On Becoming a Redneck: My First Experience Deer Hunting

Ten years ago, my wife and I bought a three-acre lot in the country.  It’s a beautiful piece of land with woods surrounding us on three sides. One of the great things about living in the country is the opportunity to see lots of wildlife. We have watched a family of foxes raise their cubs, watched bald eagles soar overhead, seen rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks scamper around, and seen many other wildlife including large snakes.  One of the coolest things we have seen are numerous deer that wander through our yard. It’s not uncommon to see five or six deer standing in the field across the road or to see a few in our front yard.

It never occurred to me that I could hunt on my own land even though my wife’s brother, Matt,  shot two deer in our front yard one year. I didn’t have much interest in hunting. But that started to change when a six-point buck came wandering through our yard a year ago.

It was the strangest thing. The buck paced in circles around the yard for a long time. The kids excitedly watched from the window as he came within a few feet of our front door. After about an hour, I called my brother-in-law Jim who is an avid hunter. I told him he could come and shoot it if he wanted.

This buck showed up in our front yard. December 2013.

This buck showed up in our front yard and ended up in our freezer. December 2013.

It was the alternative methods portion of the season so he came over with a 9mm pistol.  The deer seemed unaware of his presence as he shot him from about 30 yards.  Jim tagged it, hung it from a tree, and dressed it. As he did the kids looked on with morbid curiosity. I didn’t have any intention to keep the meat; I was going to let Jim have it.  But he insisted that we could keep it.

So after seeing the third deer being harvested from my land and after tasting how good venison could be, I figured it was time to give deer hunting a try.

Every chance I got, I asked Jim about how to hunt. He patiently explained things he had learned over more than twenty years of hunting. I soaked it up, and my anticipation grew with every bit of information I gained. And every time I would see a deer or two in the yard I couldn’t wait for the hunt.

I didn’t have a tree stand so Jim suggested setting up a blind. I scouted the area and found a spot under a cedar tree. Ultimately, I decided against that, and figured I could sit on the balcony where I would have an elevated view of my entire yard. Jim said he was almost embarrassed that he hadn’t thought of the balcony. I knew where the deer would be, and the shots would be easy. I was ready! Or so I thought.

Opening day finally arrived. I set up my camp chairs and wrapped myself in a sleeping bag to keep warm. As the sun slowly rose, I saw nature awaken. First the birds began chirping and flying about. The cardinals seemed particularly bright against the brown grass and trees. Then came the squirrels and rabbits. A fox came trotting by. Finally, two does quietly walked through the back yard about 75 yards away.

But it was still a little dim and I couldn’t see the front sight post on the rifle very well against the dark tall weeds. I watched the deer intently, but for some reason I thought our dog was out there too. I didn’t shoot. After the deer walked away, their white tails clearly visible now, I was a little disappointed. But I knew I would see more. I just had a feeling. We stayed out for several more hours but didn’t see a thing. Deer-1, Me-0.

As evening approached my son and I went back out. Sitting in silence waiting and watching. It was serene. We both dozed off a little. Suddenly I stirred out of my nap by the sound of trotting hooves. A good sized 8-point buck was walking right in front of me just 6 yards away! I whispered to my son as the deer look straight at me. I slowly raised the rifle as it continued to trot across the yard. It finally stopped near some trees and I took aim. He was now about 30 yards away. I press the trigger. Click. Nothing happened. Panic. At that point the buck had wandered behind the trees. I lost the shot. Deer-2, Me-0.

The next Saturday I met Jim and Matt for an afternoon hunt on Jim’s 80 acres. It had rained all day and neither of them had good rain gear so they opted for the covered blind. I climbed up into a stand and braved the drizzle and drops of cold water. Eventually, it cleared off and got colder. I shivered in the stand, but I had a feeling I would see something. After about two hours I heard steps of deer crunching the fallen leaves. Looking to my right I see two deer then a third. I calmly take the safety off and aim at the last doe. It was about twenty yards away and perfectly broadside to me. Boom! Through the cloud of smoke I see the deer jump straight up and run off.  Wow, my first shot at a deer! My heart kept pounding, and I understood why people do it. It was exhilarating.

Matt and Jim came up from their positions, and we started looking for blood. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any, and a search of the area yielded nothing. They both said I must have missed it. That seemed unlikely to me, but it was possible I jerked the trigger, breathed wrong, or messed the shot up somehow. It all happened so fast. Deer-3, Me-0.

For the rest of the firearms season I would go out when I got the chance, but I never had another shot. I borrowed a muzzle loader from Jim for the alternative methods hunt. Everyone was sold out primers, and Jim only had three left. So I didn’t get to practice shooting the .45 caliber muzzle-loader. This left me a little nervous, but I was excited for another chance to hunt.

On Christmas morning, before the kids were awake, I stepped onto the balcony for one last try. It was a clear morning, and I had a good feeling. Sure enough, a doe came walking across the back yard where I had seen the two on opening day. I lined up the crosshairs and took the shot.

Shooting the muzzleloader was much different than an SKS. It kicked harder than I expected, and the scope hit me square in the nose. I looked up to see the deer still standing and the blood dripped from my nose. I ran inside to get it fixed. I put a towel on the bridge of my nose and ran to the window of our family room to see the deer walk into the woods as if nothing had happened. Deer 4, Me 0. I spent the rest of the day with a headache and ringing in my ears.

Marlin 336W

My brand new Marlin 336W 30-30.

Well, we would have one more chance. I bought my son a tag for the last youth portion. It would be his turn to try. But before that I wanted to make sure we had the equipment to do it right. I wanted to be sure that if he hit the deer it would be killed as humanely as possible. I sold the SKS and sold some scrap metal to get the money for something better. After a lot of research, I settled on a Marlin 336W. We took it to the firing ranged to sight it in the day before the hunt. It was fun and easy to shoot.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything and our hunting season came to an end. But I had a great time enjoying the wonders of nature with my son. I’m super excited for next season. I haven’t been able to think about much else. It’s addicting.


It’s been so long since I’ve posted.  The biggest news since I last posted is we have a new addition to the family!  Baby Nina was born on December 22, 2013.  She is now nearly six months old and already almost crawling!

I have plans to renovate this blog, but I have some important things to do first.

My first priority is to finish some online Army training. If you’re familiar with Army DL, you’ll know why I’m dreading it so badly. Ugh. (Wish me luck.)

Next, I have decided to become a personal trainer. After I finish my Army stuff, I will order my online materials to prepare for my personal trainer exam.

And we have our yearly road trip to take! This year it’s back to Idaho and Utah by way of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming!  While in Utah, I’m going to hike Kings Peak, the state’s high point.  It should be a blast!

After I do these things, I may return to this blog.  So, stay tuned.

Friday Free For All: My Predictions for the George Zimmerman Trial

Closing arguments in the George Zimmerman murder trial are underway.  It’s possible that the jury could begin deliberating later today.  As you probably know, Zimmerman is on trial for the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin.  Here are my predictions and commentary for the outcome of this case.

  • George Zimmerman will NOT be convicted of 2nd degree murder. As I’ve followed the trial in the media, it is clear to me that the prosecution has failed to show this beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • He WILL be convicted of manslaughter.
  • Riots will occur because of the perceived injustice of the verdict. Ironically, as violence ensues to protest the violence against a black teenager, most of the victims will be other black citizens.
  • Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and other black leaders will appear with Martin’s parents to denounce the verdict and organize marches in protest.
  • Many of the jury members will receive death threats if they don’t convict him.
  • President Obama will address the nation in an effort to calm the violence and outrage. I doubt he will invite Zimmerman and Martin’s dad over for a beer.
  • Saturday Night Live will air a skit using a foam dummy.
  • If Zimmerman is acquitted, he will go into hiding in fear for his life.  Perhaps Casey Anthony will reach out to him and offer him advice on living in hiding.
  • After the storm of discontent calms, nothing still will get done to improve race relations in this country.
  • And finally, complete strangers will label ME racist in the comments section.

I encourage thoughtful and respectful comments and discussion about anything I write.

Friday Free For All: What is Your Gift To America?

Last night I had the honor to be the Patriotic Speaker at my town’s Independence Day festivities.  Here is the text of the speech I gave.

What is Your Gift to America?

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s an honor and privilege to speak to you tonight.  I wondered what I might say to you tonight that you haven’t already heard before.  Nevertheless, as the Army Engineer motto goes “Essayons” which means “Let us try.” Or in this case tonight, I will try.

Tonight I want to talk to you about birth, life, death, and about the gifts we give to each other.

But first let me ask you a question. What are we doing here tonight? Are we here just to enjoy some good music, some good food, and some fireworks?  Is that all we’re here for?  No, we are here to celebrate the birth of our great country The United States of America! So let’s talk about birthdays. Birthdays are a celebration of a new life and the great promise that life holds. When a child is born great hope comes along with it. It’s a hope that anything is possible. It’s a hope that the child will take what his father left and make it better.  It’s a hope that the child will grow up to do great things.  As each year passes we celebrate the growth and achievements of that person.

And so it must have been with our founding fathers. What great hope they must have had in their new republic?! They risked much to create a country the likes of which had never existed before on the face of the Earth. It is a country that is more than just ornate buildings in Washington.  It’s a place where all are created equal and all deserve respect. A place where we could be free from religious persecution, where the press is free from government censure, a place where we could assemble freely or petition the government for redress of grievances.  It was a country founded on principles like liberty, justice, and equality. Those founding principles transcend the centuries and are still alive today.  Each year, as we are doing today, we celebrate the promise of this great country. And we celebrate the divinely inspired ideals that formed its foundations.

It’s our custom to give gifts to the one whose birthday we celebrate.  Those gifts represent our love and appreciation or friendship. But sometimes it’s hard to think of a nice gift.  I mean what do you give to someone who has everything? Nevertheless we try to give the best gift we can. So let me ask you:  What is your gift to America?

Strangely enough, if not ironically, when we speak of birth and life we also speak of death.  All of our founding fathers risked their lives for this country.  They were committing treason after all, but they were willing to die if necessary so that this country could be born.  And many men and women have died since then defending it.

I’ll never forget how if felt when I received the news that a friend had been killed in action in Afghanistan. An empty pain in my heart.  He was killed by small arms fire—a most violent way to die—as the platoon he led was ambushed in the rugged terrain near the Pakistani border.  I was sad for his lovely wife now a widow at the young age of 23.  He and I were classmates at the Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood.  Because we had only been together for five months learning how to be engineer officers, I didn’t know him too well.  But he was my brother in arms. And his loss made the war real for me for the first time.

In the following days, I read newspaper articles about him, and I got to know him better. He was a passionate person who answered the call of duty. He wanted to give back to his country so he joined the Army. And he followed in the footsteps of two grandfathers who served in WWII.  It was a matter of honor and duty for him.  The gift that my friend 2LT Mike McGahan gave wasn’t that he died for his country. Rather his gift was that he lived for it. The way he lived his life honored the founding principles of our country. What is your gift to America?

One of my favorite lines of the patriotic hymn The Battle Hymn of the Republic says “As he died to make men holy let us live to make men free.”  Your gift can be the way you live your life. You can make men free by the way you treat them. You don’t have to join the military to show your devotion. But you can live in a way that honors the principles upon which our country was founded.  Live in a way that honors those who have given their lives for our sakes.

You have generous hearts, and you are ready to give aid to those in need. I saw that first hand when Joplin was struck by the tornado.  When any natural disaster strikes you are there to help your fellow man, and in doing so you emulate those principles this country was founded on.  But don’t wait for a disaster before you start serving one another. Do it today. That could be your gift to America.

You are particularly generous to those who wear the Uniform. I have experienced this myself.  Complete strangers have paid for my lunch. Someone upgraded my airline seat to first class when I was traveling home from Basic Training. And many people have shaken my hand and thanked me for my service.  It’s humbling to receive such praise and support. Believe me, we appreciate it more that you know.  Keep it up!  That could be your gift to America. But don’t stop there.

Look around at the people  in front of you, at your sides, and behind you.  Maybe you know them, maybe you don’t. Treat them with the same respect and service you give to us in uniform. They deserve it too because underneath this uniform, I’m just a regular guy. I’m no better a person because I wear the uniform than the guy or gal standing next to you wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Pay it forward and help the people in your life too. That can be your gift to America.  Our communities, our friendships, our nation will be stronger for your efforts. Don’t wait. Do it today.

So let’s enjoy the fireworks tonight as we celebrate the birthday of this great nation. It isn’t a perfect country, but it is the best country on the face of the Earth. It’s a country where I can critique the government with impunity, a country where I can worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience, a country where I can buy guns to defend myself if I want to, a country where I can vote for whomever I choose without coercion, a country where I can travel in my car without permission, a country where I can have more than one child without penalty. This is the greatest country on the face of this Earth without apology and without exception. Celebrate the promise of this great nation by living up to the great promise of your own life. Don’t wait. Do it today.

So let me end like I began–with a question. What is your gift to America?

Thank you, and God Bless America!

Letter to a Deploying Soldier

Very touching!

Marvelous Pigs in Satin

My friend Jon has a brother, and that brother is soon to be deployed for a long time.  Jon’s brother & army buddies like to read his blog, so he asked all of us to submit something for the guys to read.  I thought over it a long time, and today I figured out what I wanted to say.  The inspiration came as I was staring at the hood of our Ford 350 Van trying to decide if I was brave enough to change the air filter– which needs doing– and my husband is gone away for 2 1/2 weeks for his National Guard AT.

Dear Soldier Guys,

We love you and we’re proud of you.   We appreciate the sacrifice you make to serve our country and make people free across the world.  While you are gone, we have to learn to do the things that usually you…

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