Friday was opening day of deer season for York County bow hunters.
By 6:15 a.m., Doug Williams, a 43-year-old chemistry supervisor at Duke Power's Catawba Nuclear Station, and a husband and father of two teenage boys, was 20 feet up in a tree stand in rural McConnells.
Around 8:10 a.m., a buck broke from a thicket a few dozen yards away. The buck turned sideways. Perfect shot.
Williams, 20 years a hunter, estimated the buck to be young, about a year and a half old. Legal, yes, but too young for Williams.
A doe, big, soon came into the clearing.
Williams looked through a range finder. The doe was 19 yards away. The doe turned, showing her side to Williams.
The arrow he shot pierced the doe's chest.
"Heart shot," Williams said.
The doe ran into heavy briars and bush.
"The saying 'Dead run,' that comes from deer hunting," Williams said.
Williams, who teaches bow hunting and represents seven area counties for the S.C. Bowhunters Association, did not immediately climb down to the ground because he did not want to spook and possibly lose the animal.
Williams climbed down, then used a machete to cut through the heavy brush. After a half-hour, he was at the dead deer.
Williams knelt down and said a prayer.
"I thanked God Almighty for allowing me to take the deer," Williams said. "But there is always some sadness for the deer."
Williams took the deer to Nichols Store, one of York County's large hunting and fishing stores and deer processing plants, where he works part time as an archery expert. He brought in the bow season's first deer.
The deer was weighed, skinned and dressed. Deer meat has to age a week before it is cut into venison tenderloin and ground meat, sausage, jerky and cube steak, said Darren Nichols, owner of the store.
The 140-pound doe will yield 50 to 55 pounds of meat, Nichols said.
For Williams, bow hunting is an act of conservation and hunting the right way.
I don't hunt. Many people don't like hunting for any reason. But before anybody out there complains about why there is legal hunting, talk to Nichols or York County's Todd Campbell, with the law enforcement arm of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The state has legal hunting, harvesting of so many deer per year, because too many deer means potential for devastating starvation and disease, both said. The number of deer allowed to be hunted in any area is based on keeping the overall herd population healthy and stable, Campbell said.
The season for hunting deer with guns starts next month.
York County is getting more suburban all the time, with population growing by thousands every year. But for people such as Doug Williams, who hunts, and Darren Nichols, who serves the hunter, and Todd Campbell, who makes sure hunting laws are followed, York County is still where deer are hunted.
Hunting is killing an animal. No two ways about it. But for anybody who thinks hunting is too brutal and ought to be banned, yet eats a steak, maybe he should think about the steer that gives up that steak.