Southwest Alabama was not what I expected. Instead of swamp land, ... conifers, not growing naturally, but in various stages of maturity in various plantings, many in neat lines and tightly spaced. Will dropped me off alongside a dense stand of such, and pointed to a lane. “The shooting house is down at the end of the lane, just to the left.” I looked down the lane, which was like looking down a utility tunnel in the basement of a large building, so dense the trees. And though mid-day, the trek down the lane was in near darkness. But sure enough, once to the end, I was back in daylight, a small shooting house to my left, and green field beyond.
This field was smaller than the first. It was mid-day. There was talk of a storm coming in, so perhaps the deer would move well before nightfall. I got settled in for the long afternoon. In these shooting houses at the ends of green fields one cannot `want’ a deer into view, or `will’ a deer into view; one can only wait. Wish all you want, it takes time. I couldn’t text; we were in a phone-dead zone. I didn’t bring a computer, or book. All I could do was wait, and best yet, to learn to enjoy it.
I think the giant-size Stanley thermos is awesome for such afternoons, and I sure enjoyed mine – full of strong, black coffee.
A doe walking along the west edge of the field. Would she come in? She disappeared. Then she appeared in the field. More movement. A second deer, and even a third, still in the trees.
Will said that if a doe comes into the field, `wait’. `Wait ten minutes’. I waited. The second deer came into the field. Bigger, greyer. A buck! I was worried I would be detected, maneuvering for a shot, trying to get a steady sight picture. The third deer was not visible. I waited long enough. Not ten, but perhaps one (minute). The bigger deer was quartering toward me. It was a good shot, especially if I was not as steady as I’d like.
Bang. The deer collapsed. The others bounded off.
I walked out to my prize. Big … doe! What I had mistaken for antlers were not.
I couldn’t report my success in the dead zone.
I dragged the deer off the field and to a stream bank to the west, and proceeded to do my `thing’. Will had not seen a deer de-meated in the field; nor would he here, but I would be able to deal with my deer alone, myself, without calling him off his hunt to help.
Shots from other hunters range out as the afternoon and my work progressed. I hoped some were Will, and supposed so, but there was no way to tell. I wouldn’t know of his success, nor he of mine, until after dark, where he would (hopefully) return to where he had left me off.
I endeavored to get the meat into my `game bags' (retired pillow cases work perfect) with as little as possible sand from the stream bank, and as I finished, so was the afternoon. In two trips I carried the meat and my gear to the shooting house. I didn’t want to mess up Will’s next hunt at the same house, so I returned to the stream bank and took the remains (the meat-less deer) across the stream, through the woods, and to the next open area to the west.
I carried my stuff back through the `tunnel’ to the road. There was still a tiny bit of daylight left, so I got set up for anything crossing to the southeast. (I could still shoot a buck.)
I waited for Will.
Both deer have tasted fantastic. The first, a young but mature doe, soft skin, light meat, tender, and the second doe, tough skin, dark meat, and tougher meat ... yet also very good. The key to good-tasting game is that I get the meat cool, and dry, as fast as I can IN THE FIELD. And I keep it clean as I can, by not `gutting’ the animal, and by staying away from (bullet-) damaged meat.
I never did see that third deer. Maybe it WAS a buck.