Standing at the kitchen sink Sunday afternoon, watching the sun sink toward the horizon, I told my wife, “Well, there goes the season.” Actually, the window over the sink in our kitchen faces east, but I was feeling symbolic, and I do that better at a sink, for some reason.
The 2013-14 Texas deer season was the best I’ve ever had, full of firsts and lasts, and was the most enjoyable of my life, to date. The end of every deer season is always a sad, reflective time for me, but it’s a lot easier than it was when I was a kid. Now I realize eight months is not all that long to wait for the next one. When you’re 13, eight months is a far greater percentage of your lifespan, and seems like an eternity. Anything can happen to a 13-year-old boy in eight months. He might die, or grow up, which are pretty much the same thing, to a 13-year-old boy.
Luck had a lot to do with how well my deer season went this year. I can’t claim superior skill for arrowing a buck and a doe the first day of the bow season, since I tried pretty hard for the rest of the year and didn’t manage to harpoon anything else. Still, since I lucked into the biggest buck I’ve ever shot, with any weapon, I have nothing to complain about.
One deer, who I named Harvey Wallhanger, began showing up on my Cuddeback game cameras early in October, and he was a beauty. I tried hard to harvest him, but although I was within ten yards of him for over ten minutes on two different occasions, he was too attentive for me. A trophy deer that’s also deaf and blind is probably too much to ask, and Harvey was certainly neither. It didn’t help that my archery skills require my prey to be very, very close. I might do as well with a spear as with a bow.
My nephew hoped to shoot Harvey with a rifle during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and was unsuccessful both times. We finally figured out that he came to the feeder faithfully, as long as no one was there, hunting. I tried using a different bow stand, but he still didn’t appear.
My wife, Jocelynn, suggested Harvey might be watching to see if anyone came to the feeder and didn’t leave. Jocelynn is a pretty sharp operator, and notices a lot of stuff I miss. So I devised a plan to foil Harvey’s security protocol, as long as he couldn’t count.
One afternoon, when it was time to head to the stand for an evening hunt, I talked two of my sons, Paden and Leret, into going with me. We all traipsed up the hill to the feeder, I climbed into my stand, and they walked back to the house. The trap was set.
It worked. Harvey showed up with the other deer at the feeder that evening. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re Harvey) it was too dark for me to see well enough to shoot by the time he got there. The plan worked, but not perfectly. So I made a new plan. I figured I could do the same thing in the morning, and even if Harvey waited a while to come in, it would be lighter instead of darker, on account of that’s the way the sun works.
I knew my chances of getting the boys up early to go to the stand with me were on a par with my chances of winning the Baja 1000 on a tricycle, so I talked my wife into crawling out of a warm bed at 5:30 one December morning, when the mercury rattled inadequately in the bowl of the thermometer. It was far below freezing, but she gamely followed me to my stand in the frigid wind, an act I’m sure she considered far above and beyond the call of matrimony.
Didn’t work that time. Harvey never showed, even with a decoy to fake him out. I know it’s not exactly empirical proof, but I think I can honestly submit here that I have at least broached the possibility that some deer can count to two, but not to three. It’s a start.
After that I quit hunting Harvey, altogether. It was a fine contest, and I enjoyed the competition, but I lost fair and square, even though I tried to cheat. I figured that if Harvey was smart enough to elude me, and my gun-toting nephew, for two and a half months, he deserved to be left alone.
Harvey is still out there, a pretty heavy Hill Country eight-pointer with an inside spread of about 18 inches. I know, some will say that’s not exactly a trophy. Baloney. If I’d’ve managed to shoot Harvey with my 35-year-old Bear recurve bow, he would’ve been the trophy of my life, as far as hunting goes. Any deer that can count is a winner, in my book.
I finally managed two more firsts, before the season was over. I shot my first deer with a 1911 .45 ACP pistol, and my first deer with a suppressed AR-15. They were both does, but then, does taste the same as bucks. Delicious.
The season is over, but I can honestly say it was a great success. I imagine Harvey would agree . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who plans to thaw out sometime this June. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org