If you happened to be born in Oklahoma in the 1930s, your chances of being a deer hunter were almost nonexistent unless you were the son of one of the wealthy lawyers or medical doctors. I wasn’t. My parents, both school teachers, simply couldn’t provide the funds.
I wasn’t able to hunt deer until I joined the military. The Air Force eventually sent me to North Dakota, to the area where Theodore Roosevelt apparently gained his appreciation for the West’s magnificent game animals.
Finally, One For The Wall
I was able to harvest a great 9-point whitetail that field-dressed over 200 pounds my first fall in North Dakota. This was the first whitetail buck I’d ever shot, and I was ecstatic. As soon as I learned the location of a well-respected taxidermist in the area, I placed the head and antlers in his hands and waited for it to return. At the end of a year, I checked the results and was disappointed to find that although the cape had been tanned, that was the extent of his progress on my mount.
Doing what I considered the sensible course of action, I took the buck’s rack and paid for the tanned cape. In the meantime, I shot another deer in The Badlands—this time a 12-pointer. Using a book about taxidermy, I did what I considered a respectable job of mounting the 12-point rack on a shoulder mount. The 9-pointer was placed on a plaque, and I covered the skull with putty and red flock. These were the only deer that hung on my wall for several years. I retired and was again living in Oklahoma where I had several cousins with ranches that were covered with whitetails. Here, my wife, Susie, had collected an 8- and a 9-point buck, and I had added another 9-pointer to our walls.
In the fall of 2007, after learning that I was the victim of cancer, I decided to have my first whitetail buck’s rack, now just lying on a shelf in the shop, included with the other deer as a shoulder mount. I just needed an unused cape and I had high hopes: With a wife, a daughter and a son-in-law hunting, I was sure one of them would harvest a buck with a beautiful cape. And, between sessions of chemo treatment, I also hoped to be able to hunt.
During the final days of Oklahoma’s muzzleloader season, I was able to get out and hunt. My luck, even though I was still feeling healthy and fairly strong, was now failing it seemed. I blew a chance at a large doe and missed a shot at a small buck.
On the last evening of the season, I decided to wear the blaze orange Western-style hat I purchased from Cabela’s. I’d never worn it hunting before, but that day I declared it my lucky hat.
I was again back on my stand, and just before dark, I spotted a deer that looked like a big doe. I finally saw antlers when the buck turned his head and quickly fired, dropping the buck in his tracks.
I’d finally harvested a cape that would go beautifully with the awaiting antlers. After registering the buck, he was taken to the taxidermist to be caped for my mount, and then to the meat locker for processing.
The antlers from my first buck are now part of a beautiful shoulder mount, proudly displayed on the wall where they belong.