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Start Small: Sometimes, Big Bucks Aren't Always Best

Deer-hunting perspective by Jeff Johnston.

Start Small: Sometimes, Big Bucks Aren't Always Best

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Shane's uncle and his family from St. Louis were visiting, and 10-year-old cousin Marcus was keen on going hunting. Though he didn't hunt, Marcus' father knew Shane had an impeccable safety record. He also knew that at 18, Shane had already taken several great bucks. His uncle could think of no one better than Shane to take young Marcus afield, and Shane was glad to do it.

"So what do you want to hunt, buddy?" asked Shane as soon as the luggage was unloaded.

"Umm, I don't know. Anything really," said Marcus. "What's the most fun?"

"Well, I really like hunting deer—big bucks," Shane replied.

"Why?" asked Marcus.

"It's challenging. A mature buck is a wise animal with a nose like radar," explained Shane. "If you can kill an old buck in this thick country, cuz, you've done something really special."

"I watch hunting shows on TV and they always hunt deer, so yeah, that's what I want to do," said Marcus anxiously.

Being careful not to disappoint Marcus, Shane explained to his cousin that since he didn't have a license and had not practiced with a high-powered rifle yet, he couldn't actually shoot a deer.

"But you can go with me and watch," Shane quickly added. "It's lots of fun just being out there."

"Yes!" said Marcus, his excitement growing. "I'd love that! And if we get one will you show me how to gut it and stuff?"

"I sure will," said Shane.

The next morning the boys got up at 5:30, and Shane drove them to the deer woods. Dawn was frigid, with a north wind that cut like thin wire. Shane could feel Marcus shivering as the two sat in a brush blind on the edge of a meadow. But Marcus temporarily forgot about his aching toes when two deer entered the meadow.


"Shane!" blurted Marcus. "There's two!"

"Shhh," Shane softly breathed. Slowly he leaned in so his lips almost touched Marcus' ear. "If you move or talk, they'll run off."

Marcus nodded and then whispered, "If you shoot one, it can't run off!"

"True," said Shane, "but they're does ... and I'm looking for a buck."

Not much time had passed when Marcus' eyes again lit up as a forkhorn appeared in the field.

"Shane! A buck!" Marcus hissed. "Shoot!" he almost screamed. But Shane didn't shoot.

"It's a buck!" Marcus gasped. "Why aren't you shooting?"

"It's a small one," said Shane. "He needs to get bigger." Marcus' shoulders slumped as if a balloon inside him had burst.

An hour later, Shane heard teeth chattering beside him and was about to call it a morning when an 8-point buck strode into the meadow. Its rack gleamed in the sun as mist curled from its nostrils. Marcus was sure his patience had finally paid off, and at any moment he'd hear the roar of the rifle. But to his bewilderment, Shane did not even raise his gun.

"Shane!" said Marcus. "Don't you see that it's a great big buck? Shoot him!"

"He does have a nice rack," Shane whispered, "but I only get one buck tag and I know there's a bigger one around."

Confused, cold and defeated, Marcus sighed audibly as the buck exited the field. At that point Shane knew it was time to go.

On the way home, Shane turned to Marcus, whose toes were just starting to thaw under the truck's heater.

"Well, we sure saw a lot of deer! What do you think?"

"I think deer hunting kinda sucks," said Marcus. "I thought the point was to shoot 'em, not watch 'em."

Shane chuckled at his young cousin's honesty.

"Good point," he replied. "When I was your age I just wanted to kill a deer—any deer. Actually, I liked squirrel and rabbit hunting much better. You can walk around, see stuff, talk, shoot a bunch of critters and then eat them for supper. How about we go squirrel hunting tomorrow?"

"That sounds good," said Marcus, now perking up. "But can I ask you one thing?"

"Anything," said Shane.

"Tomorrow, if we see a squirrel ... will you shoot it?"

"I sure will buddy!" said Shane with a laugh. "I sure will."

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