Jim is my little brother. We both are dentists, we share a building and his business is right next door to mine– funny we hardly have five minutes to rub together, it seems. Given the opportunity to let go of it all, we would make one hell of a team. Funny thing is, we don’t have enough margin in our lives to organize that much.
This December was one of the rare times I got to spend with just Jim and my father, just like the old days. I invited the two along on a low country deer hunt. Jim and Dad are no strangers to hunting and for the past twenty five years we have found times to sneak in a trout fishing trip, a good wild pheasant hunt, and the mandatory Labor Day dove hunt , but in conversation I realized that neither of them had ever shot a deer. It kind of made me feel selfish, so when the opportunity arose to take them to one of the South Carolina Valhallas, I jumped on it.
This is really a story about Jim. It is a story about how your brother is your best friend, no matter what. This is a story I hope my boys read one day and remember. Their uncle Jim is the best shot I have ever seen. My whole life I shudder when we count shells and birds together, even when I was eighteen and he was twelve. The boy can shoot. When we arrived at the camp I took Jim out to check the scope on the rifle I let him borrow: a twenty year old Browning A-Bolt 30.06 with a vari-x ii I sighted in the week I bought it. I didn’t take him there to see if it was on. In fact, miraculously, it shoots the same, never being adjusted from twenty some years ago. I made a nice pattern of three within two inches of the target at one hundred yards. When Jim got on the bench, he did some weird writhen mount and his head shook kind of funny. He put three in the same hole.
We had a great lunch and over the table I was a bit apologetic over the fine sixty degree weather and heavy mist. On the truck along the trail out, we all got soaked and questioned why we didn’t hang back for a game of poker. We explained the rules: how big a taker-deer was, that you should shoot bobcats and coyotes (it being a quail plantation), and that by all means necessary: shoot any hogs you see. We explained that if you intended on keeping it, the best bet for tracking the beast down would be shooting it right in the ear.
It was a long afternoon. As fellow camp mates piled into the shuttle truck, there was a general discontent. About the only thing that held us was wondering what Jim got into, as he was the last to be picked up and someone had fired. As the headlights divided through the pines we could see Jim standing there proudly, his 135 pound self, over a hog nearly twice his size. On the gambrel he weighed out at 220 . . . his ear (or you might say his head) was perfectly pierced. That boy can shoot.
I had one of the most relaxing long weekends of my life down there. I got to know my brother again and I didn’t see a thing worth shooting in that hot December sun. Jim shot his first deer that last morning. It was a handsome eight pointer. A fine first deer that should give him buck fever and put him on a quest for more. I look forward to more times with him because that’s what brothers should do, spend time with each other. (And maybe one day I’ll out shoot him.)