ARTICLE: THREE FROM ONE STAND by David L. Falconer
It is hard to believe this happened twenty-something years ago, but I have always enjoyed taking new hunters out. My brother Jeff was 14 then and he had never killed a deer. I had never killed a big buck, though I had shot a few younger deer. I took my first deer when I was 19 years old. She was a doe that I shot 225 yards away with my grandpa watching telling me “to shoot the little one ‘cause it would eat better”. It was good eating and the .243 Winchester did the trick, even at that distance.
I had to wait for Jeff to play a basketball game the Friday night before season opened so we left late, getting to deer camp with my dad, uncle and cousin’s husband Doug already in bed.
Jeff and I got up the next morning and walked down the mountain away from the camp. We hunted the Ouachita National Forest around Walnut Mountain, crossing Pigeon Creek as we ventured deep into the forest range to our yearly hunting area. It is very close to the Arkansas border with Mena, Arkansas being the largest nearby town from where we camped.
Neither Jeff nor I saw anything we could shoot and back in those days you had to draw a doe tag. Neither of us had one so we were buck hunting, though I was in no hurry because my friend Todd was meeting us Sunday evening and we were going to spend the rest of the week hunting at my father-in-law’s land.
No one had seen anything of significance and since my Dad and Uncle Royce were big on breakfast they came back and cooked up a humdinger. We were low on cooking fuel and Doug wanted to pick up some things in town so Jeff and I rode with him. Well, we got to sight-seeing and driving the roads and it was late when we returned (Okay, we did stop for a triple decker burger at Anderson’s in Smithville).
When we arrived at camp, Royce was dressing a really nice 7 point buck. He said the deer started moving like crazy around 2 o’clock and he killed that one around 2:30. He said Dad was sitting in his stand now. Since it was getting dark, Jeff and I drove down to pick him up.
We stood beside the pick-up talking in low whispers when the woods roared once from the sound of Dad’s .30-30, the echo rumbling up and down the canyons like ocean breakers. We looked at each other and then climbed the mountain up to where Dad was sitting. He was standing over a beautiful 11 point mature buck that he had shot right between the eyes at 10 yards. He told us how a bunch of does had been eating acorns around him all evening and then this big guy came up the hill and joined the party. He said he shot him between the eyes because he had stayed behind some brush and never would turn broadside and it was almost too dark to shoot.
We helped him drag it out and field dress it. We hung the deer and walked into camp to find Doug and Uncle Royce finishing up the evening meal and getting ready to ladle it into plates. We were all eating excitedly when Jeff said if no one cared, he would like to hunt that stand in the morning. I told him two deer had already been killed out of it. He didn’t care. Uncle Royce and Dad did not mind if Jeff hunted it neither. I should say now that Jeff is my half-brother and belongs to my mom and step-dad. However, my dad had no problems with me bringing Jeff along with me.
The next morning before daylight I put Jeff in the stand and I headed down the hill to where my dad’s old stand used to be before it fell over. I found a good place and sat down, comfortable in my new heavy Winchester coat. I had been there about 30 minutes when a doe came running past me and hot behind her was a nice buck with his nose to the ground. I flipped the .243 to my shoulder and then lowered it knowing that the deer trail went straight to where Jeff was sitting.
Twenty minutes later I was cussing myself for not shooting at the buck. He had been a nice one and I should’ve….
The shot from Jeff’s stand sounded like it was in my lap. I sat there for a full minute when he fired 4 more times, each shot sounding evenly spaced. I fired a round from my pistol as though answering him and headed up the mountain. When I got to Jeff’s stand I did not see him. I walked around in front of it when I heard a faint “David” and I looked up in the tall stand. Jeff was still there.
I asked, “What the hell are you doing?”
“Dave I shot a big buck!” he said, his eyes still big.
Looking around and seeing nothing, I said, “Where is it?”
Jeff related to me that the buck had followed the doe up in front of him and finally presented him with a good shot. Jeff being a very good shot (he really is) decided to shoot the buck through the neck. He said he missed and it ran around him in a circle before it stopped and he shot it through the neck, knocking it off its feet. The buck thrashed, then jumped and ran off. Jeff shot three more times at it, though I never heard a lull in the shooting myself.
I could not find blood so I told him he missed. In Oklahoma, under great stress, younger brothers will sometimes cuss an older brother. This was one of those times. So to mollify him I struck out in the direction he last saw the deer, making big circles looking for blood. I found a place that looked like four animals had bled out, a thick trail leading from it.
I said, “Sorry Jeff, you hammered him.”
Jeff freaked about losing the deer and I told him with this blood trail he probably would not lose him. We tracked it back to the road. Looking down into the steep canyon below us, we saw Dad and Uncle Royce heading out. I told Jeff to stay up there and I would track the deer and tell them what happened. So down the canyon I went for about 300 feet. The deer had turned to the left and twice I found where it fell. I was moving slow, taking a step and looking around when in the distance I seen an ear flicker. Lifting the scope I could see the deer sitting on his haunches, looking around. I settled the crosshairs between his shoulder blades and popped him. He tumbled over and was finished kicking when I got there. Calling out, my dad and Jeff answered and I called for them to help.
The buck was 8 points in perfect symmetry and had a 14 ¾ inch inside spread. We took turns dragging it back up the hill, Jeff taking his turn every time it was his turn. He didn’t shirk any duties. When we got it to the truck and put the deer on the tailgate the big grin on the 14 year old face shone brighter than the sun.
He said, “I was afraid I lost him.”
Ruffling his hair, I said, “Nah, not with this much blood.”
We dressed the deer and packed him in ice as we broke camp to go home. Three nice bucks all out of the same stand in less than 24 hours. Jeff has that deer mount in his room now, the best deer he has taken to date, though he has killed a few bucks here and there. He was the first teenager I took hunting with me. Since then, I have been there when my daughter and my niece took their first deer. It is a trophy of a different sort and one that is probably more important than the trophies I have taken myself.
We don’t hunt that area in Oklahoma anymore and there is a new National Park walking trail right through the area where we harvested those bucks back then. Times change and that is why it is important to take your niece, nephew, little brother or little sister hunting with you. Let’s keep our sport alive.