Deer Season

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt



This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

                                                                                                                                                                   Deer Season

                                                                                                                                                                   By Jim Holley

Michael was kneeling motionless behind the fallen tree, only his eyes moving. He was holding his Dad's Remington 30-06-caliber rifle with a mounted scope. The firearm, over 40 years old, would easily pass for new. Michael was perfectly camouflaged and he blended totally with his surroundings.

His dad had taught him everything about surviving in the wilderness. Often, his mother chastised him for training their son so rigorously.

"He's not an Army Ranger," she would say.

Michael's dad instructed him in all skills he learned while in the service and Michael had learned them well. He considered himself an expert survivalist. As these thoughts went through his mind, he continually scanned the sloping hillside of this abandoned farm.

The farm, nestled in the rolling hills near the New Hampshire border in Western Maine, was an ideal place to hunt. There was plenty of food for wildlife, while thick undergrowth provided concealment. Deer would often nourish themselves from these fields laden with clover, and they feasted on the many wild apples that would fall from the trees of the once manicured orchard. Michael was well aware of this.

Earlier, he heard the rustling of branches over the rise to his right. Michael calculated the disturbance to be about one hundred yards away.

"Probably Pete and Allan he thought. Michael could not imagine these two in the woods and armed with rifles.

A light snow had fallen. An eerie quietness prevailed, but that would soon change. This crisp November evening was the eve before the opening day of deer season

Hidden from view, in the direction of the thicket, two deer slowly emerged. The doe lowered her head to feed. The magnificently antlered buck stood erect, his keen eyes searching. His ears flicked in different directions listening for any unusual sound, while his acute sense of smell sampled the forest air.. Although everything appeared normal, something troubled him. His body tensed. His tail began twitching nervously. Sensing his anxiety, the doe raised her head.

First, it was a bright flash they saw, followed immediately by a loud crack. The buck felt a searing pain through his stomach  as the bullet from a rifle found its quarry. The impact of the bullet spun him around with a violent jerk, knocking him down. Instinctively, he got back up and began following the terrified doe toward the protection of some thick brush. Panicked, he did not initially feel pain nor did he realize death would be soon, as his heart pumped blood from the gaping hole in his stomach.

 Voices now pierced what was a moment ago a tranquil scene.

Slowly, Michael reached for his rifle. He looked intently in the direction from where the shooting had come. Suddenly, the terrified animals appeared about fifty yards uphill from his position, emerging into an area of cuttings from a previously logged section of the farm. They stopped to listen. Realizing they were still being hunted, they moved cautiously through the partial clearing, out of sight of their pursuers.

The clearing was a typical stand of birch, oak and maple trees, lumbered about the same time these deer were born. After the larger trees were cut and hauled away, their tops were left to decay, allowing the sun's rays to warm and revitalize the forest floor. All types of vegetation had sprouted, offering succulent tender shoots for deer, while the decaying treetops offered concealment. Michael had often frequented the farm and the surrounding woods. He noted the many different tracks. He had seen deer, black bear and other game.

"I will be here hunting season," he often thought.

The buck, his movements slowing, grew weaker. The bleeding continued profusely. Pain and suffering were increasing with each step. The doe, sensing his plight, stayed near. She moved slowly, turning to him often, as if to comfort her dying companion.

 He needed to lie down and rest, but he was perplexed. Somehow, the hunters knew where they were and the deer could hear them crunching the brush in the chase. They continued to move slowly through the logged area.

At the top of the rise, two hunters appeared, their eyes focused on the blood trail that was slowly diluting to a light purplish stain, in the now fast melting snow.

"Yeah baby. I got him good," yelled the tall hunter to his companion.

"Pete, move over to the left so he can't sneak back around us. Somebody said they do that. They're sneaky bastards."

"Sounds good to me," replied Pete,

"And if you see him, don't shoot him, understand," commanded Allan. "If he's alive, I want to finish him off. He's my deer."

"Don't worry about it. I don't want to shoot your stupid deer," Pete responded sarcastically.

"Deer aren't stupid," Allan countered.

."Wait a minute," Allan half whispered, half yelled. "I've got to take a leak."

Pete rolled his eyes.

From his vantage point, Michael watched. Slowly, the silhouettes and shadows took on more defined shapes. Gently, not moving his eyes from the deer or hunters, he placed the binoculars next to his knee. He wondered if the two men knew how close they were to their prey.

The buck stumbled and fell heavily. Using his front legs and with exhausting effort, he lifted his chest area. The pain was intense. Somehow, he gathered reserve strength and stood. He was moving very slowly now, stumbling and careening from tree to tree.  Finally, his strength completely drained, the buck collapsed. His mouth began frothing. He lay there, afraid, trembling and gasping for breath.

The scene disgusted Michael. "Allan, you suck as a shooter. Let me show you how it's done."

He positioned the stock of his rifle snugly into his shoulder, the gun barrel resting on a thick branch of the fallen tree. It was steadied more by the light grip of his left hand on the front stock. With his right index finger, he moved a small latch and took the rifle off safety. He peered through the scope. Slowly, he corrected his sighting. Crosshairs on target, he squeezed the trigger.

Allan saw a subdued flash and a slight discharge of smoke, but he never heard the sound of the shot. The bullet quickly found its target, tearing into his head above the left ear, and exiting down through his mouth.

"Allan, I bet somebody took a shot at your deer," Pete yelled as he ran over to where Allan was urinating.

"What the," was all Pete could utter when he came to Allan's body. He lay face up in a pool of blood. Allan's eyes were wide open, staring blankly in death. His lower face had been blown away. Pete stared in horror. Anger and nausea rose in him. Looking up and searching the high ground from where the shot had come from, he began to yell. "You stupid----." He stopped in midsentence. He stopped searching. Somehow, he spotted the barrel of a gun pointing at him. He brought his hands up to cover his face, turning his head quickly.

"No, please," he pleaded loudly.

His next reaction was to dive for cover, but before he could move, a second shot rang out. The bullet struck Pete in the chest with sledgehammer force. With its soft nose expanding, it tore through his heart and created a jagged hole below his right shoulder blade where the mashed bullet made its bloody exit  With the calmness of a trained professional, Michael aimed again. Sadly, he killed the suffering buck that had fallen nearby.

Michael picked up the shell casings and placed them in his pocket. He retrieved the binoculars and put them into the belt case. Carefully, he inspected his position, making sure there was no evidence of his being there. He waited, keeping the entire area under watch. Gun ready, if necessary, he would leave no witnesses. Confident of this, he turned to leave, noting that the snow had completely melted.

His thoughts returned to his youth and he recalled his mom questioning his dad.

"Why must you kill beautiful, defenseless animals? Would you hunters go into the woods if deer had guns?"

" Mom," Michael whispered softly," we'll soon find out. They have one now."

Silently, he vanished into the woods.

August 08, 2022 16:16

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H.R. Glick
18:32 Aug 17, 2022

Not at all something I would initially get into, but your character, Michael, is so relatable and sympathetic, it made for a great read! Only little bit of constructive feedback - read through the submission a couple times through. Reedsy's formatting can be obscure sometimes, so it helps to post it, then go back and edit it in Reedsy, if you have time. Well done, though, great story!


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Charlotte Larson
03:45 Aug 17, 2022

thank you for creating the character MIchael and sharing his perspective. What a difficult topic to tackle. I can't remember ever before being left with such a feeling of peace after reading such descriptions of graphic violence. I like the way you cradled the main story with Michael's background.


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