In The Eye of the Beholder

May 16, 2017 | « back

by Ted Nugent

On the knotty pine wall of my Northern Michigan family hunting cabin is my favorite big game trophy of alltimes. It was my very first hard-earned Michigan big timber, public ground, National Forest, North-woods whitetail buck that I killed on a soul stirring, opening morning November 15, 1969.

Gather round the Uncle Ted hunting story campfire my Spirit BloodBrothers, for there are a gazillion thrilling stories in the Great Spirit of the Wild beyond, and this may very well be one of the best ever.

Warm and proud as a peacock in my old, traditional red and black plaid wool coat and pants, insulated Herman’s Survivor leather boots laced up tight and a Stormy Kromer cap, I could not imagine a more titillating heaven on earth than right then and there at that magic moment in time.

Pray for the poor souls that fail to understand or get all giddy and stimulated in anticipation of Opening Day of Deerseason in America. Pity them.

In the moonless pitch dark a good hour before daybreak, I hunkered down against a towering oak a mile or so due west of Shorty Jenson’s dairy farm, deep in the mythical Manistee National Forest wildgrounds and kicked the ground bare clear of leaves and forest debris for this magic day we live for.

Held lovingly across my lap was my dad’s beautiful and cherished iron sight .308 caliber pre-64 Model 70 Winchester boltgun loaded with 175grain Remington Cor-Lokt soft-points that I bought for about eight bucks for box of 20 rounds at Luke’s Corner General Store on Freesoil Road by Big Bass Lake just that week .

Twenty hunting seasons in and just one month short of my 21st birthday, I am quite sure I trembled with borderline uncontrollable excitement.

Up to that point I had not killed a single deer even though my dad and I had hunted hard with bow and gun all those years.

As that pre-dawn shimmer penetrated my heaven, shots began to ring out in every direction with excitement accelerating frequency.

I remember failing to count past 3 between shots and with every wonderful rifle blast my grin increased with visions of lucky hunters bagging their deer.

Could this be my year? Would I actually see a deer? Could I possibly get a shot? Would all my gungho practice and dedication pay off?

I squirmed slightly as I slowly and cautiously scanned my surroundings, hoping, praying, dreaming!

Then they were there, at a little over one hundred yards away, a herd of about ten or twelve deer ghosted out of the distant heavy coniferous jungle into my eternal hardwoods, heads up, jerking, looking frantically all around and nervously fidgeting due to the army of intruders that had stunk up their once quiet forest.

With no antlers visible but with a coveted doe tag in my pocket, I picked out the largest baldy, settled my elbows on my knees, took a careful “aim small miss small” bead on the point of the shoulder, snicked off the safety, took a breath, let it half way out, and squeezed one off!

BLAM! The donkey kick told me all I needed to know, and I thought I was about to explode.

Racing to the spot, I immediately found blood and hair and made the short track to my hard earned prize.

It was out of body. Mesmerizing. Dazzling. I must have sat there with that deer’s head in my lap for a good half hour, just absorbing the throttling physics of spirituality that consumed me.

As I held its head, my thumbs came into contact with the yearling buck’s fuzzy nubbins and my joy kicked up a notch reveling in the discovery that my 1st deer was a buck!

Well, much celebrating went on that night at Stan and Whitey’s ramshackle cabin in the woods and those sensations stay with me and prod my very life to this day.

I will never forget the look on my taxidermist’s face when I hauled my buck into his studio to have a full shoulder mount done. He furrowed his brow, squinted, and with a bit of a smirk asked incredulously, “You want me to mount this deer?”

Without skipping a beat I blurted out proudly, “Hell yes! It’s a buck! Feel!”

Well, 48 hunting seasons later that beautiful buck is still on my hunting cabin wall, right next to the yearling doe I arrowed just a year later.

There are many more mounted trophies on our walls, some magnificent beasts of trophy book size, but since I am like the vast majority of hunters in America, it is always most importantly the story that goes with the hunt and the kill that far outweighs any official trophy status of the critters we are blessed to encounter, ambush, kill, celebrate and eat.

I stopped killing button bucks after a while, and with much difficulty and mental challenges, I even graduated to passing on 3.5 year old bucks many years ago.

But to this day I stand in absolute support of the irrefutable truism that only an individual hunter can ever really determine what kill is desirable, exciting, represents a trophy or that makes them happy.

As long as we do our part to kill enough does to balance the herds, what sort of buck a hunter takes should always be up to that individual’s personal choice.

Beauty and trophy considerations will always be in the eye of the beholder.

Behold like you mean it!

Join Ted at his electro-campfire to discuss and celebrate allthings Great Outdoors and freedom!