Open Season

Reavis Wortham

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Wrong Willie and I were sitting in a large deer stand, admiring the south Texas countryside. “Did Cash say we could both take a buck?” he asked.

I glanced out the window on my left side. “He said one of us could take a buck, and the other needs to get a doe.”

“Which one do you want?”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I just want some venison, so you can have the buck.”

“Fine by me,” he said and carefully opened the window in front of us. Knowing he wasn’t just getting fresh air, I leaned forward to look outside. A wide ten-point buck with two drop tines was standing broadside a hundred yards away.

“Hey, you set me up,” I accused.

“Shhhh. I just asked you a simple question.” He pointed his rifle out of the window.

“Not the point,” I argued, glassing the big deer. “This guy is a trophy and you knew he was standing there when you asked me.”

“He won’t be standing there long if you keep arguing so loud,” Willie said. “Now let me shoot my deer. And keep your voice down.”

“We should have flipped for him,” I said. My argument was drowned by the sharp bang of Willie’s .270. The buck spun around and fell as if hit with a howitzer. “Good shot, though.”

We climbed out of the tower stand and trudged across the broken terrain to where the deer lay. “That’s the biggest rack I’ve ever taken!” Willie said and danced a jig through the cactus.

“It would have been the biggest deer I’ve ever taken if you’d been fair about it,” I said, unloading my rifle and leaning it against a large mesquite.

“Quit crying and help me skin this deer.” In preparation, Willie filled his bottom lip with the Brand of the Week and unloaded his rifle. He dug in a pocket and perched a pair of smudged reading glasses on his nose. After fumbling through wallet, Willie located his license, tore off and filled the appropriate tag, and wired it to the big buck’s antler.

He’s been a stickler for detail since he got a ticket a few years ago for using the wrong tag on a deer.

“Where’d you hit him?” I asked.

Willie didn’t answer. Instead, he rolled the buck onto its back, pinched up a flap of skin and reached out to make his first incision.

The buck kicked him so hard in the stomach that water squirted out of seven orifices. He swallowed his dip and went backwards like a felled tree.

The up-until-then-stunned-buck regained his feet and tore off across the ranch like a kid after an ice cream truck.

“#*$)#!!!” Willie said to me and gave chase with nothing but the skinning knife in his hand. Because he’d been kicked so hard, he ran almost apelike, hunched over and helping himself along with his empty hand.

I grabbed my unloaded rifle and charged after him. The buck ran down into a dry wash and sprinted along the sandy course. We followed at a gallop until we both ran out of steam.

Willie stopped to catch his breath, both hands on the ground.

I fumbled three loads into my gun just as we heard the report of another rifle.

“Somebody shot my deer!” Willie shouted and ran even harder.

When I came around a sharp curve in the draw, Willie and a stranger were arguing over the deer. “It’s my buck,” Willie said, pointing at the one we’d been chasing.

Stranger shook his head. “Nope. That old boy ran past me here and I dropped him. He’s mine.”

Willie wheezed for a minute and then stood up straighter. “Wrong. Just look at that right antler. He has my tag on it. You can’t claim another man’s deer after he’s been tagged.”

Stranger frowned and gave the buck a closer look. He face registered the shock of his life. “Well I’ll be, he is tagged.”

“That’s how Willie hunts,” I said. “He drops down on them from a tree and clubs them senseless with the handle of that skinning knife there in his hand. Then he tags them and while they’re out, he finishes them off and skins them. Says it’s more sporting.”

Stranger looked back forth between the two of us. “You have a rifle.”

“I’m backup,” I said. “He just surprised me is all.”

Undecided, Stranger wasn’t convinced. “Show me your license.”

Willie produced the required document with the missing tag. “You’ll find my name on that one wired to his antler.”

Just in case the buck was pretending again, we stepped back as the Stranger examined the tag,. He rose and sighed. “All right. I reckon you can have him. Anyone who can take a buck like that deserves him.”

He turned to walk away and then stopped. “Hey, would you guys mind if I go with you next time and try it myself?”

“Sorry,” Willie said. “I always said if I got a buck that scored this high, I’d retire. Looks like that day has come.”

“Well, all right,” Stranger said and wandered away, talking to himself. “What will these Extreme Sportsmen think of next?”

“Whatever it is,” I said, grateful the encounter was over. “I hope I’m not part of it.”

 

 

 

Contact Reavis Wortham at
RWortham@fishgame.com