Of bucks and birthdays
I’ve always considered myself lucky to be raised in an extended family of Adirondack deer hunters. While that’s the primary reason I’ve likely become an avid whitetail hunter myself, the fact that I was born in mid-November may have also contributed. Yes, I was a rut baby.
Some of the hunts that have transpired on my birthday have shaped me as a hunter. It began on my fourth birthday when my father killed his very first buck, a fine 8-pointer that hangs on my wall. He had gotten a new rifle that year: a Winchester Model 94 .44 Remington magnum. As a little boy, I was captivated by these events and they are my earliest recollections of the family hunting party.
Six years later, on my 10th birthday, my hunting career began when I was allowed to tag along with the hunting crew. My mother dressed me in so many layers I felt like Randy in A Christmas Story. But the memory that stands out of that day was a spikehorn taken by Uncle Duff. Although he would live another two decades to the age of 90, that would be the last buck he would tag.
My cousin Kyle, who to this day is my hunting partner, killed a huge 10-pointer on my birthday when we were teenagers. Although Kyle was the shooter, I remember how my dad and uncles looked at us younger guys, who were making all of the deer drives, and realized the hunters we were becoming. It was yet another rite of passage moment for us.
Over the years I have tried my best to hunt on my birthday. In fact, Dad’s final hunt took place on my birthday in 1993. He would succumb to cancer the following year.
In recent decades I’ve always scheduled vacation around my birthday as it typically coincides with the whitetail rut. I’ve hunted hard and am often joined, even on weekdays, by some of my hunting companions. And I always carry Dad’s 44 on both my birthday and Thanksgiving Day for some additional luck.
However, legend is becoming that the odds of my fellow hunters killing a buck, rather than me, goes up on my birthday. Kyle killed another fine eight-pointer on my birthday about a dozen years ago. And another cousin got one a few years before that. This year is was my brother Bill’s turn.
Bill retired in Arizona a few years ago and came back for a few weeks of hunting. With the Southern Zone season open, some of our guys opted to freeze their tails off in farmland treestands that morning rather than run around the mountains making deer drives. But we scrounged together a party of seven that also included our brother Tim, and headed for a hill where my uncle had missed a nice buck a week earlier.
Bill was actually driving when he spotted two deer in a crevice between two mountains. A buck had a doe pinned on a ledge and would not let her off. Bill snuck in and got a shot at the buck. It turned out to be a fine six-pointer that had no brow tines. Bill was ecstatic and it was a real nice birthday for me too.
Whose good luck charm will I be next year?