Tanner Colten Moad, 5 years old, is one of the coolest kids I know. The youngest of 4 children of mine, Tanner never stops moving.
Before gun season in central eastern Oklahoma, the traditional bow season usually takes priority. I had taken the first week of bow season off from work in an attempt to tag out early at the request of my wife Lori. In her mind, if I was to tag out early, my deer season would then be "dear" season, with lots of additional chores getting done that get overlooked during each year's deer season. As a bow hunter, I was able to harvest a doe pretty quick, and two days later, stuck a nice 8 point that only took two steps before falling over. I had watched that buck spar with a 9-point two days earlier, and was in hopes I could manage to get the edge on one of them as both were very big bodied deer. Well, upon getting the close up view of the 8-point I had just harvested, I realized that half way up one side of his G-2, his antlers were completely broken off. A few of his other tines were damaged as well, which led me to believe that the 9-point he had previously been sparring with, probably wasn't sparring anymore.
With bow season quickly becoming gun season, my son Tanner, was getting pretty excited about going hunting with dad this year. I had to work the first day of the season, but promised to take him on Sunday. Sunday afternoon, around 3:00 pm, I was off to the deer woods and had my little man right there with me on the 4-wheeler. We drove to a spot where not much hunting activity was going on, and climbed into the buddy stand that was located there. The buddy stand had the camouflage netting around its fall protective bars and I knew that if a deer did come in, that the anticipated movements of my son would go undetected.
To my surprise, Tanner, sat quietly in the stand with me, pulled out his binoculars, and commenced to scanning the woods all around. When a squirrel would drop an acorn from a tree, it would hit the leaves, and Tanner would turn quickly to identify what made the noise. He would whisper to me that he thought he heard something over there, or over there, and over there. I know this sounds crazy, but I loved every minute of watching him pay attention to what was going on in the woods around him. Now he was hungry, 15 minutes after we were in the stand. He pulled out a package of crackers and quietly munched on them while looking around. We switched positions about 10 times, so he could see everything. He would ask me questions about all kinds of woods activities and now sat in my lap to get a better view. About 1 and ? hours in the stand now, Tanner started doing the chicken head. You know, when someone is trying desperately not to fall asleep, but their eyes roll back, and their heads starts popping up. Well, it wasn't long before "Mr. Energy" was resting against my arm, quietly sleeping.
Soon as Tanner decided to snooze, I elected to stay in the stand since there was only about 30 minutes left of daylight. So I positioned Tanner so he could lay down across the buddy stand seat that was covered with a camouflage blanket, and I would stand up. After positioning Tanner towards comfort, I stood up in the stand, now facing the rear, and spotted a nice buck standing there watching me. I touched Tanner on the face and arm attempting to wake him from his afternoon nap. I whispered to him "Tanner, there is a deer, wake up". No response. So I looked back up the deer was gone. I positioned my rifle across the stand bars and waited for the deer to exit the brush. Just as I thought, he walked right through the opening in the brush headed for the deep woods. I announced I was there with a mouthed made "grunt". He stopped and "bang". As soon as the shot rang out, "Tanner, jumped up, wide eyed and said "Did I GET HIM?. Excited now, he really wanted to know if he got a deer. I smiled at him and excitedly said yes son, you got a big old buck. He jumped up and down in the stand and hugged me, and said "Well, where is he? Let's go get him." His little voice was squeaking high and low with excitement. This was his first experience in the deer woods hunting, and man he sure loved it, as did I. We climbed down the stand together, and went to where the buck was standing. I showed him the blood on the ground and explained to him that he should walk beside the blood, not in it, when he was tracking a deer. He started to walk beside the trail when he squeaked again. "I found him, he is right there" pointing. All of these events happening so fast, I wanted them to slow down some so I could savor the enjoyment of watching him. I showed him the caution of approaching a wounded or dead animal, helped him count the points on the antlers, and hugs and pride just rushed through me. After all, this hunt was supposed to be all about him.
He helped me load the deer on the 4-wheeler, and away we went to show the family. Close to the house now, I walked beside the 4-wheeler and allowed Tanner to drive up to the house. Picture this, a five year old boy, dressed in a camouflage shirt and orange hat with vest, driving a ranch 4-wheeler with a rifle in the rack on the front, and a 140 pound 8-point deer strapped to the utility rack in the back, coming out of the deer woods and driving up to the house with his mother waiting for him with a camera. Wouldn't you be proud? I know I was. Tanner will never forget his first deer hunt, but neither will I. I think Lori, my wife and his mother, took a million pictures that evening.
Not only that, but he beat me this year with his deer. Mine during bow season was 150 pounds, but his rack was bigger. It is good to start them off young.