"The Deer Hunter" by Justin Butts

"I went out this morning to shoot the deer that ate my cauliflower and cabbages and kohl rabi.

I sat on the porch, wrapped in a blanket, rifle across my lap, and waited for them. The deer rose in the mist of dawn like figurines in the tall grass. I watched them through the scope of the rifle for a long time, a buck and five small does.

They stood for a moment by the lake; six soft silhouettes in the mist. I did not shoot them. They faded slowly into the trees.

Part of the reason I didn’t shoot is my rifle. This gun is more suitable for big game in the lofty mountains I hunted as a young man. Perhaps this weapon would fulfill itself on a rocky ledge high above a bull elk. But it is not fitting for white-tail deer nibbling at the dew-soaked grass.

Part of the reason I didn’t shoot is the thorny truth of farming. If I destroy these deer, more will come back later and sneak into the gardens. Perhaps I should unwrap from this blanket, put down the rifle, and devise new and cleverer methods to foil my wily predators.

Or, I could shoot these deer and keep shooting deer until none come back. However, looking through the scope of the rifle, I could not calculate how many cabbages are worth the blood of this family trying to survive in the forest of my farm.

Part of the reason I didn’t shoot was the stillness of the lake. The glowing pane of water held every glistening shade of dawn; green, blue, purple, yellow, gray, white. The stand of oaks on the far shore hung upside down in the water, balanced upon itself. The branches were still; the ducks in the reflection of branches were still; the fish in the golden silence beneath perfectly still.

I felt the eyes of all the animals of the forest reflected in the luminous water, to see what I would do. The eyes shining at me were innocent and soft. I could not bear to shatter the stillness of our morning in the recoil of a merciless act.

I did not shoot the deer because they rose in the mist of dawn like figurines in the tall grass. They stood perfectly still, upside down, in the glowing water."
Justin Butts is a local Rockport farmer and business owner.


  1. Anonymous11/29/2012

    This was a beautiful reflection on the serenity of the moment and the understanding of nature's balance. Thank you for sharing the story and sparing the deer (this time). P@

    1. I love that you put (this time) in parentheses! We'll have to see about the next time! Thank you for your kind words, Justin

  2. What a great piece. Thanks Justin for sharing with us! You have a way with words! And I love all you and your family do for this community!

    1. Thanks Abigail! We thank YOU for shopping locally!

  3. Isn't there some sort of farmer's adage that we give a portion to the animals and insects? Some blessings and miracles occur in the mist of the dawn and they are grateful to you, Justin. Wildlife... we gotta live with them, too. ;)kw-d

    1. Well written, btw. Enjoyed it!

    2. Thanks Kay! We certainly give a portion of our harvest to the animals and insects! A little too much, I think! Thank you so much for your kind words, Justin

  4. Anonymous3/18/2013

    I found this to be a beautiful and touching story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  5. Anonymous6/09/2013

    Justin, Did not leave my name on the post of March 18th...it was me who thinks it was a beautiful story! I look forward to more of your writing. For me, I have a problem with the squirrels eating all the bird seed in the feeder that I got my husband for his birthday! Sherrill Elizondo

  6. Anonymous6/10/2013

    I failed to leave my name in March. I still think this is a wonderful story. Wish I knew what to do about the squirrels that keep getting in the bird feeder I got my husband for his birthday because shooting them is not an option! Sherrill


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