The year was 2000, and the rifle season in Vermont was coming up fast. Over the past 15 years or so, I had shot 2 deer. However, neither of those deer had been while my father was in the woods with me. One both occasions, Dad had harvested his deer earlier in the season, so when I got home to hunt, I was on my own.
For the second time in the last few years, we had moved hunting spots, mainly due to past landowners either selling their land, of in one case, the man’s son was coming of age, and he wanted to hunt with him on his own land. That’s an absolutely understandable and admirable thing, so we moved on. This year, my father had gained access to some land on the back side of a golf course. I had moved out to San Diego a few years before, so I was not able to hunt the archery season there, or to do any scouting. My father got some time in the stand, and had seen some deer movement and was running into lots of sign.
So, rifle season came and I made my way back for the opener. My father had a few stands set up on the property, including 2 that were a couple hundred yards apart, along a grown over jeep trail that cut through a good portion of the property. I got back mid-day, and my father and I headed out for the evening hunt. Since it was our first time on the new property, my Dad walked me to my stand, showing me the area quickly before letting me settle in. He then headed back down the jeep trail towards his stand. Well, I hadn’t had time to really settle in, maybe 3 minutes, when I heard a shot come from his direction. I couldn’t imagine why he had shot so quickly, as he barely would have had time to get in his stand.
Being the concerned son that I am, and my dad being in his 50’s now, all the thoughts started going through my head. The one big one I kept thinking was that he might have been getting into his stand, and slipped and fell, causing his gun to discharge. I couldn’t help it any longer, so I got down, and hurried back to where my Dad’s stand was located. I got there, looked over, and saw him standing there shaking his head. I asked him what happened, and he said he just shot at a deer. I said “What, I thought you fell out of your treestand or something." He said that he had just stood up in his stand, turned around, and there was a buck standing right where I stood now. He looked a little irritated, since it was only a 30 yard shot or so with a rifle. But, given the fact that the stand was a homemade wooden stand, between 4 rather small birch trees, and the fact that the wind was blowing 30 miles per hour, I can see how a rushed off hand shot could be trouble.
I shook my head and went back to my stand, and nothing else happened that night. My dad said that it was a nice 4 pointer (forkhorn for you westerners). My dad spent the night fuming about the shot, and we got up the next morning and headed back out. For no reason other than a change of scenery, I moved to a stand closer to him, along a grown over pole line on the edge of the patch of woods where the buck ran after he missed it. In the half hour before shooting time, I heard something making it’s way up the pole line towards me. We often run into other hunters in some places we hunt, so I thought it was another hunter. Also, I could see what looked like a flashlight moving through the trees, even though I later found out it was a light on a barn way off in the distance. Anyway, I didn’t want the “hunter” to walk through my area, so I let out a couple of small coughs. The noise stopped, and then started again a minute later. I coughed again, and the noise seemed to stop for good.
Well, a couple minutes after shooting light, I heard the noise again. Irritated, I looked to the right, expecting to see a hunter. Instead, I saw a nice 4 pointer coming right in front of the stand. I immediately figured it out that this was actually what I had “coughed” at a half hour earlier. Guess I was lucky he came back. Surprised, I brought the gun up, and took aim. I gave a small bleat, the buck stopped, and I fired. He took off towards my dad, but I heard him wipe out just out of sight. My Dad came over, and I told him what happened. We found blood, followed it, and 75 yards later, found my nice buck. My dad took one look at him and said “That’s the one I missed last night." We figure he just jumped into that patch of woods, bedded down, and came out to me that next morning.
So we had our hugs, and I let out a yell. This was the first, and only time so far, that I had harvested a deer while my Dad was actually in the woods with me. And, don’t think that I didn’t rub it in a little that he had missed him the day before. Even now, he still likes to believe that he missed it on purpose so that I could get it the next day!!!! Call it a father’s gift to his son, I guess.