The end of day western sky was a brilliant pattern of washed orange, purple and fiery red that seemed to be kissing the sun goodbye after another glorious autumn day. My short walk from the hide I had made for myself in the treeline was between a field of standing corn and a plowed field. I’d parked my Suburban on the ridge of the rise in the countryside and beyond the truck was another treeline that paralleled the road. I really wasn’t too disappointed in my failure to shoot a deer because my step-son, Michael, had killed a fat, dry doe and that deer was hanging in my garage. I had promised Michael I’d skin and butcher the deer. All-in-all I was content. As I cleared the treeline and could see into the plowed field I stopped and froze. Two deer were in the open field. They were not in silhouette because of the rise of the ground but their forms were clearly visible and they were, so far, unaware of my presence and they were within range of my muzzleloader.
I found myself trying to decide whether to take a shot at the larger deer. It was a big doe with her yearling offspring and she would put a good amount of venison in my freezer. There was one problem—it was now about fifteen minutes past legal shooting time even though I could still see the deer. I could shoot the large doe and I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be a problem because the wildlife officers were seldom in this area so in truth I was on my own. The decision to obey both the letter and spirit of the law or shoot a deer in the last few minutes of light was mine alone.
I sighted in on the big doe and ultimately caved in to the ethics that were tugging at my hunting shirt and I didn’t shoot. I took two more steps and the deer saw my movement and took off with their tails flashing in the fading light. When I reached my truck I used my binoculars to scan the area around me and I couldn’t see a parked vehicle or one on any of the roads. I probably could have shot and tagged the deer then loaded it in my truck without anyone caring—except me. It is not that I walk to a higher moral standard than any other hunter but as with all hunters it is often when we are alone that we find ourselves being asked to honor the ethics of hunting—when no one will ever see us do it.
Interesting, isn’t it. Glg
PS Any of you who are interested can read a feature about Cookie (my dog) and her first retrieve of a Giant Canada Goose. The story is in the December, 2008 issue of Family Fish & Game magazine. www.familyfishandgame.com
6 months ago