Outdoors Column: The Rules of Safety

I woke up Sunday morning and immediately wondered what had happened to my legs. For a moment there, I forgot I had spent Saturday walking up and down hills deer hunting. I did not even do that much walking, but it obviously was much more than my body is accustomed to. I glanced out of the window and was shocked to see snow on the ground. The weatherman had said nothing about this. To make matters worse, it was not snowing light fluffy flakes, it was snowing chunks. Clusters of wet snow, almost as big as my hand were flopping out of the sky. Perhaps Zane had enough deer hunting the day before. This seemed like a good day to drink coffee and look out the window while my body recovered.

There was not a chance of this happening. He got a big buck last year and wanted a bigger one this year. He and his dad, Damon, pulled down the driveway as I poured my second cup of coffee. Damon and I procrastinated as long as possible, hoping the snow might slow down. Eventually, Zane convinced us to move.

For several years, each morning of deer season, Zane and I would stand at the corner of the hay field while Damon walked the Paintball Timber and adjoining cedar pasture. We have killed a lot of deer there, missed even more, and watched even more escape out of range across the hay field. This year, I decided we should split up. It is a big step to go from standing at someone’s shoulder telling them where and when to shoot to having no control at all. Zane has hunted with us for enough years, I know he is careful and knows all the rules.

I left him at our usual post and continued across the hay field. Since we would not be able to see each other, I told him I would stand at the crossing near the ditch. He knew exactly where I would be. I also knew he would stay where both his dad and I expected him to be. Chunks of snow continued to fall. It only took catching one snow chunk on the back of my neck to remember to put up the hood on my sweatshirt. Because of the snow, deer were not moving like they normally do. Nothing was coming out. Finally, I saw a doe with her almost grown twins walking down the fence toward Zane. Rather than continuing to Zane, they jumped the fence and ran to the top of the hill directly between Zane and I. They stopped and looked down to where Zane was guarding his corner. Though they were in range, I could not shoot because of the trajectory my bullet would take toward Zane. I was hoping Zane was thinking the same thing. He wanted a big buck but would take a doe, just for the meat. Hopefully, not while the deer was standing where she was.

The three deer stood for more than a minute, broadside between us, watching Zane. The old doe could not figure out what he was and stomped her foot, showing her nervousness. Finally, Zane said he waved at them, hoping to spook them toward me so I could get a shot. They took off down the hill like a flash, where neither of us could shoot.

We heard a shot from the Paintball Timber and finally Damon came out. We went back in and helped Damon get his deer. By the time we got back to the house, we were all cold and soaking wet. We were also glad to know the rules of safety were learned by the next generation.