A Clean Miss

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45 Cal.
Sep 15, 2003
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The flintlock went off flawlessly. Cha-Pow! The cloud of white smoke, enhanced by the humid air, obscured the target. I scanned the forest as I began to reload. The smoke slowly dissipated. There! Barely visible through the underbrush, I saw the white tail of the buck as it moved away from me. It was walking, not running.
The muzzleloading deer season had opened here in Bradley County, Tenasi, three days ago. However, this was my first time out. Oh, I had been hunting the bear season up in the mountains for several days, but this was my first deer hunt of the 2022 season.
I was in my local blind, not far from my house, at first light this morning. All was quiet. There was not the slightest breeze to ruffle the leaves that still remained on the trees and underbrush. Calm. The water of London Creek lay flat, with no discernable movement, but the creek was full to the brim because of the recent rains. The water grey-green and opaque.
The eastern horizon turned a bright yellow. High, thin, wispy grey clouds floated in an azure sky.
Fluttering and rustling in nearby bushes told me the sparrows had awakened. Several of them flittered around me and then they were off somewhere in search of their breakfast.
Twenty yards to my left; movement on the creek. A pair of woodducks. The brightly colored, wary drake noted the slight movement of my head as I slowly rotated to see them better. I froze. The ducks picked up speed as they paddled past, disappearing up stream. At least they hadn't flushed.
The day continued to brighten. About forty minutes after passing up stream, the pair of woodducks came back. They paid me no mind as they passed, this time going downstream. They soon disappeared behind me.
I reached into my pack and pulled out a book and a bag of venison jerky. Munching on the dry meat I read another chapter in "The Longest Silence", a book about fishing by Thomas McGuane.
Then, a loud SPLASH, behind me. A gurgle and tinkle of water. I thought the ducks were returning again. But, what is that moving on the creek? Antlers! It is a deer swimming up the creek.
The young buck came up the stream bank and looked directly at me. We were eye to eye only 15 yards apart. The book slid off my lap as I gripped my rifle. "shh-clunk." The sound was barely audible, but it was enough to put the buck on high alert. It turned and trotted off beside the creek, passing behind a large clump of thick brush. I brought the rifle up and tracked the deer as it moved. When it stepped into my open shooting lane and paused, I quickly pressed the trigger.
After reloading I went to where the deer had been standing when I shot. I carefully looked over the area, but could find no blood, no cut hair. As the deer had moved off it disturbed the wet leaf litter on the ground, making tracking possible, but slow. I followed it, looking for any signs of a hit. Nothing. No blood. I followed it up to the road, but did not follow it across.
Returning to the site of my shot I looked more carefully. Then, I saw the bullet hole in the tree. A clean miss.

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