Ever go deer hunting? You get to spend a lot of time in thought.
While Thanksgiving means travel, family and turkey for most folks, for me, it’s getting to spend some time in the woods with my family—something I don’t take lightly.
The thing about deer hunting, you get to spend a lot of time in thought waiting for that perfect buck to poke his head out.
There’s an inherent responsibility that comes with hunting, too.
The ability to take a life and allow others to live, it’s definitely something that’s not for everyone.
That being said, it’s something I thoroughly enjoy.
Every year, with the exception of 2020, I go to West Virginia and take part in one of the biggest outdoors events in the state that happens every year.
No joke, opening day of buck season is almost like Christmas morning.
This season, I got to spend the week hunting with my dad, my sister, uncle, step-uncle and grandpa.
For years, a week of hunting has been a completely family affair.
While most of the day is spent alone in your stand, there’s still a large family aspect to it that means the absolute world to me.
About six years ago, I had one of the best days I’ve ever had in the woods.
I had hunted all week, not seen much, other than a small four-point early in the week, and I let him go.
The thing about hunting in West Virginia, it’s usually cold. Very cold.
After sitting on my point on top of our abandoned coal strip we hunt, I almost didn’t get up and go on the last day.
But at last minute, I decided to spend one last day in the woods.
It was almost eerie heading to my stand, as I didn’t hear anything. No birds, no turkeys in the distance, no coyotes howling, nothing.
And I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen.
About 30 minutes after daybreak, up to my stand walked a 10-point buck, and I finally had my trophy deer.
As I said, it has been about six years since I’ve seen a “big” deer.
One of the other things about deer hunting is the camaraderie and hearing stories from years ago from my dad, uncle and grandpa.
The 2015 10-point was basically my only claim to a good deer story, until this year.
After making the nearly 10-hour trek to West Virginia, my first day began like most others—a big cup of coffee to keep warm and a big breakfast to get me through the day.
Our first day was brutally cold and where my stand sits, which is on a ridge on a very exposed point, there’s not a ton of cover. It can get chilly in a hurry.
But that first day, I just couldn’t describe it—I just knew something special was going to happen.
I began the day being dropped off a short walk from my stand and I didn’t have to wait long for the action to start.
Shortly after watching a gorgeous West Virginia sunrise, I heard something rustling in the brush behind me.
Quickly adjusting my movement from my stand, I turned to see a buck had snuck in behind me.
At a quick glance, he looked to be a little smaller than some of the big ones we had spotted on our trail cams.
So I sat back, watched him in my binoculars, and watched him disappear over the ridge.
About an hour later, in the hollow down below my stand, I heard something moving fast.
I grabbed my rifle and laid it across my lap and up to the flat in front of my stand popped a big deer.
I didn’t have time to count the points, as he was quickly on the move.
On his second jump, I pulled up my rifle and fired all in one fell-swoop.
I had thought I put a decent shot on him, but with him being on the move so fast, I wasn’t 100 % sure I had a kill shot.
After I fired, the deer disappeared over the hillside and vanished from sight.
I quickly hurried over to the spot he vanished over the hillside with and found a pile of fur, indicating I did at least get a shot on him.
After getting on the radio, my dad and uncle hurried over to my area on their four-wheelers to help me track the deer.
Aside from the pile of fur we found, there wasn’t a ton of sign he had been hit—notably, no blood.
But we found a trail and tracked him down about 100 yards to the bottom of the hollow to an old logging road.
My uncle, Gary, quickly shouted “I’ve got blood!” having picked up a big indicator of a kill.
I replied back, “I’VE GOT DEER!!” as we found my eight point buck about 150 yards from where I fired.
I let out a cheer of such excitement, I probably was heard a mile away.
Eventually, my dad, who recently had surgery, also made his way down and I got high-fives all around.
It’s a feeling I can’t ever really replace.
But after the initial excitement wore off, the real work began.
After cleaning out the deer, we had to figure out how to drag him to the top of the ravine, because it became evident quickly, this guy was going to get mounted to hang on the wall next to my 2015 10-point.
Initially, Gary had tried to navigate his four-wheeler down to the deer, but it quickly became evident the grade of the hill was far too steep.
It took several minutes, but we were able to safely get his ATV back to the flat on top.
But with my dad recovering from surgery, it became Gary and I who were dragging the 150-plus pounds of dead weight about 100 yards straight up a hill—a process which took over an hour.
I was sucking wind and ashamedly admit my uncle is apparently in far, far better shape than I.
But after about an hour of dragging, we finally got the deer back to the top and were able to get him to the trucks.
What was great about that, we pulled several deer off the hill that week.
Gary took a smaller eight-point on opening day, my dad took a seven-point that I passed on, my sister shot at a different trophy buck, but unfortunately didn’t hit one, and my grandpa is finishing his hunt this week.
Like I said, deer hunting is something that has rich tradition in my family and one of my favorite things about gathering is hearing stories of years’ past from dad, Gary and my grandpa.
I guess I’m just thankful I have a heck of a story to tell now, too.
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.