First Deer, Last Deer
Editorial-Opinion: November 2021
There are memories so clear, so vivid, it’s like I’m right there once again. The outdoors can do that. I think that’s part of the reason why some people get so caught up in hunting and fishing that it becomes a major part of their lives—a primary part.
Someone who has spent time hunting and fishing can close his or her eyes and relive a moment…
Like when the biggest largemouth bass I’ve ever caught opened its mouth and my topwater plug disappeared with barely a sound or ripple on that Morgan County pond.
Or the first time I saw a 4-lb. Lake Lanier spotted bass rocket from who knows how deep to smash a Chug Bug and proceed to clear the water by a good 3 feet—at 12 noon on a bright, sunny summer day! I’ll never forget my partner that day telling me to meet him at the Waffle House at 9 in the morning, not 4 in the morning, for a summer topwater fishing article. “No hurry,” he said, “the middle of the day’s better. You’re not going to believe it.” The blueback herring bite had just emerged. I couldn’t believe it. And I’ll never forget that day.
Or the time my dad and brother dropped me off from the old Army jeep we used back then to traverse slick and thick Mississippi Delta gumbo mud that’d stick a monster truck. That jeep might have had a top speed of 45 mph, but it could pull through anything the Delta threw at us.
Three things I remember about that morning, 40-plus years later, like I’m right there again.
First memory… fear. I mean palpable, afraid of what could get me, borderline terror. It was pitch black dark as those jeep taillights disappeared across that bean field, leaving a 12-year-old alone at the edge of an even darker block of woods.
“Walk in there until you can see water on both sides and sit against a big tree,” dad had said.
I know I stood statue still in the dark for a good 15 minutes deciding whether I’d wait on daylight there in the relative safety of the field edge. Or if I’d walk in there like he told me.
Walk in I did. Second memory from that morning is of the big-bodied 10-point buck, fur soaking wet, moving quickly through that bottom just 20 yards in front of me.
The third memory is laying flat on my back, just watching an amazing blue sky and wispy white clouds moving faster than it seemed they should be. Wondering if my dad was ever going to come get me—and my first deer.
Not everyone on this earth—most people in fact—will ever have a first-deer experience. Certainly people who live in most any country other than our great nation won’t experience that. People in most countries don’t get to carry a gun to the woods, soak in the wonders of nature, become a part of the natural order of prey and predator, and bring home meat.
No, not everyone will have a first-deer memory stored away to bring back anytime the old brain needs a respite and refresh. If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re among the fortunate.
Yet, how many of us take hunting for granted?
Every single one of us who has a first-deer memory will have a last deer, and very few of us will know which deer is the last one. I hope your last deer is many venison backstraps ahead in the future.
But we never know, do we?
Each and every one of us… either suddenly and unexpectedly or gradually until it just is… each and every one of us who once had that first-deer memory will eventually have a last deer. That’s not meant to be a sobering thought, rather it’s meant to be a swift kick in the butt. Get your rear end in the woods. Or for goodness sake, find a reason to go fishing rather than a myriad of reasons to do anything else.
We shouldn’t take any of this for granted, and that goes double for taking advantage of getting outdoors, where you never know when an experience will add to your memory bank.
A memory you’ll someday want to relive, whether you realize it or not at the time.
Daryl’s father Ben Roy Kirby Jr. passed away the day after this column was written. He was 83 years old.
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