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Taking a Stand: Old and New Ways Can Both Be Right

Perspective from the opening day of deer season.

Taking a Stand: Old and New Ways Can Both Be Right

Illustration by David Houston

As Shane readied his rifle and gear for the opening day of deer season, his father entered his room.

"Alarm's set for 4:30."

"Oh, I'll be up Dad," said Shane.

"Where do you want to sit in the morning? Ole Faithful's always good with a north wind."

"Ah, Dad, I was thinking about doing some still-hunting. Maybe I'll slip along Harper's Ridge."

"Hmmm," sighed his father. "Hunt as you want, but with the dry leaves I think you'll do better from Ole Faithful. I've been hunting that stand for 30 years, and almost every time I sit there in the rut I see bucks. That is why we call it Ole Faithful, ya know."

"I'll sleep on it," said Shane, fully realizing he probably wouldn't sleep at all. "But sometimes I don't like doing things just because that's the way they've always been done."

"'Night son," said his father as he chuckled and shut Shane's door behind him.

The next morning was ideal for deer hunting: 25 degrees, clear and frosty. As the pair pulled into the 300-acre property, Shane's father asked about his son's plans.

"I'm gonna still-hunt into the wind," answered the younger hunter. "And I'll meet you back here at 10:30 with my big buck!"

"OK, buddy. Just don't go too fast or you'll blow everything out of here."

The two hunters parted ways in the blackness before dawn. Shane walked several hundred yards down into a woody creek bottom then up to the base of Harper's Ridge. He followed a natural trail that went past a giant oak tree. Taking a seat with his back against the oak, he waited for daylight so he could see to move and hunt.


As black turned to gray, Shane heard the crunchy steps of a deer growing louder. Soon he saw a doe and then another, heading directly toward him. Twenty yards out, the deer turned toward the creek. A few minutes later a forkhorn walked the exact path as the does. Confident and with the morning still young, Shane held his fire.

At sunup Shane saw he was sitting on a well-worn deer trail. He could also see the intersection where two trails converged: one going up and down the slope to the creek, and the other running along the ridge. He realized the giant oak under which he sat was a perfect place for a treestand. Fresh acorns and tracks all around the tree made it even better.

Shane peered up into the tree and noticed an old board, almost completely rotten, barely hanging by a couple rusty nails. No doubt it was placed there by a keen hunter who'd found this place long before Shane.

He started to wonder how many deer had been taken from the stand and considered climbing up to the tree's huge first limb, but his thoughts were interrupted by grunting. A buck. A big buck! As quietly as his shaking hands would allow, Shane eased the Remington's safety forward. Just then the buck stopped, and Shane fired.

At 10:30 Shane's father approached the truck to see his smiling son sitting on the tailgate, legs swinging.

"Thought you said you'd be back here with your big buck."

"I was wrong, Dad. It's too big for me to drag by myself, so I had to wait on you for help!"

"Really son?" exclaimed Shane's father. "I heard a shot but didn't know if it was you or the neighbors. Congratulations!"

He whacked Shane on the back. "So where'd you end up going?"

Shane told his father the entire story.

"Oh," said Shane's father, teasing him now. "So you do believe in old-timers; just not this old-timer, eh? You know if you'd have still-hunted in these dry leaves, you probably wouldn't have killed him."

"Well," countered Shane, "if I wouldn't have still-hunted to begin with, I wouldn't have found that stand, and I wouldn't have killed him."

The two sat in silence for a moment.

"I suppose sometimes we can both be right," Shane's father said finally. "Now let's go get your buck and have another look at that stand!"

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