My son recently enjoyed his first successful deer hunting adventure. I figured this was something that was still a few years out, after all he just started kindergarten and very recently turned 6 years old.
I generally hunt with bow and arrow, it is rather primitive, barring the use of a compound bow, and is much more of a challenge. I had been out for a late October bow hunt at my in-laws farm and he had spent the time with them while I was in the field, in a tree to be more specific.
They have a small difficult to hunt 30 acre farm. Difficult to hunt due to the layout of the property and the fact that the deer primarily travel through it as it doesn’t provide the correct resources to hold them. I have taken a few deer on it since ascertaining the correct times and places to hunt during the conducive weather patterns.
Him and I were on our way home from the farm, almost home, when out of the blue from the car seat in the back of the truck I hear, “Daddy”, and replied, “Yes son?”. Wondering what direction the conversation was going to take, which with him is quite often very interesting to say the least, and as usual he did not let me down. In fact, he was unusually quiet for most of the drive, so I believe he had been contemplating this conversation for some time.
“Daddy, I want to go deer hunting with you.”
“You mean for firearm season?”
“Okay, I will buy some firearm tags and we’ll go sit in the blind.”
“Nooooooooooo, the blind is for turkey hunting. I want to hunt deer in the trees with you.”
“Well, firearm season starts in almost 2 weeks. We would have to get a 2 man ladder stand, get it setup, get a safety harness for you, and safety lines. Thats a pretty tall order on such short notice, but we’ll see what we can do.”
I did not know how this was going to turn out as I had a few reservations. He is usually very cautious at the playgrounds in regards to climbing up tall slides and things like that, so I wasn’t sure how he would handle going up a ladder stand, in hindsight boy was I in for a surprise.
I end up with a lot of BassPro and Cabelas gift cards for Christmas, so that evening unbeknownst to him I began gathering up all that I had collected over the past couple years. I began to research ladder stands and found that many of them only have a partial platform where one’s feet would rest while sitting, but the majority of area under the seat was wide open. This would not do as it would be too easy for a youngster to slip, or misstep, and fall through.
I ended up choosing a Muddy 2 man ladder stand that has a full platform that extends under the seat and to the tree where it rests. These are very well made stands and come to find out extremely comfortable.
I ordered the tree stand and safety lines on the BassPro website that evening and luckily they came in with time to spare. We were able to get it deployed the weekend prior to the firearm season. The boy helped in all aspects of assembly of the stand and its migration out into the woods. I still had reservations of what opening morning would be like and what amount of difficulties it would be getting him up into the tree stand.
To my amazement, these reservations turned out to be mute.
We arrived in the woods about an hour prior to daylight. I got everything setup and ready for us to start the ascent as he attentively observed every detail. Then came time to attach the safety lines to our harnesses and start our upward journey.
Letting him start up the ladder first, that way I could catch him and assist as needed, my jaw dropped as I watched him start up the ladder at a brisk pace with absolutely no hesitation or fear. In fact, once I realized what was happening I quickly asked him to hold on and wait for me. He was halfway up the ladder stand and here I was standing at the bottom with my mouth wide open.
We both made it up the stand with no issues and got comfortable. It wasn’t long after daylight when I heard the tell tale sound of a buck coming through the woods behind us, “tsch tsch tsch” in slow, almost perfectly timed cadence, elicited by it’s hooves meeting the crisply frozen leaves on the forest floor.
I slowly moved my hand over and tapped my son’s shoulder and whispered “buck” and pointed to the right side of the stand, which is the side he was sitting on. He ever so slowly turned his head, just like we had talked about, and it was not in sight yet. He turned back to me slowly with that look of “Daddy, you’re messing with me” and I pointed and whispered again, “Buck”.
This time when he turned his head there was a decent sized 6 point buck making his way past us about 12 feet away. The boy turned and looked at me with eyes as big as basketballs and turned back to watch the buck.
Once the young buck had made its way out of sight I whispered, “What did you think of that Cam Carter?”. His response was, “My heart started beating really hard and faster and faster and I didn’t ever think it was gonna stop. I’ve never seen it do that!”
We spent several other mornings out in the field and it all culminated on the last day of deer season. The last day of the season was actually a school day and I decided to surprise him with a day in the woods instead of a day of kindergarten. The weather report outlook was optimum, so the probability of success was high.
The day before I sent his teacher a note that stated:
I am afraid that Cam Carter will not be in school tomorrow as he has tragically come down with a bad case of Las’dayodeerseasonitis with a touch of venisonsausageeater syndrome. We certainly apologize for any inconvenience, but with proper treatment and care I believe he will return after the Thanksgiving break happy, healthy, and ready to continue his studies.
That Tuesday morning as we sat there in the stand I felt his head lean over against my arm as he settled in for a little nap. Getting up at 3:30am is hard work on a little guy, not to mention hiking through the woods in the dark to climb a tree stand.
About 5 minutes later 2 does came running towards our location and veered down into the valley below us. There was a lot of small saplings and trees, so I waited for an opening and slowly raised the thumper into position. The opportunity presented itself on the larger of the two does, I took the shot, and felt the boy raise his head off of my side as I moved the thumper back into resting position.
I asked him, “Did you hear that?”
To my surprise he responded, “Yeah, it was just some gunshot.”
Luckily I had my face mask on or he would have seen the look on my face and the jig would have been up, so I decided to go with it. Now, the thumper is a pretty loud firearm. It shoots the .450 Bushmaster round manufactured by Hornady propelling their 250 grain FTX projectile to approximately 2200 feet per second, turning the big bore theories of Col. Jeff Cooper into reality. Highly accurate and consistent out to 200 meters, it is an outstanding firearm.
Cam Carter was wearing electronic ear protection, so to him it was a bit muffled and combining that with the fact he was sleeping, it made for a great opportunity. He stayed awake after hearing that gunshot and after about 20 minutes it began to rain pretty hard, so I told him, “We may as well get down, it’s raining pretty good”.
What I intentionally did not tell him was that I did not want the rain to wash away the blood trail. The deer did not go too far, but I wanted him to experience following a blood trail.
We proceeded to lower our gear down out of the stand and to descend. Once we arrived at the base of the stand, disengaged our harnesses, to my amazement he started walking up the hill towards the truck. He really did think that was just some gunshot.
I said, “Cam where are you going buddy?”
“Aren’t we done? I am headed up.”
“Well, lets go a different way today, let’s go this way.”
I proceeded to head down into the valley where the deer had been shot and walked straight to the spot to find a huge amount of blood. Continuing to walk I hear in a very surprised and ecstatic voice, “DADDY there’s a bunch of blood here!!! Is this where you shot your deer?” About 4 weeks prior to firearm season I had harvested a nice sized 6 pointer on the same property we were hunting.
I responded to him, “Yes buddy, that’s from the deer I shot”. It was a true statement after all, it was just a different deer than the one he was referencing. We continued to walk.
“DADDY there’s more blood!”
“Yes, let’s do this. I want you to come up here in the front and you follow the blood trail and we’ll see where it leads.”
It wasn’t a really heavy blood trail as she was in a full run, but to my amazement he followed it perfectly. I continued to let him lead and he was so busy looking for blood that he nearly tripped over the deer. Once he saw it he got this sheepishly silly look on his face and started to look around.
I asked him, “Remember that gunshot you heard earlier?”
“Who do you think shot that?”
He responded a little questioningly, “You?”
Excitedly, “WHILE I WAS SLEEPING?”
Talk about a happy boy, I think this picture and that smile proclaims it. I don’t know that hunting the rest of the bow season will be the same anymore without his accompanying me.
It may have been his First Deer Season, but it was my Best Deer Season EVER!!!