Every now and then I will attempt to explain why mounting an animal you harvested in the woods isn’t “weird” but a way to remember the hunt. Nothing could prove this point better than the conversation I had with Lawrence Redel of Jefferson City, MO at the 2015 Hunting & Fishing Expo in St. Charles, MO.
Lawrence scores deer. I didn’t ask him his age, but as he moved slowly to the room where he was setting up his deer mounts I guessed he was in his early to mid-eighties. What stopped me in my tracks was the mammoth 175 class non-typical whitetail that was hanging on a display stand. Now I should have been working the Fit To Hunt booth a little more but I could not help but return over and over to stare at that buck. Lawrence killed this deer in 1975 and the hair on the mount had turned as gray as
Lawrence’s but the rack looked frozen in time. It was unique and magnificent. After several minutes of chit chat, I had to ask how he got him and with a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye, Lawrence began to speak.
I was born in 1975 which depending on my estimations would have put Mr. Redel at about the same age I am now. He first saw the buck in bow season on his father’s farm. Two does came trotting through the woods and behind them, a big buck. As the does passed, Lawrence waited for the buck to walk behind a brush pile and drew back. All he had to do was wait for the buck to clear the brush pile and he could release the arrow. The only problem was his full attention was on this buck and the does had stopped walking. His full attention was on that buck; he had completely forgotten about the does and they busted him. A few snorts later and all three deer were gone.
The next time he saw the buck was early gun season when two hunting partners had also spotted him. Lawrence helped them drive a patch of woods and the giant deer busted out on cue giving both of his hunting partners several shots at this deer. Shots they both missed, but from Lawrence’s vantage point he saw the buck circle back and cruise into an area that had been clear cut a few years earlier and was now a woolly sprout patch. “I figured that was this buck’s home and there was no way anyone could sneak in there without busting him” he recalled. Then with a smile he said “and since they had their
chance I figured it was my turn to go after him.” He didn’t really admit that he failed to tell his buddies about his discovery but I got the feeling as he flashed another smile that he kept that info to himself. Wouldn’t you?
On the last day of Missouri gun season Lawrence had planned to sit from sun up to sun down in a blind he had made with some old fence rails and brush. “It was cold and I took an old red blanket to wrap around me so I could stay warm enough for an all-day sit. But I didn’t have to wait long. This buck came walking by at 9:00am and I shot him but I hit him high and a little back. There was no blood but there was a heavy frost that day so I could see every leaf that he turned over as he ran off. It was easy tracking.” A friend helped him trail the buck. They found a little blood; pink and frothy so Lawrence
scanned a field with his binoculars and saw a white belly. The beast had gone 300 yards with only one lung before he expired.
This is why we mount deer, turkey, moose, a bass or any other animal taken in an outdoor adventure. I myself have a turkey fan on the wall that was taken just a week before my grandmother passed away in the second week of the 2013 turkey season. Every time I see that mount, I think of her and the time we spent together that turkey season. Every rack, feather or fin has a memory or series of memories attached to it.
As we were packing up the booth at the end of the show I saw Lawrence and his wife packing up racks on a large push cart and slowly rolling it toward the parking lot. I stopped him and asked if I could help him load up. “No, I’ll get there but thank you.” Then I asked him if he still hunts and he said “I’m breathing, aren’t I? Son I’ve hunted the same farm for 60 years. I’ll be hunting til I die.” “Me, too , Mr. Lawrence. Me, too.” I replied.
Deer mounts aren’t weird. They are objects that can instantly transport you back in time where you can recall the sights, smells, temperatures and feelings of the moment. They also allow people to connect with one another and can transcend generations. Lawrence may have shot that buck 40 years ago but for about ten minutes or so as he told the tale of this giant deer, he was back in 1975. And I was right there with him.