Ma’s first deer

Rifle season is right around the corner. I got to thinking about past deer seasons.

My mother June loved venison, and we usually had it. My father Arnold, my brother Brian, and I hunted together through most of the 1960s. Dad was an excellent hunter. He got a buck every year for over 30 years.

Dad wouldn’t shoot an illegal deer for any reason. In the late 1960s, because of his health, Dad had to hang it up. In 1969, my folks sold the Chester home and bought a place on the Brockway Mills Road in Springfield.

This property consisted of about 20 acres of rolling fields. A small brook meandered down through the fields. Along the brook, alders grew. All summer, deer came out in the fields just before dark.

Dad dusted off his .30-06 and put it in a corner by the back door. Every year he would watch the fields for a buck, but he never saw one. Still, his rifle was in the corner every year.

My mother was a small woman. Like I said before, she loved venison, and she was going to get some, by hook or by crook.

Dad had a John Deere tractor, so if he did get a deer he could use the tractor to drag it up to the barn. Well, late one afternoon during deer season, two deer appeared in the farthest field. Dad’s .30-06 had a four power Weaver scope. By today’s standards, a Weaver isn’t that great, but they were widely used 50 years ago. Dad looking through the scope at the deer’s heads could see no horns. It’s after 4:30 p.m. now, and not long till dark. Dad said, “They’re both bald.”

“No,” Ma said, “I can see horns on the deer on the right.” Dad looked through his scope again and still couldn’t see any horns. Again he said, “It’s bald.” “No Arn, I can see horns on the deer on the right. Hurry, shoot! ” she said.

Bang! The deer dropped where it stood. Dad went and got the tractor. Taking a rope and his super-sharp hunting knife, he drove down to get the deer. Whoops! The deer was as bald as a cucumber. He didn’t touch it and hastily came back to tell Ma it was a doe.

Dad was a wreck over what he had done, and refused to process the deer. I was at home when the phone rang. It was my mother. “Ronnie, can you come over? Your father has made a mistake.” When I asked what, she wouldn’t say over the phone.

A local hunter’s trophies. Photo by Ron Patch

I walked into the house to see Dad visibly shaken. Ma told me he shot a doe and could I go get it. I drove the tractor down and dressed the deer. I dragged it to the barn with the tractor and hung it up in the barn.

Ma came out to see it and said with a grin, “That’s my first deer.”

I quartered the deer and Ma went to work cutting it up. Dad didn’t approve, but she didn’t care. When it came time to eat it, Dad wouldn’t touch it. Ma would take a bite, smack her lips and say, “You don’t know what you’re missing Arn.” She loved to rub it in.

I no longer hunt, but like my mother I love venison. I am given venison from friends most every year. I am particularly fond of the heart and liver.

Some hunters leave the heart and liver in the woods. Don’t leave it the woods. Save it for me. I clean the heart and slice it about three-eighths inch thick. I sprinkle it with flour and fry it in butter, in a cast iron skillet. Three minutes per side is medium rare.

The photo with this article is from a friend of mine. He knows his way around the woods.

This week’s old saying: Ma would ask, when we came home from hunting, “Any luck?” “No, didn’t see any horns.” She’d reply, “The only thing the horns are good for is stirring the gravy.”

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