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James R. Stout

NOT The Deer Hunter

            It was November of 1969 and I was 14-years-old. I had never been deer hunting before and I went with my father, uncle, and two cousins to my grandparent’s farm on opening day of deer season. A cold front came through the day before, so we were prepared for a brisk first day. My father and uncle decided to hunt together that day and rather than sit in a deer stand they went to ground behind a slight rise that looked down on one of the stock tanks. The idea was they could see deer coming to the tank to drink. One of my cousins got up in one of three rather crude stands near another tank. These “stands” were basically some cross boards nailed to two adjacent limbs with more boards perpendicular to the cross boards making an area just big enough to sit on. No wind break, no comfy chair, or pads, and you had to sit with your legs dangling from the stand. My other cousin took the second of these “stands” next to fence that we had seen deer use often to go from one part of the farm to another. I was in the worst of the stands. I say worst because it had all of the same features of the other two, but the sitting area was slanted a bit due to the two limbs were not even with each other. I was given this stand because it was determined that since I had never been deer hunting before, I wouldn’t likely see any deer in that location.

            Well, they dropped me off at my stand around 4:00 p.m. and I climbed up in the tree and took my place. The weather was rather cold, and I was bundled up in a “CPO” jacket, a sweatshirt under that, and a flannel shirt under the sweatshirt. I had two pairs of socks on and while I wasn’t toasty by any means, I was not terribly uncomfortable from the cold. There I sat. You’d never know it, but I’m a talker. I like to talk to people and carry on conversations. Frankly, I’ve gotten worse with age. If we ever meet, then I apologize in advance. But even if there had been somebody there to talk to, it wouldn’t have been the thing to do while hunting. I didn’t bring a book to read and there were no such things as hand-held games with earbuds in those days. You might think that I got bored, but that’s not what happened. Given it was the day after the cold front, the sunset began as a bright orange ball just over the pine trees and then the rays hit the clouds and it was stunning. I started to listen to the sounds of nature all around me. Well, before long I dozed off. Some hunter! Then something, some little noise, brought me out of my light slumber. That’s when I looked down on the ground about 10 yards from the tree I was sitting in and to my surprise there were 8 deer grazing. Two were bucks. One of these was a young buck, but the other one was a 10-point buck. He was obviously the big dog of the bunch. I started to take aim and then I stopped. Those deer were beautiful and so peaceful. The big buck was majestic in my eyes. I couldn’t shoot those deer. I was mesmerized by God’s creation. The sunset, the trees, the sounds, and those deer.

            I decided right then and there sitting in that stand that I wouldn’t hunt deer or anything else just for hunting sake. I don’t fault anyone who does. It’s just not me. Now, if I needed to shoot a deer for survival or if I needed to shoot an animal that posed a danger to me, then I would do what is necessary. But that wasn’t the case that day. On that day in 1969 I learned something especially important that I haven’t forgotten. God’s creation is incredible and that studying it is food for our souls.

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