The sun had gone down and the last of the day”s light was slipping away. The white Ford pickup truck left the creek bed and headed up the small hill toward the deer camp. Standing on the top of the hill, about 50 yards to the right of the truck, were two big doe’s, quietly grazing on what little green grass there was. The deer glanced our way, but paid little attention to us, even though the radio was tuned to KTRH and Dad and I were talking about the day”s events. Dad stopped the truck, looked at me and said, “Shoot one of them”. I grabbed my rifle and started to open the truck door. “No, don”t get out, shoot him through the window”, Dad said. No way, I have to draw the line somewhere; I”m just not going to shoot a high-powered, semi-automatic deer rifle while setting in the front seat of a pickup truck. But Dad was adamant and said, “Shoot her quick, before it gets too dark to see”.
As I set there trying to decide what to do, I thought about the events that led up to this predicament. One Friday morning in early January, my dad called me on the phone and said that we still had two doe permits left and with the deer season just about over, he didn”t want to waste them. I agreed to go to the deer lease with him and he said he would come by my house in Hockley to pick me up. At that time, Dad and I were hunting on a lease just north of Madisonville and east of Normangee.
Dad pulled into the driveway about 2 PM that Friday afternoon and I threw in a small grip of clothes and my rifle and we were on the way. We planned to hunt that evening and if we didn”t get our two doe”s, we would hunt again on Saturday morning, which was the last day of the season. We took the back road through Iola, North Zulch, and Normangee and were at the deer camp a little after three o”clock. We didn”t even stop at the camp, just went straight to the woods. Now Dad thought we should sit in the pickup on top of the hill and wait for a bunch of doe to come out. But I wasn”t going to have any of that. Since there was nobody else on the lease hunting, we had our choice of lots of good blinds to hunt from. We argued a little about it, but I won the argument and we went through the creek bed, parked the truck at the edge of the woods and walked two different directions to our blinds.
As I sat in my blind waiting for a deer to come out of the woods, I thought about my childhood and the man who had taught me to hunt at a very young age. When Dad was younger, roughing it was a way of life for him, and I learned how to hunt from this rough, tough guy. Dad and I hunted in all kinds of weather, it didn”t matter if it was 33 degrees and raining, we would stay out for hours hunting ducks, geese, doves, rabbits, squirrels or whatever. We certainly never hunted from the front seat of a truck. But as Dad got older, he liked to deer hunt in comfort. The other guys on the deer lease made a sport out of teasing ol” Rip about hunting from his pickup, but they couldn”t deny the fact that he usually got a nice buck hunting that way. Dad would sit in the truck with the motor idling, the heater turned on full blast and the radio tuned to KTRH in Houston so he could listen to the weather. He would then open the window, light up his pipe and have a smoke. When it was time to refill the pipe, he would bang the pipe bowl as hard as he could on the outside door of the pickup. With all that racket, the deer must have thought that he was just an old rancher checking his cows and no threat to them.
As I was quietly reminiscing about my childhood, a lone doe walked out of the woods, about 75 yards from me and stood perfectly still. I raised my rifle and fired at her. The deer looked around and then bolted into the woods at a dead run. I wasn”t too concerned, I”d seen that before, a deer shot clean through the heart would sometimes run a short distance and then drop dead. Now, I never was the crack shot that Dad or my brother Joe was, but I had been shooting since I was a young child. There was no way I could miss a deer standing still, only 75 yards away, especially with a scoped deer rifle.
I waited a few minutes and then climbed down to retrieve my deer. I went to the location where the deer was standing when I fired the shot, but I couldn”t find a drop of blood or hair. I looked around for about 30 minutes, but never found any sign that I had hit the deer. I guess I did miss.
It was starting to get dark, so I walked back to the truck. Dad asked me what I shot at and I told him the story. He asked if I wanted to go back and look some more, but I told him that I had already looked and had found no sign of the deer. We climbed into the truck and with Dad driving and me sitting shotgun, we headed back toward the camp.
“Shoot her quick, before it gets too dark to see”. Dad”s words were hard to ignore and he was right, it was very quickly getting dark. Without any more thought, I raised the rifle, rested my arm on the door and fired. The noise inside of the truck was deafening and the ejected bullet ricocheted around the cab of the truck, but the deer dropped dead in her tracks, without moving an inch.
The other doe ran toward the woods, about 150 yards away. I asked Dad if he could see her and even with Dad”s eagle eyes, he said, “No, it”s too dark”. I climbed out of the truck, raised my rifle and looked through the scope along the woods where the second deer had gone. Sure enough, the scope picked up just enough light for me to see that she was standing at the edge of the woods, waiting for her dead companion to join her. I quickly aimed at her heart and fired the rifle. By then it was too dark to see if I had hit her or not. We threw the first doe in the back of the truck and drove over to the woods. We left the headlights on and started searching along the edge of the woods. Sure enough, there was the second doe, right where she was standing, with a bullet straight through her heart.
We field dressed the two deer by the headlights of the pickup, threw them back into the pickup bed and headed for home. We arrived back at my house about eight o”clock, only 6 hours after we left. As it turned out, this was my last hunting trip with my father. I think it was meant to be, me missing the sure shot so I would be forced to shoot a deer from the front seat of my Dad”s pickup. That’s a memory that will be with me forever.