The Time Roger Rode the Buck

November 2, 2008

Dave and Roger were my students in grade 8, and then again several times in grades 9 to 12.   Around about the time they got hunting licenses, they decided that I would have to go out onto the marsh to hunt teal with them.

We set out down the creek above Kilmarnok, and before long their decoys (inherited antiques, most of them) were arrayed in front of their blind.  I headed down the bay to a promising clump of cattails.

My cocker spaniel of the time had a deviant streak a mile wide, but he was a wizard in a duck swamp.  During the morning shoot he delivered five teal to the canoe.  Two I had shot cleanly, two Jasper had seen swimming by and chased down, and one he had retrieved from a twenty-acre corn field behind my stand after I had winged it.  That dog could track a mouse through a haymow.

Anyway, I had fired about a box of shells, bagged some ducks, and thought the morning a great success.   I was a little disappointed for Dave and Roger.  I had hardly heard any shooting from their blind.  When I got there I was rather shocked to discover that they had thirteen ducks between them — with thirteen shots.  Dave had missed one duck, but redeemed himself by dropping a pair of bluebills with a single.

A few years later, established in their careers, Dave and Roger decided that it was time to try deer hunting.  They bought deer tags and slugs for their trusty Remington 870’s, and set out to try their luck.

In the neighbourhood of Dave’s farm lived a ten point buck, a wily character who seemed often to be more a figment of the hunter’s imagination than an actual animal, to judge by the stories told about him.  On the first morning of the season, Dave encountered the buck in an old orchard within easy shotgun range.  The young man carefully raised his 870, took aim, and pumped all five slugs onto the ground.  The buck snorted and walked off, not to be seen for the rest of the week.

Ever honest, Dave told the others what he had done.  Everybody broke up.  Roger shared some of his friend’s ignominy, so they resolved to prepare better for next season.  They bought 30:30 rifles, nice, traditional deer guns, and became competent marksmen with solid bullets.

Roger’s turn came on the second day of the next season.  In the same orchard he encountered the mythical ten pointer, dumping the running deer with a neat hundred-yard, offhand shot.  Roger sprinted to the deer, prepared to finish it off.  The large buck lay still.  Roger thought he’d better put another bullet in it, just to be sure, because he couldn’t see any wound, just a nicked antler.  But where should he shoot?  The neck, and ruin the meat?  The head, and ruin the rack?  He couldn’t decide, and stood there, irresolute, the gun pointed at the ear of the buck, just long enough for the deer to revive, disarming Roger with  a sudden shake of his rack.  The 30:30 landed somewhere in the bushes.  The deer started to rise.

Roger was not about to let his first deer get away, so he jumped onto the half-conscious buck’s neck, and tried to hold the antlers to the ground, yelling loudly to his brother-in-law, Malcolm, for help.  Malcolm was a long way away, and the deer broke Roger’s hold and started to get up.  What to do?  Roger held on to the bases of the antlers like death.  The deer started to move away from the scene of its accident.  Roger had no choice but to go along too.  Before long the pair were making pretty good time through the woods, so Roger threw a leg over the deer’s back and climbed aboard, hoping that he could find a clump of brush into which to entangle the buck’s magnificent antlers.  This went on for some time, with the pace getting faster, until Roger, with a desperate bulldogging roll, tripped the buck into a clump of young soft maples, and was able to entangle his antlers in their flexible stems.

Roger had kept yelling for Malcolm, and the young fellow arrived, out of breath, and brandishing his .308.

“You’re not shooting my deer with that cannon!”  Roger yelled.  “Go back and find my 30:30!”  Of course this cost Roger another harrowing trip through the woods, and more bruises, but finally Malcolm got back and they finished off the deer with a shot through the heart.  Neither liked organ meats.

Word spread like wildfire through town about Roger riding the buck.  The only hearer not to be amused and impressed by the story was his wife.  She looked at his hands — like hamburger — and his vest — flayed by flying hooves, and said that if he did a damned fool thing like that again, he’d be sleeping in the woodshed.

Dave and Roger’s marksmanship has improved over the years, but around the Falls wherever orange hats are worn and beverages are served, they still talk about the day Roger rode the buck.

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