CAUTION! The following story contains hunting lingo and minor hunting visuals, along with a couple of pics.
Many parents will experience their child’s first hunt this year, so I thought I would share my memories of such an event.
I was privileged to go with my youngest son on his first hunt and witness the taking of his first deer. That’s also the day I learned to always be prepared.
Although the reason escapes me now, I was the person disguised as the responsible adult and appointed to accompany my ten year-old son into the blind on his first opportunity to shoot a deer. We were attending a 4-H hunt, along with my husband (who got to see the second deer fall), and we were excited about the prospects. I knew Dylan could handle the gun, he had proven that many times at shooting practice; and he had all the other knowledge necessary to down his prize – now he just needed the practical experience.
Although it was November, the temperature in south Texas had just begun to drop into the comfortable zone. Mornings and evenings were cool enough for a light jacket, but shorts were necessary around mid-day.
Our first foray into the blind was Friday evening about an hour before sundown. The ranch owners dropped us off at our clearing, we unloaded the gear, climbed up into the blind, and got situated. Sitting as still and as quiet as we could, it wasn’t long before we began to make out various bucks and does along the edge of the tree line. Eventually, most of them made their way into the clearing, closer and closer to our hiding place.
I think I was more nervous than my son. For one thing, we were on a doe hunt, not a trophy hunt; and we had all heard horror stories of the poor dad whose son accidentally shot a huge buck, only to have to almost mortgage the home in order to pay for it. I definitely wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to us, but while the guide had his binoculars and my son had his scope, I was left to just fearfully advise him to be really sure he was aiming for a doe.
My young hunter and his guide picked out a couple of nice does grazing together a distance from the others. They stayed close together, though, so while Dylan wanted the larger of the two, he had to make sure he had a clear shot and didn’t clip the other one in the process.
I, of course, was as nervous as a cat. I must have asked a hundred times, “Are you sure that’s the one?” “Are you sure it’s a doe?” “Are you sure you have a good shot?”
This is probably why moms should not go on these hunts with their kids – or at least I shouldn’t.
He kept assuring me: “Mom, I have her in my sights.” “Yes, Mom, it’s a doe.” “I can take her.” When she lifts her head, I’m going to take her.”
Well, I couldn’t quite hear that last declaration of assurance, since we were whispering the entire time and I was sitting behind him in the cramped space, so I removed my ear protection, moved in really close to his ear in order to ask my question one more time, and as soon as my face was directly behind the butt of his rifle – BOOM! Yep, true to his word, my little man took his shot – and mom was promptly rendered not only speechless, but temporarily deaf as well.
That deer made one leap to the left and dropped to the ground. Mission accomplished. Neither of us could contain ourselves during the wait to make sure she didn’t get back up. She was a nice doe, weighing in at over 100 pounds, and the best part was that his shot went straight through the heart. It was a clean and compassionate kill – not bad at all for a first-time hunter!
I was so proud as I watched Dylan complete the processing, helped along by all the men who were available to instruct. I took lots of pictures and we even got a taste of some of that venison in the form of nuggets that one of the dads so graciously cooked for dinner.
The rest of the weekend went just as well – a second deer down the next night – with hunting in the early morning and late afternoon; naps, card games, and shooting the breeze during the middle of the day; and declarations to hunt again next year at the end. We hated to see the adventure come to a close.
I learned some lessons that weekend, though, that I will keep forever: Always trust my son to do what he says he will do; stop worrying, sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience; and most importantly, never give advice without proper ear protection.