By Ben Jorgensen, In the Field

I once heard a man say, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” I am still pondering the truth to that statement, but I will say, luck sure does make for a good story. This is especially true for the happy-go-lucky first-timer, when the dice seem to roll in your favor.

It was the morning of my first deer hunt. I didn’t know what to expect, but the combination of my nerves and excitement made 4:30 am seem much less tiresome than I had predicted. We loaded the truck and started out into the darkness of morning, heading to our nearby hunting land. I remember looking out the window for about 3 minutes and thinking I’ll just jump out and wax a deer if I see one. The next thing I knew, I awoke to my dad’s voice, “Ben… let’s go get ‘em.” We were parked on the edge of field a quarter mile from our stands.

As I was reaching for my shiny new Ruger .44 magnum lever-action rifle, my dad whispered to me that I shouldn’t shoot at anything a great distance away, but with the nature of the thick bullet I was using, anything within 80 yards was ‘toast’. That gave me some confidence as we started our pursuit into the woods where our stands perched in two trees 85 yards from each other. After my father helped settle me into my stand, I waited intently as the echo of his movements to his stand seemed to stretch for miles. Soon I heard nothing, and because of the early morning darkness I struggled to see anything beyond my stand.

Dawn broke and for the first few hours every crackle heightened my senses. I’m embarrassed to admit that several times I fell victim to hearing “massive bucks” that routinely turned out only to be squirrels foraging the forest floor. It did make the time fly by.

It wasn’t until mid-morning that I saw a short glimpse of what appeared to be a large brow tine. In retrospect, I acted like I had never seen a white-tail before. It moved through a pine tree roughly 45 yards away. I lost site of it and waited for it to appear on the other side of the brush. After a few minutes, I told myself it must have hunkered down and I sat prepared for anything that moved. A half an hour went by before another movement caught my attention. Three does slowly strolled along a trail coming from the same general direction. They moved directly in front of me, 35 yards and broadside the entire way. My permit allowed me to shoot a doe or buck. I wanted the buck badly, but didn’t want to head home empty handed. So, I decided to I’d shoot at a doe if the buck didn’t show himself.

After fifteen minutes of indecisiveness, I pulled the gun to my shoulder intent on taking anything. I put the crosshairs behind the shoulder blade of one of the does and waited anxiously for a loud bang as I slowly pulled the trigger. The gun went off taking me by surprise. I watched as my doe jumped straight into the air and began to kick its legs while it traveled 20 yards where it finally came to rest.

I spun around to look in the direction of my dad. He stood in his stand with his rifle raised to his shoulder. Within 5 seconds he fired and I was ecstatic thinking he shot the buck I had seen. By the time I descended from my tree my dad had already reached me. He said, “I shot your deer over there. It looked like you clipped it the back leg.” 

With a puzzled look on my face I said, “No, I dropped mine right over there.” Now we both were confused and the only thing running through my dad’s head was I just shot a doe. All I have is a buck tag. This is not the way I saw things going.

Sure enough, my first deer had dropped just where I had said, so we trenched through the woods to find my supposed other deer. We walked up to the doe. It was bleeding both from a leg and the chest. My dad said, “Looks like your bullet must have redirected through the first one and hit the second… that’s a first.” Anxiously he reached for the head in a last attempt to see any antlers. He pushed away some hair to reveal two one inch nubbins. “We just may be in luck… it looks like a button buck!” 

I quickly recapped my first deer hunt ever. One lucky bullet strikes two deer. One lucky button buck keeps my dad out of jail. One lucky beginner walks away from the experience thinking this is how deer hunting is every year, and he can’t wait for his next opportunity! Is it better to be good or to be lucky? I guess from my experience, I’d say I’d settle for being good at being lucky.