By Matt McCaskill
No offense to our Lord and Savior, but Christmas is not the best time of the year. In the Deep South the rut takes that title, when the weather finally cools down and tumescent bucks allow even the most inept hunters a shot at glory. And one of the premier rituals of the rut is hanging around a hunt club skinning shed after an evening hunt. The loving vitriol of jealous hunters who have yet to peel a tag is some of the best entertainment found under tin roofs and shop lights.
One particular evening as I was working my way home from the boonies, I spotted the tell-tale sign of shop lights at the end of a narrow lane (a “pig path” in the local parlance). A half-dozen four wheel drives were backed up to it in a semicircle with good ole’ boys sitting on dropped tailgates, beers in their right hands and plastic bowls in their left. Knowing this crew fairly well, it seemed worth stopping by to speak. I was right. The following conversation is cleaned up for sensitive ears (my mom reads these things) and only slightly paraphrased.
“What’s up game warden? Fix you a plate and sit a spell.”
Doves and grits. I’d picked a good night. On the floor waiting to be skinned was a 15-inch 8 point. On the hook being skinned was a 100-lb. doe. Pretty typical for the southern deer woods. Seems that Randy killed the buck, and his brother Dale, not to be outdone on the scoreboard, killed the doe to keep pace.
“Dang, Dale. You shot a doe in the peak of the rut?” said Randy.
“I needed meat.”
“Well, it don’t look like you’re gonna get any out of ‘em shoulders. What did you shoot her with?”
“Good lord. You still shooting that cannon?”
“Yes sir. Reaches out and touches ‘em.”
“And how far did you reach out and touch this one?”
“Maybe 150-175 yards.” Using the whitetail hunters arithmetic translator, the deer was maybe 100 yards.
“Nice. You could be a sniper in the French army.”
“Talk your shit, but Chris Kyle did real good with his .300 Mag. From way off.”
“Chris Kyle didn’t eat what he shot. And judging by the way that carcass looks, you won’t either. Did the bullet come out the ham right there?”
“She’s dead and she didn’t run. You don’t have to track for half a mile with THE MAG.”
Juvenile envy over an underwhelming kill kept this redneck roast going long enough for me to finish another bowl. And in the sake of fairness, every other caliber represented in the group took its turn getting condemned: the silliness of that newfangled Creedmoor round; how every magnum cartridge ever made was fired by people who were compensating for something; and how .243 shooters should be compensating. The majority opinion was that if you were over 12 years of age and didn’t shoot a .30-06, you were less of a man. Light hearted fun for the most part, but it surely would have caused the deacons of the Church of the Lord’s Caliber to have belted magnum strokes.
Hearing and eating enough, it was time to head home. As I got up to walk away I asked Gene, the acknowledged best hunter of the club, what he thought about all of it.
“I quit worrying about calibers the day I put an arrow through a deer at 300 feet a second. It’s a damn deer.”
Deer season: Love it when it comes and love it when it goes. Even so, come quickly!