A Favor Returned

I put my friend Jose on his first turkey, a late morning, loud mouthed jake. Put him on his first tom, too. I was sitting with him when he shot the second whitetail buck in his bag. That buck wasn’t a monster – just a two year old eight point, in fact – but because I hadn’t killed a deer in a couple of years I honestly struggled with the decision when Joey asked me if he could shoot. After a heartbeat’s hesitation, I gave him the go ahead and he dropped the young buck in its tracks.

When Jose invited me down to deer hunt with him last season, he sweetened the deal by offering me first shot. I would have made the trip anyway but as I hadn’t killed a buck in a few years, the offer of first shot sure didn’t hurt my feelings. All bundled up and sitting side by side in his tripod, Jose and I looked like two turkeys perched on a high line wire. Deer were moving with the sunrise; does and fawns at first light, then little bucks chasing and grunting as the sun climbed higher in the sky. Jose was nearly as bloodthirsty as I was and had staked his claim to the first mature doe within rifle range, but I managed to convince him that there was entirely too much rut activity in front of us to be dropping does. The wind picked up that afternoon and limited movement, and we only saw a couple of deer.

Half a dozen does greeted us the next morning and got so close I thought they might climb into the tripod with us. We didn’t see anything for the next couple of hours, though, and were starting to get discouraged when Jose spotted another doe some three hundred yards away. He already had his thumb on his safety and was telling me how he was going to bust her when I reminded him that there might be a buck trailing along behind her. Sure enough, there was, and he was decent from what we could tell. The buck followed his doe across a deep ditch and then they disappeared in the trees. I grabbed my grunt tube and gave it all I had.

a good buck taken with a good friend

The buck broke out of the brush and walked our way but then angled back towards the thick stuff. When he paused to lick a low hanging branch, I took a knee on the tripod’s platform and braced my rifle on the guardrail. The 100 grain bullet left my 257 Weatherby Magnum doing 3,000 feet per second and crossed the 181 yards between us before the buck even knew I’d pulled the trigger. The bullet hit him where his neck met his shoulder and stood the buck straight up on his hind legs. I expected him to hit all fours and bolt back into the trees, but instead he just kept on standing. Right up until he fell over on his back. He kicked twice and never moved again.

Every deer I’ve ever killed qualifies as a trophy. Not everyone would see them as such, I’m sure, but I sure do and this buck is no different. His meat filled a freezer and is feeding a hungry family. His skull mount sits atop my entertainment center and is brought down to show off to friends. But one of these days, the last pound of ground venison will be gone. One of these days, that skull mount will be packed in a box and shoved into a corner of the attic. The kind offer from a good friend, though? That will never be forgotten.

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