"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."
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Justin Butts is a local Rockport farmer and business owner.

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