Having children is one of the happiest moments of life. Once it happens, all you can think about is all the responsibility you have and all of the traditions and experiences that you will pass on to them. Hunting was definitely one of my favorite things that I planned on handing down.
My son Drew came along in 1998, but he resisted becoming very involved early on. I didn’t push, but he had a change of heart when he was about 8 years old. He shot an injured jake turkey during the spring turkey season and then his first whitetail doe the following fall. Before the start of the 2008 deer season, Drew was asking when his chance would come to shoot a buck.
In July 2008, Troy, one of my hunting buddies from our lease, sent me some trail camera pictures of a six-point buck that easily qualified as a cull. The deer was mature and we had seen him before with the same forked rack he showed in the pictures. Only this time, he had put on some tine and beam length. Troy and I agreed that he would be the perfect buck for Drew.
On the second weekend in November, Drew finally got his first chance. The weekend passed and “the big six” was a no-show. The next time Drew would hunt was the second weekend of December. Others had seen that buck, but once again, he eluded Drew. The big buck was now a five-point after breaking off one of his brow tines fighting. With very little time left in the buck season, I told Drew that we should really consider hunting the weekend before Christmas.
On that Saturday morning, I knew something was different from the first time I scanned the area with my binocular in the early morning light. I could tell there were 10 to 15 deer on the scattered corn about 80 yards in front of the blind. After waiting about five or 10 minutes for more light, I scanned again and immediately spotted the big buck.
He kept lifting his head and walking over to check out several does in the area. I kept thinking, “Come on, sun, give me some light for Drew.” About 15 to 20 minutes later, it became light enough for a shot. Drew was extremely calm at first. But then when I put the gun out the window to shoot, I could see him begin to shake a bit.
I told him to keep calm and shoot the deer in the neck like we had practiced. Drew shoots a .223 and I really wanted to avoid a shot to the shoulder. After waiting several minutes for a clean shot, Drew finally fired and the buck immediately took off to the south. Drew was very upset that he had missed his opportunity. I told him to sit tight and wait for another chance.
Sure enough, after 10 minutes, the does came back in, and as I scanned the brush near the feeder, I saw our deer coming in once again. This time he ran up to the feed area, but Drew could not get a clear shot. The deer turned and walked away from us towards the feed pen. I thought we had lost our last chance.
A few minutes later the deer jumped out of my feed pen and began walking towards the does again. This time I told Drew to shoot the deer at the first opportunity, and if he needed to take a shoulder shot, do so. Drew did and hit the deer through the brisket and out his right shoulder. I watched the deer run off and struggle a bit, but he finally went down and I knew Drew had just killed his first buck.
My son smiled ear-to-ear, excited as I had ever seen him while hunting. I told him that we needed to wait an hour before we went looking. Once we got out of the blind, we walked right down and Drew immediately found his deer. After inspecting the deer, we found that he had hit the deer in the neck on the initial shot and it had not fazed him at all. Amazing!
The best moment was Drew hugging me and telling me how happy he was. He couldn’t wait to call Troy on the radio and tell him he had the big buck on the ground at last. We picked up Troy and took a bunch of pictures. When it was all said and done, it was one weekend of hunting that both of us will never forget. Drew is hooked on hunting, but more important, he understands all the other benefits of being outdoors, like sharing quality time with family and good friends. As usual, he can’t wait to get back in the woods—just like I drew it up.