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The "Firsts"

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

I had just crawled up into my tree stand for my first deer hunt in Missouri. I had recently moved to the state to start a career with the Department of Conservation, and I had never hunted deer from a tree stand.

As I settled into the stand, I opened up a granola bar. Granola bars had come a long way because they used to be nasty, hard and uninviting snacks. This one happened to be chocolate-covered, chewy and delicious. I pulled a paperback book from my coat. If I had to be perched up in a tree, I might as well catch up on my reading.

My eating and other preparations for the deer hunt were suddenly interrupted by a noise. I looked down. There was a deer directly below me. How could this be? I hadn’t been in the stand for 4 minutes.

The deer was too close for me to shoot, and I didn’t even have my gun ready. I panicked. My only thought was to remain perfectly quiet and motionless. The deer moved away from me, so I twisted in my stand and gradually raised my gun.

The movement pushed my gloves off the deer stand and they spiraled to the ground. I watched their descent as if in slow motion, thinking that if I concentrated hard enough I could stop their fall through mental telepathy like I had seen so many times in Star Wars movies. It didn’t work, and the gloves hit the ground with a noise like a bomb. Surprisingly, the deer didn’t flinch or notice.

As I continued to raise the gun, I realized that I had quit breathing, and the situation was critical. The granola bar was still stuck in my mouth. The chocolate was melting and dripping off my chin. I spread my lips around it as wide as I could and inhaled greedily. As I brought the gun to my cheek, the darn granola bar got in the way again. I had to lip it to the left.

The deer was walking directly away from me, and I was surprised by how thin a deer could look. There was not much of a target. Then I remembered someone telling me that grunting at a deer would make it stop and take notice. I croaked out a grunt as best I could with a granola bar stuck in my mouth. The deer stopped, turned sideways and looked

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