Many people from the East never consider Montana as a great state to hunt whitetails. I think that’s one of the reasons we have so many nice-sized whitetails in Montana. When you buy a deer tag in Montana, you can buy either a whitetail or a mule deer tag. Most people who come from the East opt for a mule deer tag.
On this hunt, I had a deer tag and an elk tag. My husband, Eric, had encouraged me to carry the .30-06 rifle that he had bought for me. I didn’t like guns, because they were so loud. I had practiced shooting my new rifle, but I hadn’t really considered hunting with it. Even though I had practiced with it, I hadn’t practiced very much. As we were walking along, Eric said, “There's a buck. Shoot it.” The deer was feeding in an opening about 70 yards from us, and Eric kept saying, “Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.” Since there weren’t many trees that I could brace my rifle against, I kneeled down, put my elbow on my knee and aimed low on the front shoulder where I knew the heart should be. When I squeezed the trigger, I saw the white-tailed buck run about 15 yards and fall over. Eric got so excited when he saw the deer fall over and said, “Holy cow.”
Later, Eric told me that he didn’t think I would shoot. I’d had opportunities to shoot deer before, and since I didn’t particularly want to shoot, I took my time. By the time I was ready to take a shot, the deer was generally gone. At that time, I was really scared that if I took a shot, wounded an animal and didn’t get a clean kill, I’d be ruined forever as far as hunting went. On this hunt, the shot came so quickly, and I got into position so quickly that I didn’t have to think about anything but aiming and squeezing the trigger.
When the buck went down, I yelled a little and cried a little. I wasn’t crying because I had taken the animal. I was crying from pure excitement. Eric and I high-fived and hugged, because we were so excited about what had just happened. We sat down to make sure the deer was down for good. Once we reached the deer, we took some pictures. Then Eric told me I needed to field dress the deer. As I field dressed the deer, I noticed the deer had a lot of ticks on him. The ticks weirded me out more than taking the entrails out of the deer.
We hiked down to our truck about 1/4-mile away. We drove the truck back to the spot where I’d field dressed the deer, loaded the buck into the back of the truck and took him back to our cabin where we had a meat pole. The temperature was hovering about 20 degrees. Then Eric wanted me to skin the deer. I started skinning him, but Eric was much better and faster at skinning than I was. Once we got the hide off the deer, my mother-in-law, Joan Drake, and I took the meat off the bones. Joan had butchered many deer over her lifetime. So, she showed me how to remove the different parts of deer meat and which portions of the meat were best for cooking, grinding and preparing steaks and stews. Then the two of us prepared a meal from the buck I’d taken. After that hunt, I was totally hooked on hunting. I could hardly wait to go hunting again.