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The sound of a rifle going off at close range can elicit a few different reactions; a few decades ago, walking over to our neighbour’s cottage Dad and I heard the whizz of a bullet pass by us, the sound of the shot coming after. We ducked as a second shot bounced off the aluminum television antenna. Our best guess was some kid firing off a .22 at the farm a few hundred yards behind us. Without the whistle of a bullet blasting by your head the bark of a rifle going off, while startling probably isn’t going to get you diving to the ground and in the case of trying to push a deer out to a good buddy, the sound of a shot is just plain exciting.

Ryan cradling his first set of antlers.

The hunt was less than an hour old when I heard the reverberations of a shot close by. We had changed our original morning plans when we realized we were the only trucks in the parking lot. The blacktail rut was on and we were heading into a distant rub line, standing at a fork, discussing our game plan I saw the white rump of a doe standing in the dark trees, quickly a fawn ran to her side and then the buck jumped across the trail. The fall before, one year, 14 hours to the day Ryan had dropped everything to come help me drag out a buck from a spot about 200 yards away in the pouring rain, wanting to repay the favour I never second guessed that I would be the one heading in to push the deer out.

Ryan Thorley, the proud hunter and his first blacktail buck.

The deer drive is an old eastern whitetail tactic and when things go right an exciting way to hunt. As Ryan made his way around the island of trees I slowly walked into the brush, relying on the wind to advertise my presence and push the deer gently to the north. Zig zagging back and forth, doing my best to cut off a retreat it wasn’t fifteen minutes after I had entered the trees and the sound of success echoed through the valley. The easiest route was back out and around a little pond, as I walked up Ryan was all smiles, immediately recounting what had happened before the shot. As excited as he was, I was just as fired up to have been there when he killed not only his first deer, but a hell of a nice buck. Sharing in the experience of his first deer was the highlight of my season, a season that had already had its share of highs.

See you on the water or the mountains.

-Matthew Mallory


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