Some of you may remember reading one of my stories around this time last year. I wrote about a hunt on opening day 2015 with my nephew, Prusher Bair. If you read the story, you will remember it was about Prusher being my lucky charm and how every time he went on a dog drive with me, I killed a deer.
So opening Saturday of the 2016 deer season, Prusher, my son Kenlee and I arrived at our dog club, greeted by a jovial crowd, most of whom had just read the story about us. Of course everyone recognized Prusher and enjoyed joking around with him about his good luck, even offering him cash to sit with them on the first drive.
Our club president called everyone to attention. He welcomed us and went over a few safety rules, and even he noticed Prusher, bringing him out in front of the crowd. Prior to the morning prayer and stands being drawn, the president made a little speech.
It was as follows: “Folks, if you are a trophy hunter, this may not be the hunt for you. I have had a heck of a time keeping deer out of my soybeans this year. I have shot does all summer with a permit, but today is a new day. If you see a deer that’s brown, has four legs, teeth, eats soybeans and has at least 2 inches of visible horns, I expect you to be shooting. But please be warned, if you screw up and shoot a doe, first of all you are going to pay me $100 for the embarrassment. Secondly, DNR will be called and you will be dealt with accordingly. Good luck!”
One of the highlights for Prusher is to always draw our stand number. While he is waiting in line for his turn to pull the magical poker chip out of the tin can, he always looks back at me six or seven times. He raises his eyebrows, smiles and gives me two little thumbs-up. It was now his turn to draw a chip, and he pulled out #13 and excitedly yelled, “Uncle Kenneth, I got #13!”
Silence followed as everyone looked his way. He could tell by the expression on my face that #13 sucks! So he asked, “Is #13 not a lucky one?”
I replied, “Buddy, the #13 is always an unlucky number, no matter what you are dealing with. And the last time somebody killed a deer on #13, I wasn’t even born yet.”
But Prusher is an optimist, so in typical Prusher fashion, he smiled and said, “Oh well, at least you will have plenty of time to tell me some of your military stories.” I didn’t want to ruin his day, so I put on a fake smile and said, “Yeah, I got a good one I’ve never told you.”
Three other guys were on the same stand line as us, so we all headed out to the areas we drew and I showed everybody where they needed to sit. Prusher and I were in a strip of 20-year-old pines that had been thinned once and the undergrowth had gotten pretty thick. Stand #13 was actually in a small opening that is only about 35 yards wide.
I suggested to Prusher that we move all the way to the right side of the opening. That way if we did happen to see a deer, I would only shoot to my left and not have to worry about shooting anywhere near the hunters to our right.
We set our stools up on the far right side of the opening, Prusher on a stool to my right with me on his left. I had two drinks and two packs of Pop-Tarts in my stool that I decided to go ahead and whip out. I told Prusher since our spot sucked, we may as well go ahead and have our snack time. As we are snacking, I asked Prusher to tell me a story. He started getting a little too loud so I made him squeeze his stool closer to mine and whisper. I wasn’t worried about him spooking a deer, I just didn’t want us to aggravate the other hunters with our silliness.
Prusher barely got done with his story before he asked me to tell him the “good” military story. I proceeded to tell him a lengthy story about my archenemy in basic training. He was a big, mouthy kid from Baltimore, much bigger than me. He walked around with his chest poked out, bragging about how much weight he could bench press and how he worked out different muscle groups on certain days. But his arms didn’t look very sculpted for such a self-proclaimed body builder. For lack of a better word, he just looked plain “fat.”
I, on the other hand, had been raised on cubed deer steak, deer burgers and mashed potatoes. I spent my summers setting up one-row International tractors with belly planters and cultivators all by myself before I was even a teenager. And I bench-pressed bricks slid over a one-inch pipe on a homemade bench that I built from scrap 2x4s and plywood. So I knew I could take this guy, and I was no more scared of him than I was of a sugar ant.
I paused my “good” story to tell Prusher I heard the dog drivers turning the dogs out. Prusher barely took time to blink, completely involved in my story, and was only six inches from my face. I pointed out in front of us and said, “I hear Bo running.” Bo is my son’s blue-tick beagle that will jump a deer regardless of when or where you turn him out. You could turn him loose in a Walmart parking lot and, if he didn’t get run over, he would be running a deer within five minutes.
I continued my “good” story and I pointed again and said, “Bo is getting closer.” Prusher didn’t even act like he heard me mention Bo, as he was still immersed in my story. My phone vibrated, and it was Kenlee texting me that Bo was screaming on a group of deer headed to the back line. I simply replied, “I hear him.”
Prusher was still all up in my face as I got to the punch line of the story where I tear this guy’s a## up, but I noticed his eyes rotate away from my face off to my left. Bo had gotten really close now and Prusher pointed and screamed, “DEER!”
I wheeled around and threw my gun up on a big doe coming through the opening, then a second big doe, a third, a fourth, and then I think I see horns on the fifth one. I threw my safety off and followed him with my shotgun as I quickly asked, “Prusher, does he have horns?”
Prusher said, “Yeah, yeah, I think so. No, no … yeah, yeah … I don’t know.”
I was pretty confident I saw horns right before he vanished, so I pulled the trigger twice. I heard the deer flip and crash while three more does passed through after all the commotion.
That whole situation lasted only about 10 seconds. I turned to see Prusher flop back down on his stool. I plopped down on mine and said, “Damn, I hope that deer had horns!” Prusher will stutter a little when he gets excited, and he said, “Ye-ye-yeah, I think he had horns.”
Bo made his way through on all the deer and we heard him stop on the one I killed. Prusher said, “Let’s go over and take a look.” I kept my seat and slowly slid my shotgun onto Prusher’s lap.
Prusher said, “He-he-hey, du-du-dude, what are you doing?” I told him, “If that’s a doe lying over there, you killed it, and if it’s a buck, I killed it.”
He put his face in his hands and said, “Wai-wai-wait a minute now, I don’t know about this … and what about the hundred dollars?” I told him I would pay the hundred dollars but I couldn’t afford to go to jail, and that they probably wouldn’t take him to jail being that he’s so young. He put on a sneaky little smile and said, “Okay, let’s go see what we got.”
The closer we get to the deer, the slower Prusher tiptoed behind me. I got close enough to see the deer and turned to Prusher and made two little horns on my head with my fingers. “Horns buddy!”
He gladly and promptly passed my shotgun back to me and gave me a high five, all in one motion. Prusher and I spent the next 30 minutes dying laughing about the “sticky situation” we thought we were in and trying to convince Kenlee we had killed a little buck his dog was running.
When we got back to the clubhouse, everyone was sort of in disbelief that we had scored again on opening day, AND on stand #13. Prusher was proud to re-enact the whole hunt play-by-play for everyone, including the fact that I had used a bad word!
On the ride home that afternoon, hardly a word was spoken, but I noticed Prusher had a little smirk of a smile on his face the entire ride. I could tell he was putting things together.
When we pulled into his yard, he looked at me and asked in a slightly smart-aleck tone, “So, Uncle Kenneth, you thought #13 was going to be a bad stand, eh? Wai-wait-wait a minute! Uncle Kenneth, did you know that was really a buck the whole time?” It was not until that moment he realized he had been played. Thankfully he thought that was the funniest prank ever and we still laugh about it every time we see each other to this day.