November 25, 2010

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

What if the taxidermist offered a family plan? While the thought of having my children stuffed and preserved for display on the wall might be appealing sometimes, I'm really referring to the price discounts one sometimes witnesses when taking the entire household to a ball game or some other event.

My deer season started and ended all in a matter of less than an hour on opening morning. I probably shouldn't even have been in the stand, but I had attempted to put my foot down on behalf of the family's hunting rights. We were scheduled for our final Saturday morning basketball game in Edina, but with about half our team preferring to go hunting, I had spoken on their behalf. I made the executive decision to cancel the ball game.

Of course, I got vetoed. It was all fine and dandy that no one listened to me, well that was until I shot "No-Brow Nine" at about 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning. The wide ten-point buck, who was missing one brow tine and thus the nickname, was on our hit list from several trail camera run-ins.

My name was mud the rest of the morning, as not only had I gone hunting instead of to the game that I had suggested be cancelled, but apparently I had shot my daughter's deer.

We've had a few discussions about how deer aren't like the front seat, meaning the first one to view the trail camera picture isn't free to claim "shotgun" rights.

I also tried to explain that, unlike bow hunting, rifle season doesn't always allow you enough time to do an identity check on the deer. Abi didn't think it was funny when I told her the deer had shown me a fake ID before I plugged it.

To make matters worse, I had the typical shooters remorse, as I got down and witnessed the ground shrinkage effect on the deer. I'm sure another year would have done him wonders.

I think my should-have meter had just reached the top. You know, that regret you feel after waffling back and forth on whether or not to take a shot, only to watch the deer run off, giving you some final pose that makes you think he was bigger than he really was, leaving you with the frustration of wishing you had pulled the trigger.

Well now my meter is back at the bottom line marked should not have shot. I'll have to give Scott Brassfield credit, I didn't know he was such a good salesman. I stopped to ask him if he wanted the cape, before I donated the meat to a friend. By the time it was over, he had me sold on a full mount, giving me a rough score of more than 150 inches and lots of uplifting flattery about the pretty deer.

He didn't need to use his charm the next Saturday, when he got another return customer. The good Lord let me off the hook after a week of reckoning with my decision to hunt instead of coach. My little point guard landed this big buck and took nearly as much joy in the hunt as she did in adding to my taxidermy bill.

You may have heard her Saturday afternoon as she let out a war whoop heard round the county after dropping her buck with one shot, less than 15 minutes after getting into the stand with her mom.

Hannah, my youngest, and I had been hunting on the other side of the farm. We arrived just in time to see aunt Nikki packing up her gear and leaving town. I heard her mumbling something about hunting hard for four straight days and then someone shows up and gets one in 10 minutes...

Well at least the 10-pointer with stickers was still stalking around the woods and would give her something to chase with her bow when everyone comes back for Thanksgiving.

Nope, he's now at Brassfield Taxidermy as well, courtesy of Kathryn Grace Feeney. The middle child syndrome played no role in the big buck contest, as she "calmly" dropped Aunt Niki's deer with one shot.

Karri again was the guide of choice (apparently I'm either bad luck, impatient, smell bad or all of the above?) and like most kids often do, Katie had chosen to go right back to the same stand where Abi had shot her deer the day before.

Mom was a bit distraught when her sister's deer appeared. How often do you have a nice buck present itself for a perfect shot for your child only to at the same time be cursing the doe for luring him in so close? Karri was torn between fear of a sister's scorn opposed to the hope of fulfilling a daughter's dream of a successful hunt.

Apparently this internal conflict was quite visible externally as well. Her hands were shaking so badly as she tried to steady the shooting sticks holding her nine-year-old's rifle, that young Katie had to pull off her shot, place both hands in the air and offer the universal symbol for soothing, the two open hands patting downward in the air, as she whispered to mom in a stern voice "Calm down mommy."

Even with her rest now shaking as much from laughter as from nerves, the youngster dropped the deer with a single shot from the .243 rifle.

So I'm at the taxidermist's, on the phone with my banker making plans to head off to the pawnshop while I'm perusing the classified ads for a second job when my cell phone rings and it's my sister-in-law. She pointed out that the Big Buck Club needed to have the typical small-print disclaimers preventing family members from winning. That's when Hannah told Mr. Brassfield to save one more spot for her deer since she still has a couple days left to go hunting.

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