In my family when a son killed his first buck
he was given a shot of deer blood to honor the animal’s spirit.
I drank mine at sixteen.
Since then every Autumn I would gather
gun and ammo, camo and blaze orange,
knife, tag and flask of whiskey.
This year I am fifty two years old on my
thirty sixth hunt, and yesterday I sat in a blind
and got lost in the wind and the leaves,
the sound of the branches and shouts of blue jays.
Lost and elevated by that beauty…
Movement in the draw below me…
Slowly, nose first, wary eyed,
a buck emerged.
Modest six points, ears tattered
and nose scarred, deep bull chest
brown, black and grizzled grey.
An old warrior, sire to many a fine fawn, I’d bet.
Now, I’ve shot a buck or two in my time,
I am no twitchy fingered youth shooting at shadows.
He was in my sights, dead to right, mine.
I could pull the trigger.
I didn’t. Coughing softly,
I granted him his life.
He tensed, raised his tail, bounded away,
and I was glad to see him go.
Later, when I saw the old king gutted and tied to a trailer
I wept, broke down my gun, and will hunt no more.