Eric Milner wrote the best 2012 essay at Thompson Falls High

Eric won $250  for his entry into the FSPW 2012 High School Essay Competition by telling us about his “Most Memorable Wilderness Experience.” Read his essay in its entirety below.

The Buck Stopped There.

One of my most memorable wilderness experiences is the day I was fortunate enough to shoot
my first white-tailed buck. This is very special to me in the respect that I finally was able to start
providing food for my family and was successful in one of my first hunts.

In mid-November on a chilly morning, the frost covered the dead leaves from maple trees and
the yellow larch needles that lay upon the ground. We left the truck and geared up with my brand
new back-pack and new 7mm-08 Savage Arms rifle that glimmered in the early morning sun.
Once my father and I threw on our hunters orange we started our trek out into the flat forestland
by Swamp Creek, near Noxon, Montana.

As we stealthily walked through the frozen land the grass made no sound as we stepped on it.
The frozen ground on the other hand, crunched as we treaded on it. We made a loop through the
section and had no luck on seeing any animals as it seemed too early for even the birds. Making
it back to the truck, we decided to move over to the mountain in hopes of a better chance for a
successful hunt. We crossed Swamp Creek and started our walk up Green Mountain. The
morning had moved on enough the lower part of the hill was thawing from the early freeze.
Covered in game trails it looked like a good hunting spot to me. As we trekked up the hill the
snow started falling quietly and muffling our ascent up the steep terrain. As the snow got deeper
I slipped and fell face first into the snow, as well as on to the rifle. I pushed myself up and
worriedly hoped my scope was still sighted correctly. We trudged on up till the snow was
around a foot deep and agreed to follow a game trail back to the eastern end of the property.

As we found the fence line we started descending down the highland in search of the flats in
hope to rattle for a buck. Carefully making it down out of the snow the descent sped up and we
made it to the bottom of the hill. We spotted a small one by two buck within 40 yards of us.
Buck fever set in as I scoped in I clearly saw that it was a young buck. I pulled my rifle off my
shoulder and started following an old road.

We traveled less than one hundred yards and my dad said to stop at a tree and wait for a buck
as he rattled. “Crack ratta racka racka” was the sound of the two worn antlers crashing together
that my dad used. I blinked and a 4×3 buck walked out from the brush looking for the fake fight
that my dad had sounded. I took aim, held my breath, and squeezed the trigger ever so slowly.
“CRAAACK!” The rifle bucked into my shoulder. I pulled the scope away to see the buck fall
hard on the cold ground in front of me. We slowly walked up to it with buck fever still flying
through my veins. The kill of the buck was clean and painless. We cleaned out the innards and
drug the nice buck back to the truck. Loading it in to the back of the pickup I felt a feeling of
pride and happiness as well as thankfulness for the deer giving up its life for my survival.

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (, which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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