezing, moving as little as possible, until I thought I
fall off the seat. After about two hours, I reached down and poured
cup of coffee. It was still hot and really hit the spot. I took my
off and held the cup in bare hands. The warmth finally helped loosen
fingers so I could flex them more easily.
The frustration was beginning to set in since I had not even seen a
morning. And I could hear the shot if Rich or Paul had fired off a
was noon before I finally gave up mentally and pulled out my sack
the deer could smell the chicken salad, I decided I didn't care. About
way through the sandwich, movement caught my eye. There was something
behind one of the little cedar bushes about 50-75 yards off slightly to
my right. I froze. I saw the movement again. I put my sandwich down on
the big limb,
pulled my rifle up to a ready position, and clicked the safety
The big whitetail buck walked out from behind the bush slowly. If it
seen or scented me, it would have disappeared in an instant. He was
and carried a rack of about 8-10 points, and his tail and ears were
twitching. My heart was beating so hard the gun sight jerked well above
the deer, and when I corrected it, it dropped well below.
I remembered the advice given to me about a situation like this. Take a
breath and squeeze the trigger. Don't jerk it. The telescope showed the
buck squarely in the crosshairs. I pulled the trigger and saw the deer
My heart was pounding so hard I had to calm myself before checking the
But then I saw another movement well beyond the cedar bush. It was the
from the buck. He had covered about a hundred yards in just seconds
shot. Missed him clean. I knew I would catch hell from my brother and
Rich and Paul were scheduled to pick me up at five o'clock. They were a
minutes early, but I was glad to get out of that damned tree. At least
heater in the open jeep worked and I sat with my knees right in front
"Did you see a herd of wild hamsters or something?" Rich asked.
"Yeah. Figured from the gunshot we heard you must have fallen asleep
gun went off when you hit the ground!" Paul said, acting very
"Oh, you guys are so funny. So-damned-funny. The hamster I saw had a
about 10 points!"
They both laughed hard at this. I knew I would never convince them I
just bored and shot at a rock or some other target just for the chance
fire the gun. They made cracks about the difficulties of
hamster ribs all the way back to the cabin.
We watched for deer all the way back, also. It was our custom to shoot
a doe, which is illegal, for camp meat. Something we could butcher and
up while at the lease for the three-day trip. But, we were skunked
Back at the cabin, we had Paul make some more of his coffee. Each of us
a chore, and mine was to round up some firewood for the wood stove. I
my coat and went outside. After a few minutes, I had a few small pieces
the wood that was so scarce out here. Something caught my eye on the
road leading out to the blinds. A small deer, probably a doe, was
standing in the middle only about 25 or 30 yards away.
I slowly walked back to the cabin, set the wood down outside the door,
went inside for the .222.I briefed the other guys and they crowded
together at the window, but allowed me the kill. I clicked off the
walked over to the cedar near the road. I used one of its limbs to
the rifle. I didn't want to lose this one. And my heart was not
quite as hard this time.
I put her in the cross hairs of the telescope. I squeezed the trigger
saw the doe drop.
"I got her! I got her!" I shouted to the other two. I felt like someone
who'd used indoor plumbing for the first time.
"Ok, pal, now you've got to gut her and clean her. And cut those scent
off. Think you can do it?" Rich asked.
"Damn right! Give me your buck knife, will ya!"
I laid the gun down, and took the big hunting knife and sheath my
always carried. The guys knew it would be half an hour before my work
done, and it was freezing outside, so they went back into the cabin to
the stove going. I could hear them laughing as I walked towards the
When I got within about 10 feet of the doe, I could see she was not
dead. That made me nervous since I knew I would have to finish her off.
didn't like the thought of killing with my hands, it wasn't the same
I kneeled down behind her. As I did, she lifted her head and leaned
into me placing her head heavily on my chest. The move forced me into
sitting position with her head in my lap. She looked directly into my
and made a mewling sound. And there was just a spot of blood on her
The dark blue sky draped her face, and she looked deceptively unreal,
painting. Something inside me was surfacing, but I didn't recognize
Suddenly I jumped like I had been shot. The pain was a white-hot poker
in my chest. And I suddenly couldn't see clearly. I started
Getting back on my knees, not knowing what to do, I could see that she
gut shot and would die. But anguish clouded my thoughts. I had to
I unseated the knife and placed it under her neck. We were separated
the world for a moment, suspended in a cocoon of recognition of what
I pulled it deeply across her neck. It was quick, and I could see life
I sat back on the ground, changed from who I was forever.