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lookatme.jpg
Art by Sean O'Keefe © 2013

Hey Look at Me Would You

 

by AV Boyd

 

 

It takes practice, he thought, to sit in one place for hours, with your legs crossed, and not move an inch, even to itch your nose. Something as small as your coat rustling against itself might alert a buck to your presence and ruin the hunt. It takes practice, he thought, but we've done good.

He wanted to call it a morning and go back to the room for a nap. He didn't think the deer were moving anymore today. If they really were in the meadow down low during the night and traveled into the dark timber up high to bed during the day, they had crossed over somewhere else.

This is a good spot we have, he thought, the best we've seen.

They sat under a juniper bush with their packs for padding and insulation against the ground. They could see most of the meadow in front of them and had a good line of sight on the two important tree lines that ran from the pastures below to the dark timber above.

He didn't think the deer were moving anymore, they were probably all bedded down by now. The sun had been up for a while. But he didn't want to say so. He didn't want to be the one to call the hunt. He didn't want his wife to think he couldn't handle sitting or that he was tired. He didn't want her to think she was right about the time they got up.

"Buck," she said through clenched teeth. "Get your gun ready."

He turned to her and watched the whites of her eyes grow and her jaw tighten. She pointed into the meadow with her chin and repeated herself.

He felt his chest shrink and his heart quicken and his vision narrow. He looked from side to side, but could not find the deer. He lifted his rifle and placed an elbow on his knee.

"Do you see him?" she said.

Then he saw the buck standing about eighty yards away in plain view, looking down the field straight at them.

Next he saw a doe following an even larger buck, antlers wider than the length of his Browning 30-06 caliber rifle, up the field and into a stand of trees and up the other side.

But the closer buck, the smaller one, just stood there looking down at them. Then he started to move toward the larger buck and doe further up the field, and the man knew he didn't have time to wait for his heart to slow, and put the crosshairs behind the shoulder, about in the middle, and saw them shaking and pulled the trigger.

Nothing appeared to happen. He didn't feel the recoil or hear the percussion, and the buck walked on like he hadn't been shot at.

But he knew he fired because he smelled gunpowder. He pulled back the bolt and extracted the shell and pushed the bolt forward, loading another cartridge.

He watched the buck walk into the stand of trees the other two walked through and lost sight of him. 

"Did I hit him?" he said. "I don't think I hit him."

"No," she said. "You missed."

"Are you sure? I can't believe I missed. He was right there."

"No, I'm sure," she said. "I'm sure of it. You missed."

"C'mon," he said. "Let's go after them. We might get another shot."

They started up the field, pushing through knee-high sticker grass that grabbed at their pants and deposited on their socks whenever it could, small round sticky things, and got halfway to the stand of trees. Suddenly his wife froze. He was a little ahead of her and to the right. He froze too and strained to see what she saw.

She motioned him forward with her hands. He saw her face peeled back in a tight grimace and got the idea that the trees hid him from view but not her, so he crept forward, looking over his shoulder for reassurance and moving further each time she waved him on.

He reached the stand of trees and went around, careful to be quiet, rifle on the ready. He felt the brown fescue crush under each step, but did not hear it. A bush caught the bottom of his pants, pulled the canvas taunt. He stepped on a stick, felt it bend to its breaking point and eased off before it snapped.  

There, way up on the field, he spotted the big buck, not the one he took a shot on just moments ago, but the really big one with the doe trailing.

He had only a butt shot, which he would not take; then the buck turned and looked at him, and there was an opportunity to place a bullet in the vitals. He raised his rifle to a shooting position and made a tripod with the shoulder strap and put the crosshairs behind the shoulder. He saw how much the crosshairs moved up and down and took a knee to steady himself. Before he could squeeze off a shot the buck turned and ran into the field of scrub oak, then disappeared in the juniper on the other side.

"What happened?" his wife said, catching up with him. "He was right there."

"God, he was a big one. I can't believe how big he was."

"Which one?"

"The big one. I can't believe it. I was shaking too much."

"I didn't want to move because he was looking right at me," she said. "That's why I told you to get your rifle ready."

"Do you think I hit him? I didn't hit him did I? Let's go take a look, just in case."

"I'm pretty sure you missed," she said. "I'm pretty sure we'd know if you'd hit him."

"If I hit him," he said, "If I really did hit him, we'll have to track him into the trees and find him."

"I don't see any blood or anything," she said, looking around the ground where he had fired on the first one.

"Or fur, too," he said. "The Texans said to look for fur. So make sure to keep an eye out for that as well."

She made a face. "Forget it," she said, "let's just get out of here. I'm sure you didn't hit him."

"Damn," he said, "I think you're right. You know, he was moving when I shot at him. That was a really hard shot."

She made another face and started walking back through the waist-high scrub oak.

"Whoa," he said, stopping and bending down. "Check this out," and he lifted two large sheds. "Look at these, would you? Pretty cool, huh?"

He handed her the antlers and she turned them around in her hands and gave them back.

"Kind of makes it all worth it, huh?" he said.

"I don't think we can keep them," she said, and shrugged and started off for the truck.

She stopped under a piñon tree and took off her backpack, then her outer layers, and knelt beside her backpack to put her clothes away and reorganize.

"Hey," he said, putting the antlers on his head and crouching down. "Hey, look at me, would you? I'll just crawl around and call ‘em in and you can shoot ‘em. We'll be a good team: I bait, you shoot."

She barely looked at him, finished with her bag and threw it over her shoulder, started at a brisk pace for the truck.

They took a path straight down the meadow, her in the lead, him trailing further and further behind, until finally he couldn't hear her pants brushing against themselves.

He dropped to his knees next to a bush and got out his cow elk calls that, even though they were hunting deer, he brought just in case, for practice. He brought the reed to his mouth and blew and did it twice more. He squatted behind the bush, held both antlers to his head and peeked over for his wife. He saw her walking away from him, almost to the line of trees that separated the meadow from the road.

At the line of trees, she stopped and looked back for her husband. She heard a cow elk call and scanned the meadow. She saw antlers moving behind a bush and her heart jumped, then she remembered her husband, turned and left and went through the line of trees to their truck and heard someone fire a rifle, somewhere very near.

She ran back to the meadow and saw two men in orange making their way in the direction of her husband.

She ran past them and they called out to her and she kept running. She started to panic and couldn't concentrate and couldn't see very well. She found herself up in the scrub oak near the top and realized she went too far and, turning around, saw the hunters standing in the meadow below her, looking at something, and ran to them and saw what they were looking at.

"Antlers," one of the men said, as she ran up and fell to her knees. "I swear to God all I saw was antlers."

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AV Boyd lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be found at http://chughole.wordpress.com.

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