Deer #1
1991 Doe Lancaster, SC .30-30 Marlin Morning 80 Yards
In 1991 I had been deer hunting for six years, almost exclusively on the game lands of the Uwharrie National Forest of North Carolina. I had gone through many hunting partners before my friend Ted Leonhardt and I hooked up in 1990 to become "permanent" hunting buddies. Hunting in Uwharrie was hard.  Although I had gotten a couple of shots off with my bow, I rarely even saw deer at all.  I know that I was getting pretty discouraged with hunting during that time period.   Then, sometime around October of 1991, my father called me and told me that a friend of his, Arnold Kirk, had offered to let me come hunting on some land that he had recently purchased.  I called Arnold, and we arranged for me to meet him one Friday after work, and we would spend the night down in a camper on his land with two other guy: his brother Gerald and another fellow named Frank Mack.  Arnold's dog, Misty, was also along.  Arnold asked that I not shoot any small bucks, but that I was welcome to take a doe if I saw one.

Wouldn't you know it, but on the first morning out all I saw was one spike buck. I don't remember seeing anything that evening.  I do remember being pretty discouraged.  My first time on private land, and I still hadn't gotten a deer. To my great excitement, Arnold invited me back to hunt with them again the next week. This time I was able to drive down to the land on my own, having learned how to get there the previous week.

We spent another great night in the trailer, and then the next morning I went hunting on a ridge where Arnold had seen a ten pointer the previous year (thus the name "10 point ridge").  Following a long trail of bright eye reflective tacks, I found my way to the stand, an old climber stuck in a white oak tree. I climbed high up into the tree and began my watch.  By 10:00am, I still had not seen any deer, and my frustration with hunting had reached it's highest level ever.  I think I even had a tear or two in my eye and was about to climb down when I looked up and saw three does walking through the woods 80 yards away.

I raised my rifle, adjusted the scope to 9 power, centered the crosshairs exactly where all of the magazines had told me to, and fired.  When I recovered from the recoil, there were no deer left to be seen.  I waited about 15 minutes, then climbed down the tree.  After reaching the ground, I ran over to the spot where the deer had been and immediately placed a piece of marking tape where I thought the deer that I shot at was standing.  I looked all over the ground for over an hour, but couldn't find any sign of blood or of the deer itself.

I made my way out of the woods and back down to the camp.  Everyone was waiting for me, thinking that I had gotten me a deer.  I told them that I missed, and they asked me many times if I was sure.  "Pretty sure," I said.  Arnold said that he would walk back there with me and look, just to be on the safe side.  We took Misty with us, his young cocker spaniel puppy.   She almost immediately found a single drop of blood.  "You hit that deer," said Arnold as he called me over to where Misty was nosing around in the leaves. We turned her loose while we searched the ground to try to figure out where the deer had gone.  Only a minute or two later, we heard Misty bark once, and Arnold ran over to her and saw that she had found the deer.  It was a small doe, but I couldn't have been prouder if it had been a 10 point buck.

We had a long long way to drag the deer, and no roads had been cut on the land at that point, so with Arnold's direction, I field dressed my first deer.   We hauled it back to the camp, where I showed it off to Gerald and Frank.   When I got back to work on the following Monday morning, I didn't say a word to Ted.  I simply whipped out the picture below and showed it to him.  Ted made a blown-up copy of it on one of Winn Dixie's copiers, and he still has that black and white reproduction to this day.