Thursday, February 28, 2008


Corey was fourteen, so the act of killing his first deer might be considered his “rite of passage” or his “coming of age” event, but, in all honesty, he did not transition, or enter his liminal phase, a period between withdrawing and re-entering his social position with new insight, until about midway into his fifteenth year.

It was in the summer of 1989 that Corey stepped over into adulthood. You can almost see this move on the VHS tapes I made of him that year. He went from a chubby little uncoordinated kid nicknamed “Chunk”, to a confident baseball player, secure within himself of his capabilities and social interactions. Of course, there was some resemblance to Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen in the 1985 teen-flick, Goonies, but Corey never seemed to mind, much like me with Mushy!

After his fifteenth year he lost the glasses and the nerdy look of his youth and began to mature into the good man, husband, and father he is today. I doubt that killing his first deer had much to do with the transition, but it did not hurt! I could argue that from that fourteenth year forward he was a much changed human being.

At fourteen, Corey was still not confident enough to want to use my Ruger .270 on the youth hunt at Cumberland Springs Wildlife Preserve (formerly a state park), near Tullahoma, Tennessee. He feared the recoil, which I must admit has tagged several hunters, including myself. However, for me, with a trickle of blood running down from between my eyes, that was what made me want the .270! I remember telling my friend, whose gun I was zeroing in, “Man, I got to have one of these,” I said, licking the blood from the corner of my mouth!

He replied, as many have commented since, “You’re crazy!”

To me the recoil was something I wanted to own and control. I never again “half-mooned” myself between the eyebrows and would never consider deer hunting with anything else.

For that reason I began letting Corey practice with my 12 gauge slug-gun. I placed a paper plate on a fence post about 20 yards away and told him that if he could hit that plate, he could kill a deer. So, with that instruction, Corey set his sights on hitting that plate, and with the second shot he was well on his way to being consistent.

Corey and I took several overnight trips to Cumberland Springs, sometimes sleeping in the back of my S-10 Blazer, and other times we enjoyed pillow fights at a little motel in Manchester, Tennessee. However, this particular morning we decided to drive down the morning of the hunt, which was about a 2 ½ hour drive. It had been raining much of the week, so we decided to hold off and see if the weather changed, and it did. The morning was still drizzly with some fog as we left three hours before sunrise.

We arrived at our pre-scouted location before sunup, but waited in the truck for the rain to slack. Around 10 a.m. the sky began to clear and we moved on into the woods, thinking to ourselves that it was a waste of time. Entering the woods after daylight is usually a no-no in the hunting world, but the idea was to give Corey his time in the woods.

The first hour passed slowly with Corey fidgeting, twisting, and pulling up little twigs, and me fussing at him to “Be still! I had long become accustom to sitting motionless for long periods and moving slowly and deliberately when necessary, but he was a kid! I could expect nothing less, and actually did not really mind. I just wanted him to learn the rules that he could reference in later years.

Nonetheless, he would squirm and I would fuss. Often times, on other hunts, we would end up wrestling in the leaves behind the camouflaged netting, and laughing and teasing each other. Once we were even surprised by two does that stood just feet from us trying to figure out what all the commotion was about! It just proves that deer are very inquisitive animals, and times like those make all the rules about stealth being a requirement seem like myths!

While I was lecturing, and he was ignoring me watching a chipmunk play nearby, I suddenly diverted my eyes to movement over his shoulder and said very softly, “Son, there’s a deer!”

Yeah, right,” he said not believing me.

However, as he turned to look my way, he realized that it was true. Not 15 yards from us walked a very gray doe, and our hearts began to pound! She ambled along, head down browsing, and at about 20 yards I knew that Corey needed to make his shot or lose the opportunity for the season. I kept whispering instructions to him about target alignment and his breathing.

I watched him flip off the safety on the Mossberg, steady his aim, and re-feel his grip. Suddenly the shotgun BOOMED to life and spit out the huge rifled-slug of lead toward the still unaware doe.

As it turned out, the doe had nearly turned its tail toward Corey, lessening his target area, when he fired. The slug entered the doe’s right rear hip and exited its left shoulder, bisecting almost the full length of the doe’s body! The doe dropped in her tracks and was dead instantly.

Corey stood for a long time, surveying the area and reliving the experience. After the photo of him at the scene, I introduced him to the dreaded “field dressing” part of the hunt.

I actually helped him little, watching him step back as a roll of steam wafted up, bringing the “innards smell” that usually brings on either the dry heaves, or worse to the new hunter! However, he did well and followed my instructions to the letter, even reaching in up to his elbows and rolling the cavity contents out on the ground.

I kept teasing him about having to, by tradition and rite of passage, eat a piece of the heart! That almost brought on what the smell had not!

Back home, he retold the story over and over. I even made a video tape of him telling the story, and while he spoke I noticed that he kept touching and running his finger between the split in deer’s hoof. Was it out of respect, which most hunters hold for their quarry, a way of reassuring himself it was real, or was it nervous guilt over what had happened?

Either way, it is times like these that are called “bonding days”. I miss them so.


~Fathairybastard~ said...

Beautiful! I love these stories. That other commenter on part one was so right. You should send these in to that hunting magazine. The mental image of the two of you pillow fighting and having a blast is wonderful!

I shot my first deer when I was in my mid 30s, and remember having the "Bamby" guilt for a short time till I saw my cousin gut that deer, and turn it into a big piece of meat in no time. It was fascinating to watch.

He'd had the same youthful experience that you and Cory had, with his dad taking him out and all the bonding and close friendship that came from it. I just wish I could have had it too, but I've said too much about that.

You see what I meant about how there were still stories to tell when you stopped the blog briefly? Keep it coming brother. It's all wonderful to read. We don't ever want it to end.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

And that video is great. The close-up on his fidgeting with the hoof... classic.

Mushy said...

Thanks brother.

EC said...

Some things never change ;) Well you know how I feel about hunting so I won't say anything like "OMG that poor little dear!!" and instead say - It was nice reading your blog again!!! Glad you are well :-)

Buck said...

Yet another great tale, Mushy. You've got quite the talent for these stories... I'm most impressed!


Mushy said...

Welcome back Erin!

Thanks ain't bad yourself!

DirtCrashr said...

My brother and I and a friend built a rain-proof lean-to with a Ghurka knife in a Government Forest on a hillside overseas - but I never shot anything but a little songbird and that was sad - but I wished I had shot a crow - so many crows I wished I'd shot, with a machine-shotgun or something - God I hate crows.

Mushy said...

Crashr - Once killed two crows with one shot! Probably pure luck, but it happened.

pat houseworth said...

Great stuff. My dad was a life time hunter and fisherman...I remember the first time I went pheasant hunting with him(I was 13)....we were on a fence row, I had a 20 ga. single shot. About 6 birds jumped up out of the high grass, and I unloaded...missed the damn birds, but the old man ducked, and looked back at me....told me, "From now on, I'll take the rear guard, that damn bird shot didn't miss my head by more than a foot"

The stuff memories are made of.....45 years ago, and still clear as a bell in my mind.

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

Great story Mushy...& Corey telling his story is priceless! Arn't ya SO GLAD you took so many pictures & videos!? (But I do feel kinda sorry for the deer...SORRY!!!)

Mushy said...

That's OK Olga...the deer couldn't have talked on tape anyway!

phlegmfatale said...

Wow - well done on Corey!

Mushy said...

Comment emailed to me from Justin...Corey's college, golf, and duck hunting buddy:

Great story and video Mushy! However, as Corey recent hunting buddy, I am convinced there is no guilt involved with his hunting. He now hunts by the motto; “If it flies, it dies and if it runs, I gun”.

BRUNO said...

This second part of your story, like the first, still makes me remember the days when I was a "Corey"!

Never did a lot of deer hunting. Done a lot of turkey hunting, though. I could still "provide the meat" for us, if necessary. But I got out of the organized seasonal-hunt a good while back---too many "city-hunters", who had no business being turned loose with a REAL firearm, let alone a "wall-hanger" that they could TRIP over!

Nope, about the only time you'll catch me in my woods during hunting seasons, is if I'm in DEFENSIVE mode...!

J said...

Although I don't hunt, and don't really have the urge to ever do it, I can understand how this was such a bonding experience for you and your son. How wonderful.

And can I say EWWW? I don't like guts stories so this one made me squirm. Yucky.

Becky said...

It's interesting how different the rites of passage are for men vs. women, but regardless of the "how," it does seem to happen almost instantaneously, doesn't it?

Lin said...

Dag it, Mushy, I clicked on the vid and it said "No longer available" (??!!) That's okay, the story was just plain excellent in its own right! I'm with FHB, you're not done telling great tales yet.

Mushy said...

It is still available and working for me...sorry.

Lin said...

I give up! I took another look tonight and the video was working again! Glad I tried again - it was priceless, what with Corey nervously fiddling with the doe toes and all. What a family keepsake!