Ryan Manchester did not need camouflage or a tree stand to kill his first deer. He was shirtless and standing behind his living room couch, less than 10 feet away.
On Dec. 5, an eight-point buck busted Manchester’s front door open and ransacked the Walkersville High School senior’s home. After calling 911 and feeling he had no other choice, Manchester shot the deer twice — once in the head and once in the shoulder — and killed it.
Manchester figures it all started when the buck wanted to mate with his family’s Christmas tree.
His family dragged the tree through the front door, and thinks the scent of doe urine lured the deer to come in, the same way they brought in the tree.
As Manchester stood in his kitchen of his Dearbought home at about 1:30 p.m. that day, he heard a banging at the door.
“It sounded like someone was trying to break the door down with a sledgehammer,” he said.
The deer knocked two holes in the front door and broke the door frame to get inside. Manchester peered around the corner from the kitchen ready to fight if there was an intruder.
That’s when he spotted the deer in the left corner of his living room in between a window and the Christmas tree.
Manchester took out his phone and took video. The video shows the deer seemingly trying to get out of the house through the window.
As he squeezed back behind the tree, the deer knocked over the tree, shattering close to 40 ornaments and the Manchesters’ angel tree-topper, Manchester said.
The family has since replaced the tree-topper with a paper angel that Manchester’s sister, Daniella, made in elementary school.
With the deer back in the corner, Manchester locked his dog in the bathroom and made a beeline for the stairs. He hopped over the Christmas tree and went up to his room to call 911.
“I told them what was happening and they didn’t really seem to have any urgency,” Manchester said. “I don’t think they knew how much damage it was doing. So I asked them if I should shoot it. They didn’t tell me to shoot it. But they didn’t tell me not to shoot it. So I was like, ‘I’m probably gonna shoot it.’”
Manchester then called his father, John, to ask for the key to his gun cabinet. When he got off the phone with his father, he received a phone call from animal control, Manchester said.
Manchester recalled the animal control person saying he was still 15 minutes away. Rather than wait, Manchester grabbed his father’s Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun and went downstairs to figure out how to kill the deer.
Initially, he tried to get a shot on the deer as it ransacked the kitchen. By this time, Manchester said, every window in the house had blood on it.
The deer must have been cut as he broke into the house or after knocking the tree down, Manchester said. Manchester determined he couldn’t get a safe shot and tried to wait for the deer to calm down.
The deer made its way back to the living room and Manchester followed, standing behind his living room couch. The deer was about 20 feet away, but Manchester refused to shoot.
“The gun is kind of a piece of a junk, so I knew that far, I was going to miss,” he said.
He let the deer get closer and make its way to the middle of the living room, just feet from Manchester. Manchester took aim and for the first time since it entered his home, the deer noticed Manchester.
“He saw me and stopped,” Manchester said. “Like a deer in the headlights. So I shot him right between the eyes.”
The deer didn’t go down immediately, Manchester said. He took one more shot, hitting the deer in the shoulder and killing it.
Manchester said his immediate concern was the neighbors hearing a gunshot coming from his house. He called 911 to let them know what happened, and to “not send the SWAT team.”
Shortly after, police arrived, along with animal control. Police took a report and checked Manchester’s father’s gun to make sure it was registered.
Manchester said the police didn’t have a problem with what he did. They took a photo of Manchester holding the deer’s antlers — a non-hunter’s first kill. Someone from the Department of Natural Resources came out and issued Manchester a tag for the kill. A DNR representative confirmed that.
Manchester’s family and friends arrived a short time later. Word made its way to school quickly; no one was missing this.
“We drove straight over, laughing the entire way. We could barely keep the car in the lane, we were laughing so hard,” said Manchester’s close friend Dylan Mudd, who lives in the neighborhood. “I thought it was amazing.”
Manchester dragged the deer outside, and gutted it in his backyard. Manchester’s hands were covered in blood up to his wrists. He painted marks on his face using the blood.
In the moment, Manchester thought he had only one choice. After the deer broke in, the door slammed behind it. There was no immediate exit.
In hindsight, Manchester, who assisted the school’s athletic trainer and helped out with the football team this year, realizes he may have been able to open the back door and the deer might have left. But he has no regrets.
“I’m glad I shot it,” Manchester said. “It caused a lot of damage. I know people will judge me for it, but I don’t care. If it happens to them, they don’t have to shoot it. But after it did all that, it wasn’t leaving alive.”