Birdshot Buck


Richard Bishop

© Copyright 2011 by Richard Bishop 



Photo of a six point buck.

I was sitting in a forest of the lower Peninsula of Michigan with my back against a small tree about halfway down from the top of a pothole. This saucer-shaped depression in the woods was 100 yards across with small trees and scrub brush all around. My hunting partner was stationed at the top of the pothole, similarly sitting and leaning against a small tree. All at once, I heard the clatter of small hooves on dry leaves and saw a White-Tail Doe briskly go across the edge of the pothole; entering from the rim above on my left and crossing down to my eye-level and then on up and out the other side to my right. She was not in any real hurry, but still traveling rather determinedly without dallying.

The alarm bells sounded in my brain: “Where there’s a Doe there’s got to be a Buck somewhere close behind.”At about a count of ten seconds, there he was --right on her track but warily following and somewhat slower. I noted hurriedly that he had quite a few prongs on his rack. Luckily for me he moved into my line of sight at the same eye-level where the Doe had been and I raised my 12 Gauge shotgun and fired as he passed between two scrub trees about 10 feet apart. His flag (tail) dropped and he was off with huge leaps up over the rim of the pothole.

I shouted to my Partner: “Come on down and help me search.”When he joined me he said: “I was just dozing off when I heard the gunshot but it sounded a zillion miles away”(I was wondering why he had not seen them both first, or why he had not made some inadvertent movement spooking them). We then went over to the spot between the trees and found blood stains. I quickly paced off the distance and we called it 50 yards. I reached into my pocket for a shotgun shell and re-loaded my 12 Gauge single-barrel shotgun. Tracking the blood-stains, we started following them over the rim.

Back before College I just had to have something different to tool around in. I found what I was looking for in a 20 year old 1925 Model-T Ford Coupé that a couple of Brothers, High School classmates, sold to me for twenty-five dollars. I felt that if the older generation had Pioneer spirit enough to cope with that form of transportation, that I too could be (and look) just as “cool”a couple of years later on a college campus.

In the Autumn of 1945 I was just starting my Junior year at Mattawan Consolidated High School in Van Buren County, about 15 miles west of Kalamazoo. Deer hunting season soon started and I decided to risk my newly acquired vehicle on a trip 200 miles up to the “North Woods”of the lower peninsula of Michigan for a weekend of Deer hunting. My hunting-partner had arranged that we join his Father’s Deer hunting camp which had been set-up and was already operating for a few days. On the Friday night of the School Play (in which I was performing), after the performance, we traveled uneventfully and arrived at the Deer hunting camp and turned-in at about three o’clock in the morning on Saturday.

With only a few hours of sleep behind us, his Father provided a substantial breakfast and after he described the lay of the land from a good map, we went out into the woods looking for “sign”and a likely place to park ourselves for the hunt. When we were searching for a “stand”for our hunt, I looked down and noticed a shotgun shell lying at my feet. It was 12 Gauge and ‘live’and marked as filled with birdshot, so I just picked it up without thinking anything of it and stuck it into the pocket of my hunting jacket. Since on this day, it was sunny and not too cold, we had taken off our gloves and were both relaxing but still straining to stay alert after the long night.

After going over the pothole rim, we found the Buck in short order by following the blood trail. After having run about 200 yards, he was down but still alive making rasping noises. To end his agony, I fired once aiming at his heart at close range.

He was a 6-point Buck by Michigan count, three prongs on each side. I tagged the antlers and my partner kindly offered: “Let me remove the entrails while you take care of that hand.”I had never noticed that the lever to break open the shotgun for loading had been worn smooth over the years (call that: “worn itself sharp”). In the excitement of shooting (with no gloves on), the tremendous recoil had cut the inside of my right thumb almost to the bone nearby the crotch of the hand, and it was bleeding profusely.

After removing the entrails, the hole at the heart level looked strange and after investigating we found small birdshot pellets on the inside of the opposite hide. Without noticing it, the shell that I had fished for in my jacket pocket and re-loaded my shotgun with and which was later used for the coup de grâce was the one filled with birdshot that I had found in the woods!

In our excitement, we dragged that Buck back to camp so fast that we nearly wore the hair off one side. Wouldn’t you know it, that I overlooked the weather and water froze in the Radiator that Saturday night causing several leaks. But, we managed to get the 6-point Buck lashed onto the back of the Model-T Ford Coupé above the trunk lid. From then on, it was a pail of water for every 30 miles or so. The astonished looks and the finger-pointing that the “Old-Timer”automobile (with a Buck on it) got from Pedestrians and Sunday-Drivers alike paid for all the extra problems we had getting home. After arriving home, I quickly arranged to have the radiator rodded-out and re-soldered and refilled; this time with a Methanol solution for anti-freeze.

That rack of Antlers was proudly displayed prominently above a barn door for several years. Regarding the “smart”looking Model-T, after driving it for a couple of years and then not getting much notice during my Freshman year at Western Michigan College of Education (now Western Michigan University), I sold it to an old friend from my High School Class of 1947for $30.00 cash.  

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