The Christmas Buck


Here’s a story from last year’s archives.


Picture this:  You’re in the deer stand with your son. You’ve (again) done just about everything wrong — you’ve arrived far far too late and a massive (of course) herd of deer scattered from the the little field that had just served them a delicious Christmas dinner. As you climbed into the deer stand, you dropped your new Christmas flashlight (a heavy maglight) and it clanked all the way down the metal ladder, your hunting-intense son is on the verge of tears (thank God he doesn’t swear – yet), oh, and did I mention that you’ve locked the keys in the truck? Other than that, things look pretty good given you’ll only have to be here for a mere 45 minutes to an hour because it’s so darned dark because you’re so darned late and your kid is so darned mad.



Deep breath. Another sigh. It’s a spectacularly beautiful location. The temperature is perfect. You’re with your son. The sun has set and it’s that wonderful still twilight we seldom stop to enjoy. Life is, in this moment, perfect. The rest of the drama can wait (it always does).


Alligator Hall, Sarah Sanford, hunting, whitetail, hunting whitetail, buck



True confession: I was dosing. I had decided that the chances of our seeing anything other than a squirrel were miniscule, so after absorbing our surroundings and the moment, I could relax. Analogous with so many things in life, it happened.


Expect it when you least expect it.




That’s what my brothers used to say in that menacing tone as a threat (and it did have a visceral effect on yours truly — until I was old enough to know better)…that’s what my mother said when I said there was nobody in the world that would ever be the one…that’s what our sage old neighbor said about so many good things that happen in life.


Expect it when you least expect it.


Alligator Hall, Sarah Sanford, hunting, whitetail, hunting whitetail, buck

…of course this is a stock photo. Do you really think I had the wherewithall to have had the big camera (and not drop it down the metal ladder too)? But ask my son, our buck was bigger, oh yea, WAY bigger than this one.


Out walked the most perfect specimen of a whitetail buck I’ve seen in a long time. Without a sound, he tiptoed into the field —  a spectacular 10 point buck with his signature white fur around his black nose and his majestic antlers framing his face and broad shoulders better than the finest gilded frame.


“He smells us”, I told my son. “He won’t be here long.”


But he was. He graced us with his perfection for a few minutes — walking, sniffing the air, stopping regularly and looking around. He knew something was nearby — but he wanted a little Christmas dinner too — so he stuck around. And then, as quietly and suddenly as he had appeared, he vanished into the dark woods.



We weren’t there for a buck — we were under specific instructions NOT to shoot a buck. Today is for does, I’m afraid. Yes, we were there for venison for the freezer. Of course my son was beside himself — we had seen “The Phantom”! (Yep, he’s famous on this farm.) But this was a great lesson: we’re not there for a trophy — that trophy belongs where he is in this moment — healthy, robust, and in charge of his element. He has a job to do and he’s the right guy for the job. In a way, he gave us a perfect present: his presence. Who knows if we’ll ever see The Phantom again, except on the trail camera (the only place he’s ever been spotted). But he just made our hunting season.


Addendum to this story 2018….The Phantom HAS been spotted. He’s as magnificent as ever.