Raised by honest parents who could admit their first-born son was a klutz, I was shielded from firearms and sharp objects as a child. It wasn’t until I moved to Chesterfield County and befriended the son of a gun shop owner that I was really introduced to shooting and hunting.
My first three years have been quite adventurous thanks to JR Joyner of Patrick and Leigh and Paul Branch of Bennettsville. I should also thank Clyde Watson of Chesterfield, who allowed me to hunt his property and helped me celebrate killing my first deer, while also breaking the news to me that most respectable hunters don’t kill deer that weigh less than 100 pounds.
After three years and three kills … and not quite that many horns, I finally felt comfortable enough to venture off and hunt my own land. Failing to factor in the amenities that come along with hunting other people’s property, I found myself without a deer stand, sitting in a bright blue beach chair in a briar patch just off a cornfield with a dead tree limb above my head to use as a gun prop.
My first few hunts were peaceful as I tried to become one with nature, while also taking advantage of the quiet time to work on the newspaper. Most days at dusk, a group of does and two fawns would enter the corn field about 150 to 300 yards away. While the does ate, the fawns would romp and I would type away on my laptop.
My strategy was to allow the does to become very comfortable with me sharing their field in hopes they’d stick around to attract some large bodied, multi-horned suitors during mating season. Although I don’t know much about hunting, I am keenly aware that wild men chasing women usually leads to trouble, so the idea of the baddest bucks dropping their guard and becoming easier targets during “the rut” made perfect sense to me.
My plan finally came to fruition Oct. 26 shortly after I finished typing a story about the Chesterfield Rams defeating my alma mater in football. As I was putting away my computer and considering calling it a night, I heard a rustle in the woods beside me.
Propping my gun on my killing limb, I watched as a buck stepped out in search of the doe scent I’d placed about 50 yards away from me. A few steps later, he entered the sights of my scope and went down.
My loving wife, Wylie, sweeping our front porch a quarter mile away, heard the shot and began thinking of words to console me, assuming I’d missed. I on the other hand was standing over the body of a 9-point, 220-pound buck that I naively assumed would weigh about 100 pounds, just as every other “big deer” I’d previously shot wound up weighing.
As members of the horseback hunting group Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors, Wylie and I planned on using one of our steeds to haul any deer I killed home. However as we tried to lift the deer onto the back of her horse, we quickly realized this deer was going to be a little heavier than any I’d killed before.
Recruiting another friend and trading Wylie’s horse for my pickup truck, we finally got the deer loaded and hauled to Welshneck Wildlife for processing. It was there where respectable hunters stood around admiring the size of my deer that I realized I’d done something impressive. Of course that still led to some confusion, as I found myself surrounded by a bunch of men talking about “scoring my rack” while also taking photos for Facebook. Feeling a little sleazy, I headed home.
The following day was spent fielding calls from friends and family, most of whom expressed disbelief about my kill. The best call was from my mom, chastising me for telling her I’d killed “a moose” when all her church friends clearly saw on Facebook I’d killed a deer.
Life lessons learned from the hunt: The smell of a strange woman usually leads to trouble and never, I mean NEVER, lie to your mama.
Leighton Bell is editor of The Link whose rack scored 120. Whatever that means.