By Hal Hase
By all accounts, my father-in-law, Harold, was the “best shot” in Oliver County. Whether he was hunting a pheasant on the fly, or a deer on the run, he would hit his target. If someone wanted help in preparing to butcher a steer or hog, he was the one called on to bring the animal down with a single shot
When his daughter (by my view the prettiest girl in the county) and I were married, the gift he and my mother-in-law gave us was a freezer. We lived in a small apartment at the time – but that was our gift. Her parents wanted to help fill it with meat from the farm. Each year my in-laws would ask if we wanted some venison, or venison and pork sausage. Of course, we were always happy to say yes.
We had been married about three years, when my father-in-law asked again if we wanted some venison. I said yes. He responded by saying it would be up to me to shoot a deer myself. My reaction to his words was a mixed one. Certainly it was fair to ask that I shoot my own deer if we wanted venison. At the same time, there was an implicit challenge. Could this son-in-law of his pass the test?
As a high school boy, growing up in southern Minnesota, I had hunted pheasants, with mixed success. Deer were mainly hunted in the northern part of the state, in timber country. The idea of trying to shoot a deer in the forest, with many unseen hunters all around, seemed a little risky.
When deer season arrived in North Dakota, I scrounged up some boots and orange clothing. I had to borrow a Winchester 30-30, lever action rifle, from my brother-in-law. We, and about twenty other local hunters, went to the wooded bottoms of the Missouri River. There we divided into two groups; one to drive the deer and the other to lie in wait to shoot. My brother-in-law and I were in the driver group. As we marched along, I had that old apprehensive feeling about shooting in the woods. However, I pushed the thought aside, and trudged along as valiantly as I could.
A half-hour into the hunt, I saw a young buck. It was about fifty yards in front of me. I wondered if I should shoot, or wait for a bigger buck. I called to my brother-in-law, who was to my left, and asked if the shot was clear. He said, yes. Guessing that no better chance would come along, I opted to shoot the buck. I paused, choosing my aim. Then, I pulled the trigger. The buck dropped in his tracks, falling like a sack of apples. My brother-in-law and I approached the buck to prepare to dress the animal. However, he was still alive. I had to shoot him again. After that moment, I lost my desire to hunt deer again, even though it meant no more venison.
Later in the day, as I thought about the hunt, I could not recall exactly where I had aimed my rifle. Perhaps I just had a lucky shot. Nevertheless, I had the good feeling that I passed a test. Later that November, I wished I had thought about saving the buck’s horns, even though the rack was not large. That Christmas my father-in-law had a surprise. He had saved the buck’s horns and had them mounted for me. He never again asked me to go deer hunting, but he kept us supplied with venison.