It was 6 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning in November. I woke up my oldest son, Noah, and grabbed some breakfast. For the first time in his life, Noah was excited to get up at 6 a.m. And for the first time in my life, I was slipping on a blaze orange jacket. Yes, we were going hunting.
Noah has been thinking about the big buck for at least two years now. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, he tagged along in the truck with one of his grandpas on a deer hunt. It may have been the quickest deer hunt in history, as Grandpa Paul drove his truck to the spot, and there were a bunch of deer standing there waiting for him.
Since then, Noah has taken the required training and, last month, went gun shopping with Grandpa Paul. We live in the country, so he was able to take some practice shots at targets in the weeks leading up to the opener. I even took a couple of shots, which quite possibly could be the first shots I ever took from a gun larger than a .22 caliber.
I never once had an interest in hunting. My dad and grandpa hunted a few times when I was a kid, and my older brother joined them one year. I have nothing against hunting. I just don’t have an interest. That’s not to say I haven’t gotten my share of deer. I have hit at least three of them with three different vehicles.
Our neighbor gave us permission to hunt on his horse pasture, so we had just a short walk to our hunting spot. He carried his gun, and I carried our little propane heater. The law states that 12 year olds must be accompanied by an adult. Since I don’t have a hunting gun, I was there for guidance, tips and support. And since I had never hunted before, I was mostly there for support.
When I was a teenager, I worked in the sporting goods department at Kmart. I sold a lot of blaze orange jackets, shotguns, slugs and hunting licenses. The little bit of knowledge I do have on hunting came from those days.
We got to our spot, sat down and got the heater going. It was about 20 degrees with a slight breeze. We huddled around the fire.
Noah and I decided right away that he was only going to shoot if it was a buck. I thought that was a good plan.
We sat and watched. Sat and watched. Sat and watched.
As we sat and watched, my thoughts were mainly on one thing. What if Noah actually shoots a deer? Hunting a deer is taking me out of my comfort zone. Field dressing a deer would be take me WAY out of my comfort zone. I was slightly prepared, though. The night before, I watched a few YouTube videos. They say you can learn to do anything watching YouTube videos. The guys on the videos made it look as easy as a slicing bread. I had my doubts. What I learned from the videos is that it is sort of like defusing a bomb. If you cut the wrong thing (intestines), you will have a mess on your hands, and the meat will all be ruined.
We sat and watched. Sat and watched.
The conversation was light at first. We were focused on watching our areas. After an hour of nothing happening, the conversation started to pick up. We talked about all sorts of things — school, past vacations, who has the nicest truck, and so on. In fact, he was talking so loud at one point that there was probably no chance a deer was anywhere within a mile of us. But it was fun to just sit and talk — now that he is nearly a teenager, that doesn’t happen as often as it used to. That was probably my favorite part of hunting.
After about two and a half hours, Noah decided to head back home.
“Let’s come out again at dusk,” he said.
And so we did.
We ended up putting on the blaze orange three times, a couple of mornings and a couple of dusks. It just wasn’t meant to be. We didn’t see a single deer. The coolest thing we saw was a woodpecker fly by.
My first hunting experience was not successful, but my son was very happy that we gave it a try. It is always fun to watch our boys when they develop new interests — even if those interests don’t line up with mine. And I think it is healthy for me when I put myself outside of my comfort zone. In this case, it was my son to help me do that.
Last Saturday morning, I looked out the kitchen window. Wouldn’t you know it, there were five deer walking across our yard, maybe 50 yards away. Included in their party was an 8-or 10-point buck. They turned and looked at me and then strolled right into our hunting pasture.
Oh well. Maybe next year.