A Future American Bowhunter
By Dianna Ware Bradon Ladewig This year at our deer lease in the Hill Country, everything was really green. The flowers were growing and beneath all the tall weeds lay really small green growth that the deer love to walk around and graze. The deer looked really healthy, unlike last year during the drought. The deer just walk by the feeders that have a golden layer of corn on the ground. The turkeys love it, but the deer would rather just graze. So hunting our feeders for a mature buck will not be easy this year. One weekend my husband Elliott and I took our 4-year-old grandson Bradon Ladewig bowhunting with us. It doesn’t matter if Bradon comes to visit us in the spring, summer, fall or winter; he is always wearing his camo shirt, pants or shorts. He has never been hunting with us yet because he is so small. But this was his lucky weekend to get to go bowhunting with Mamaw and Papaw. Our lease is a four-hour drive from Galveston. When we turned down the lease road I told him, “OK Bradon, we are turning into our lease now, so we are finally here.” Bradon’s eyes were sparkling and he was a grinnin’! As we pulled up to the old camp house that was built back in the ’20s, you could tell Bradon wasn’t really sure about it. You see, it actually looks like the house that Jed Clampett (from the Beverly Hillbillies) left behind. I took him inside and explained to him, “This is where we watch TV, cook and have a fire in the fireplace when it is cold outside, but we will be sleeping in the camp trailer.” Then I took him over to the camp trailer and showed him where his bed was and where ours was so that he would not be afraid. We all made ourselves at home and he seemed to be quite content. Four o’clock came and it was time to go out bowhunting. This year I bought a new crossbow. I’d been hunting and I had not seen anything I wanted to take. But I was itching to try it out! So Bradon and I drove the four-wheeler out to the bow blind. We got off the four-wheeler and started walking towards the bow blind. We got to the treestand and he climbed up first and I was behind him to make sure that he did not fall. I got him up on the seat and tied a rope around the tree around him and knotted it. We didn’t have a lot of action so I kept talking to him to make sure he wasn’t gonna fall asleep. He was all camoed up and all you could see was a little of the roundness of his face and of course his sparkling eyes. We sat for a while when suddenly a five-point buck walked out to the feeder. The buck was by himself. Bradon and I watched him eat corn for a good while. Bradon was very quiet and very still so as to not spook the buck. I was so proud of him! So I whispered to him, “Bradon, do you want to watch Mamaw shoot that Buck?” Bradon said, “YES’! That’s all it took, because I wanted Bradon to really experience his first bowhunt. I aimed my crossbow and let the arrow fly. When my arrow went through the buck, he never knew what hit him! Bradon watched the whole thing! Then the buck just walked away from the feeder over to the side and stood there. I thought he would fall in his tracks, but he didn’t. He stood there for a couple of minutes and then walked across a gravel road to a tree and just lay down. We kept watching him. Bradon and I stayed up in our blind for approximately an hour. The buck had gotten up and wobbled down a trail. I called our lease owner Dennis Williams and told him how everything had happened. He told me to get out of the blind and back out of the hunting spot by taking the low road back to camp. I did not want to push this buck. I wanted to give him time. I felt like my shot was solid but I did not want to take a chance on losing Bradon’s first bowhunting buck. Bradon asked me, “Mamaw, did we get that buck?” I told him, “Yes, but we were going to leave him alone for a while.” So we went back to camp and I explained to Elliott how our hunting had been. Dennis came over to camp and went with us back to where I last saw my buck travel. It was dark and my little small Bradon was walking with me through the woods with a flashlight tripping over every single rock in sight! It was funny, but he was seriously helping look for our five-point. After he had fallen several times we backed out and let Elliott and Dennis continue to look for the blood trail. Bradon and I went back to the 4-wheeler. It was just too dark for Bradon to be walking through the woods and he was very tired. The blood trail had run out so everyone decided to wait till the next morning. The next morning Bradon and I slept in while Elliott and Dennis went looking for our five-point. Bradon finally woke and heard the four-wheelers coming. Bradon and I went outside to see our buck on the front of the four-wheeler. Bradon watched his Papaw skin the deer and put it in the ice chest for processing it after we went home. Papaw told him that he is going to make a plaque in the shape of an arrowhead to mount the antlers on so Bradon could hang it in his bedroom. Bradon asked, “Mom can I take it to school and show my friends?” I told him, “Well, no; maybe you can bring your friends to your house and show them the mount in your bedroom.” “Ok, I will,” he said. “It’s my first buck and I can’t wait!” We left the camp to come home on Sunday after the morning hunt. I asked Bradon, “Are you going to be a bowhunter with me and Papaw?” Bradon said, “YES.” The experience was totally awesome to have spent this special weekend with our young grandson. I believe he will be a future American bowhunter!