Opening day for rifle season was approaching and I had plans to take my 15 year old daughter Emily. Last time she went hunting was on a very cold day in Northern Maine as a 10 year old for youth day. Never did get anything that day so we shot at some cans. After that she hasn’t had any interest in hunting but still enjoyed the outdoors. So on my birthday instead of spending a day for myself I spent it with my wife Angela and went shopping for camo clothes for Emily. Ahhhhhhhhhhh..... :) I'm such a good father. Nothing says I love U like spending about $180 in hunting clothing for a daughter. Hahaha. Of course she looks way cute in all of it. I placed all the clothes on her bed so she would see them when she got home from school. She tried them all on and posed for facebook profile picture updates. BTW if BassPro Shops wants her to model give us a call. Haha. Seriously give us a call. :)
Opening day was a cool morning temperature of about 38 degrees. I made arrangements to hunt from a specific stand that hadn't been hunted yet and had great potential to be one of the best stands in the club. Well when Emily and I got there one of the club members was signed into that particular stand. So now Emily and I needed to come up with a different plan. Now by that time the sun was up and we still were not set up yet. On the way into the other area we were going hunt just as we stepped into the woods we jumped a deer. Oh well it happens so we make are way along a dried up sandy creek bed just littered in acorns. Then get into a two man stand. We were there about 1hr and half when I spotted a deer moving. I just saw the movement and then it was gone but moving on an angle toward us. I told Emily to get her gun up and get ready. MY HEART WAS POUNDING. Then all of a sudden I saw antlers then disappeared as fast as I spotted them. 5 minutes go by and Emily says, She just spotted him. Then gone again. So we are waiting for this buck to feed up the creek where we walked in. It was about 100 yards directly out in front. But out in front are trees blocking our view of that bend in the creek and the game trail that follows along the creek into the area we were hunting. Then I start to hear an approaching deer from behind my right shoulder. I'm trying not to look and let it approach. I shift my weight slightly so I can get my binoculars from my pack and see if I can spot that buck out front. All of a sudden, "CLANG, CLICK BANG RATTLE RATTLE, CLANG, THUMP, ThuMP thump" My stupid cell phone falls out of my pocket and hits the tree stand breaks apart into three pieces and hits the ladder rungs on the way down to the forest floor covered in dried up leaves and twigs. UNBELIEVABLE! I was so humiliated and angry at myself and felt sooo awful for Emily. I couldn't even look her way. She was giving her Daddy a well deserved stink eye for sure.
The woods exploded all around us with noise of ALERT ALERT ALERT. I couldn't tell if that buck ran off or not. Thought maybe he would just stand there wondering what that weird sound was before bolting away. So we sat there another 40 minutes or so. Nothing. Then she needed to pee and was probably just using it as an excuse to get down because I just blew the chance for her to get a nice buck. It was definitely going to be larger than Jonah’s 1st Buck her sibling. I only had a glimpse but at that far away in thick cover for me to spot antlers was a good sign it was going to be a nice one. On the way out we looked at the tracks, they were inside of our boot tracks. That deer walked right in on the same trail we used. I'll be beating myself up on that hunting trip for a long time. Well that is until 3 weeks later.
11, November 2011 Veterans day. The 1st cold snap for middle Georgia is setting in and frost is in the forecast. Emily says to me Thursday night Daddy we’re hunting tomorrow morning. The 2person stand that I wanted to hunt opening day was our target area. When we got there we were about 30 minutes later then I would have liked. We enjoyed the short 20 minutes ride in listening to country music. My daughter has embraced her inner country girl and knew more songs then I did. You see spending time with a child hunting is not just about the hunt, it’s everything leading up to it and after. Little moments that make it special like being silly and not caring if I look like an idiot trying to sing along to a song I don’t know the words too. The new clothes that isn’t Dad’s old hand me downs. The shared coffee from Dad’s steel thermos. The fact that we left our cushions in the truck and had to sit on cold seats with frost on them until it melted and soaked our butts. Take the good with the bad. The little look I got when we settled in that spoke volumes without saying a word, “Yes honey my cell phone is in a deep pocket and zipped up.” The little things.
So we are all settled in. The sun was just peaking through the hardwood trees and hitting the planted pines to our right. It’s time for these deer to get up and move regardless if the full moon has had them running the roads all night long. It was cold and the sun was coming up. So I used a short bleat call. I muffled it so it was soft, the air was still and it was very quiet out. I did the bleat again 15 minutes later then some short grunt calls. Nothing to mature or aggressive. We waiting another 30 minutes and I tried the bleat call again. Emily says to me she thought she heard something moving in the pines. I just nodded as if to say, “Hmmmmmm maybe but I didn’t hear anything.” Not a minute later Emily was looking left and I spotted a buck walking out of the pines 50 yards in front of us moving right to left and headed to the hardwood bottom. He came out in a hurry. I whack Emily in the arm and say, “get ready it’s a buck.” Ever do that to someone just whack em and say, “There it is” when it’s really not there. Well that is exactly what she thought I had done and wasn’t too impressed but at that very moment she spotted him moving. OH Yeah! Adrenaline was pumping. We looked like two steam engines in the stand with the cold air showing our heavy breathing. I used the bleet call again and the buck stopped behind some small short pines in a gulley that I didn’t realize was there. Deer always seem to do that. While Emily was looking for him in the scope I tell her softly to look for him to pop out in front, on her side and to get ready. I used my grunt call and just gave a little pop grunt. (that’s what I call it anyway) That buck came out of the pines and right into the open facing us. As it was approaching I explained to Emily that she could take that head on shot and asked her where she would place it. She was comfortable and ready to pull trigger once it stopped moving. It was at that moment I thought oh no we are going to get busted. Buck was looking in our general direction but not up yet and just about to stop when it turned broadside to walk away. That’s when I just gave a vocal awkward grunt noise just to stop him. As I was saying the words, “Ok Emily” BLAM! She fired away. I blinked didn’t see the shot. I know she blinked. I ask did you get him? She says, “Oh Yeah I had him perfect.” That’s when Emily Shrieked with Joy. I just laughed and motioned to cover her mouth and shushed to listen. There we listened, the buck running and running, running, crashing up! “That’s it Emily you did it he’s down.” Tears start flowing. I’m shaking, she’s shaking, she’s shaking even more and so joyful. I ran a quick little video interview of what just happened with the camera and got some photos in stand and let the deer be for a minute or two. We waited maybe 5 minutes and decided to get down and do a blood trail track. She said to me later that she was shaking so bad she thought she was going to fall off the tree stand ladder.
With me on the little camera running a video, Emily set out on her 1st Blood trail. Good blood and easy track. She noticed along the way how the leaves were disturbed and where he jumped. I have never shown her this part of hunting and she was a natural. She would spot the trail and look ahead making mental notes and moving forward slowly and looking. 50 yards from the stand she spotted her 1st buck and Ran in. I could barely keep up. It was a beautiful moment for a beautiful young lady. Her shot placement was perfect just like she said. Just behind the shoulder and through the lungs. As she posed with her 1st deer at one moment she just leaned over and hugged her trophy in respect and admiration. I just kept snapping photos and captured the moment. We held hands and said a prayer together. I lost all control of my emotions barely getting the words of thanks out. It was a special moment for us and a blessing for sure. We dragged him out together and walked back to the truck just talking away. I was on cloud nine and don’t remember the conversation I was so excited for her. There were moments of high fives, boo yeahs, waaawhoos and fist pumps. I was half way home and just getting all excited all over again. There was nothing but smiles from my daughter of approval. A little token I will keep with me… Forever.