By Matt McDonald
I am an avid outdoorsman, but got a start late, I guess you could say. My dad never took me hunting or fishing, he was too busy playing golf. Everything I learned about the outdoors, I learned by reading magazines and books. I began my hunting career with upland bird hunting and eventually got a bow for Christmas in 1991. I bow hunted for a couple of years without luck. I didn't want to kill a doe for my first deer ever. I wanted a buck, no matter what size he was.
After getting the fever, I decided I would hunt deer with a firearm for the first time in 1993. The first major obstacle I had to overcome was what gun I would use. I didn't know of anyone I could borrow one from, so I ended up talking with a guy I was referred to and he sold me an SKS (7.62 X 39) for $130 and a box of 25 shells for $5.00. I sighted the rifle in, made sure everything was working all right, and figured I was ready to go.
I knew I would hunt on my (at that time ‘future') in-laws farm, but knew my girlfriend's cousin and his friend were hunting the timber. I knew that they worked during the week and I could hunt a few times during the week. I decided I would let them hunt the timber by themselves and I would hunt a hay field where I usually saw groups of does. My thinking was, I would let them kill their bucks opening weekend and I would try to shoot a doe. Then, during the week, I would hunt the timber for my buck. Little did I know that this thinking would turn on me. I had never heard the saying, "If you want to kill a big buck, you have to hunt the does!"
I placed my stand on the edge of the hay field in a little finger of timber. There was a crop field behind me with a creek on the other side of it. I spent the night at the farmhouse that night and didn't get much sleep because my stomach was turning so bad. I was finally becoming a deer hunter! I woke up opening morning to horrible weather for deer hunting, or so I thought. A stiff 15 to 20-mph wind out of the west and it was about 35 degrees before sunrise. I made the long walk to my stand after talking with the other two hunters about our strategies. I made it to my stand at about 6:15 a.m. (a little later than I wanted to be) and had little hopes of seeing anything due to the weather.
I was expecting the deer to come from my left (north) and watched that area intently. Every now and then I would glance over to my right. Suddenly I noticed something wasn't right. I looked over to my right and saw a figure. It was still somewhat dark, but I could make out a silhouette. I determined it was a deer, but what sex? It walked closer to me and I saw something white on its head. Had to be a buck! He was walking along the edge of the field and at about 25 yards away from me, turned and started walking directly away and into the field. The only shot I had was a butt shot. I knew I was not going to let this buck get away without firing at least one shot at him, but did not want to take a butt shot.
The deer continued walking and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. I had my gun to my shoulder and thought to myself, "Oh PLEASE! Please just turn sideways and give me one shot!" Right after I thought it, he stopped and turned. I looked at my watch, 6:32 a.m., legal shooting time was 6:30. Time to act. I looked through the iron sights and couldn't see squat. On an SKS, there is a shield around the front sight and this was preventing me from seeing through the sights. I knew the gun was right on, so I eyed it several times and decided to take the shot. I squeezed the trigger and the deer fell immediately. I couldn't believe it!
I remembered reading, "Give a deer about 30 minutes after you shoot it before you go looking for it." My 30 minutes lasted about 30 seconds. I was so anxious I couldn't hold myself back. I climbed out of the stand and made that long walk over to my deer. It was only about 50 yards, but it seemed like 500. The size of the deer was still a mystery. I approached from the rear and gave him a poke. He was down for the count. I set my gun down and started counting points. I hit 13 and couldn't believe it! A 13-pointer for my first deer and only two minutes into my very first firearms deer season! The next five minutes included a little jig, whooping and hollering, and a special. "Thank you" to the Maker of this fine creature.
With the tag applied, I went back to the house to get some help. I had no idea on how to dress a deer. On the walk back I spotted a small 7-point buck in a cow pasture. I figured the other two hunters would definitely be successful also. Unfortunately, they had not been. As a matter of fact, my buck was the only buck killed at the farm that year.
After all the pictures were taken and congratulations given, some ironic details started setting in. The deer was a 13-point buck killed on November 13, 1993. The tag I was issued by the Department of Conservation back in August was #1118513. Break that tag number down and you get 3 1's, 8+5=3D13, and 13. Ironic or not? My only question is, Is 13 my lucky number, or was it his UNlucky number?