It had been a great deer season so far. I had already taken a nice buck out of some family land in northern Arkansas, and I wanted to focus on a little doe management in the same area. So on the afternoon of Dec. 27, I pulled up and parked my truck on the side of the road next to the family plot, which is about five acre.
Several years ago, some folks subdivided the area and recut the dirt road to create access to all the other properties. When they did that, they cut off our access to the five acres up on top of the ridge. You used to be able to drive straight in, and there was a nice big line of mature trees on the edge of the ridge. But when they bladed the road in and graded it, they created this really steep, 16-foot-tall embankment. Because I can’t drive my truck into the property where I used to, I have to park off the side of the road as far as I can get and hug the embankment so that people can still get in and out.
I got up on top of the embankment and climbed into a tree stand. It was a really windy day up on that ridge, and I wasn’t sure if the deer would come up to feed or not. But you always have a chance at that property, either early in the morning or right before dark. Around 4:30 p.m., I saw some deer about 95 yards down a hill, though all I could see was their ears. They were staying in the bottom out of the wind. I didn’t think they’d come toward me, but about the time I thought that, they started making their way toward my tree stand. They disappeared into the pine trees, and I stood up in the stand to get a better look. I had a really nice rest on a tree branch and was ready. Within about five minutes, the lead doe stepped out of those pines at about 37 yards. I’m rifle hunting, but this deer is close to bow range. I’d killed a lot of deer with this gun — my grandpa’s Ruger bolt-action .30-06 — and I had a lot of confidence in the gun and ammunition. It was a chip shot.
I took a slightly quartering-to shot, and I thought she’d drop like all the deer I shoot with this rifle. But she didn’t. She ran. There was a big downed tree right behind her, which she circled around before running back toward my truck. Great, I thought. She would stay up on the ridge, it would be a short drag, and I was excited.
Except I couldn’t find any trace of blood or any other sign that the deer was ever there. I pride myself on being a good tracker and finding blood. But here I was, coming up empty. After calling my dad, I searched for a half an hour all over the ridgetop looking for her. I knew I hit that deer. But we had a Christmas party to go to, and I was so frustrated that I decided I should back out anyway. So I walked back over to the edge of the embankment to climb back down to my truck. Well, lying there on the ground, right in front of my truck, was the doe.
So I called my wife all excited, told her I’d found my deer, and that I’d meet her at the party. But then I looked a little closer before I went down the embankment, and I noticed something else. The entire driver’s side of the windshield was completely smashed in. The deer had done a can-opener off the top of the 16-foot embankment and landed smack-dab on top of my windshield, destroying it. Her head hit the top of the cab, and that was the only blood I found the entire time I trailed her.
I called my wife back and told her I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get out of there. Luckily my friend just wrapped up school to become an insurance agent, so I called him up and asked if I should file a claim. (Unfortunately the damage wasn’t going to meet my deductible, even though he estimated the fix would cost $600 to $800.) But the more immediate issue was how I would get back to my parents’ house a half-hour away to process the doe, while still having time to make the Christmas party — never mind the fact that I had to teach a deer aging class in Missouri in a couple days.
Let’s just say I learned how to drive from my passenger seat that night, reaching over to steer and press the pedals with my left foot. I made it to my parents’ house, took care of the deer, then drove my dad’s truck to the Christmas party. The next day, after my friend the insurance agent found me a new windshield for $250, I drove through sleet and rain for 45 minutes and stopped three times to wipe the busted glass with a towel. (Shoutout to Harrison Glass: They installed my new windshield on the same day and sold me the windshield at a major discount.) I made it to the deer aging class on time in my own truck, and I rounded out my freezer with the 132-pound, 5.5-year-old doe — the only deer to ever lack an exit wound from Grandpa’s .30-06. The bullet broke her shoulder, went straight through her vitals, and holed up against her hide on the other side.
I didn’t even get pulled over by the cop who watched me drive through town from my passenger seat. I thought for sure I was busted, but then I realized … mailmen do it all the time.