Muzzleloader
Home Up The Black Hole Literary Review Wm. E. Allendorf, Prop.

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Mooseboy was not feeling well Saturday morning, so I sent him back to bed, before heading out to my stand.  He mentioned a stomach ache.  By 0830, he had recovered his health and joined me.  In the meantime, I was treated to great show.  A doe we had been encountering regularly came out at the bare minimum of legal shooting.  She visited the salt lick, and was so close that I could not move to grab my muzzleloader.  Somewhere in this, I shifted slightly behind the blind and made the slightest cotton-on-cotton noise. This blew her mind.  She rocketed away from the lick about twenty yards and engaged me in a twenty-minute  round of  snorting, stamping, slinking, sneaking and what-not. What finally seemed to settle her nerves was barking like a squirrel. That at least got her off the worst of her protests.

I just sat like a stone while she sorted out her differences with the blob of orange in the tree. She eventually made the mistake of putting a cedar tree between us, and I reached up and pulled the smokepole off the peg. When she came out again the sights were already leveled on her.  The Thompson Center Hawken has a double trigger. I pulled the hammer back to half-cock, waited for the perfect moment, squeezed the set trigger, moved my finger forward and . . .

"Click."   I had already decided that I really did not want to take her. Touching the hair trigger had just been my way of counting coup on my opponent. She never knew.  Shortly after this, I got a call from Mooseboy.  He was dressing and would be out shortly.  I'm not sure what she made of the radio conversation.  However, she was still hanging around when I dropped the walkie-talkie a few minutes later to the ground and went down to retrieve it.  I guess she was counting coup too.

Mooseboy called from a pre-arranged spot, and entered from a known direction while I kept the percussion cap in my pocket.  Without any discussion, he crossed the last fence and came up the ladder and joined me.  It was then that I noticed that the Hunters View Buddy Stand had gotten smaller over the summer, and Moose was getting more and more Moose-like.  We sat until 1100 and enjoyed a perfect October morning.

At 1600, we went out to "The Dump."  It is another buddy stand, situated with its back turned to a pile of building refuse left by the previous owner.  As long as you don't look behind you, the little oak grove is one of the prettiest venues on the farm.  Again, the bench seemed quite a bit smaller, and I found it hard to conceive how I had been able to shoot a buck from such a stand while kneeling on the platform just a few years ago.  That platform was now filled with Moose. The bench had Moose on it, and I sat with my back pressed against the rail and waited. 

Mooseboy has three bad habits, common to young hunters.  The first is that he fidgets.  The second is that he is prone to napping.  The sleeping is not a problem so much as the snoring.  When he fidgets now, the whole stand vibrates.  When he snores, the very fabric of the Universe seems to be rending.  Lastly, he despairs.  He is still young and has seen far too few sunsets to know that hope is not gone until you cannot see your sights, that deer are really out there, and that tags do get filled.  By the time the sun began to dip, the cramped quarters of the stand were beginning to wear on both of us.  Mooseboy began to complain, and squirm.  I had to admit, this was all becoming a situation.  At sunset, I was glad that we would be heading out soon. Mooseboy was becoming impatient.

"Just hold out." I whispered. "It's warm. If the deer move before dark, it'll be in the last few minutes of light."

The sun crept up the trees, turning the orange and golds of the taller ones into bonfires against the deepening blue of the sky.  The wind that had been driving our scent out over the hollow to our left gave one last gasp and was gone.  There was stone silence before the forest recovered and the insects began their chorus. Squirrels quarreled, and distant explosions of black powder shots began to boom out across the ridges.

I was looking right at the spot directly to our front, but the deer still seemed to appear out of nothing, grazing on acorns.  All my aching joints were suddenly healed.

"Deer."  I hissed.  I could see Moose's eyes scan and fix.

"Keep it frosty, man."   

He nodded. I brought up the Hawken, and pointed it at the next opening as the deer passed behind a cedar.     Moose had already put his fingers in his ears.

"Do you want her?"  I asked. Eyes widened to fill the lenses of Moose's shooting glasses.  I passed the rifle down the rail

"Wait." I said.  "I'll call set, when she's just right.  From then, it's up to you."  There was a nod.

The deer came out. Her head popped up when the lock came back. In a moment, it was down again, and the tail was flicking.

"Set."   I put my fingers to my ears.

Mooseboy had quite a wait as the smoke cleared.  I had never noticed how confined the cloud really is.  When you are the shooter, a .54 caplock seems to fill the entire county with smoke.  Sitting next to it, I was able to finally enjoy a good muzzleloader shot.  There was a click and a "Fooooom!" and a bit of flame and a lot of smoke.  The ball caught her perfectly and rolled her over.  She kicked a bit and fell silent.  Mooseboy sat dumbfounded for a bit, having lost his quarry in the blast and the deepening gloom. 

"Did I?"  He asked. "Did I?"

"You did." I said.  "She's down."

"Dad," he said. "If I ever doubt you again. . ." 

Funny, I didn't know he was doubting me.  Oh well.  Moose asked me four years ago on our first deer hunt together why I wanted to take him with me.  I had answered that it is actually more fun to see someone else take a deer than to take one yourself, and I was working for the day that I could sit back and watch for a change.  I am not sure he really believed me; I was not absolutely sure of the truth myself.  Still, one must sometimes act as though one has Faith in order to gain Faith.  I had trusted it to be so, and now, four seasons later in a cramped buddy stand my hope had been borne out. 

Mooseboy climbed down and tried to get to the deer quickly.  In the gloom, came a thunderous snort, probably from the mother doe.  I had been tracking this pair since August, and the doe and I had unsettled business from the previous season.  I told Moose to sit at the base of the ladder until the other deer had moved on.  I called for a pickup on the radio and then started to pass the gear down.  It was not until we went to carry the deer out that we discovered he was a button buck. He was the perfect size for one young man to drag out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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