It was Thanksgiving morning, and my son, Skeeter, and I had eagerly looked forward to the extended deer season in eastern Washington. The area was Loon Lake, directly north of Spokane.
The general season ended two weeks earlier. This was our favorite time to hunt, as the bucks were normally in rut. Nature had cooperated and rewarded us with a 6-inch blanket of snow during the past week. We could hardly contain ourselves over the hunting prospects.
As we turned off the highway, our worst fears were confirmed. We pulled up next to another group at “our spot.” Of all the good places to hunt in our state, why did they have to pick this spot, today?
A slight thawing during the previous days had refrozen on top of the snow, causing a condition similar to walking on “freeze-dried coffee.” The crunching snow could be heard throughout the woods, making any stalking of the deer impossible.
I suggested that my son Skeeter and I hunt the lower regions by walking out the roads we’d driven in on. My intent was to still-hunt by walking in the tire ruts we created on our journey into the woods. I had hoped that any activity created by the hunters above us in the crunchy snow conditions might drive the deer to us.
Dressed in his little red ski jacket, gloves, rubber boots and an orange cap, my son was now ready to participate in his first deer hunting expedition. At least that’s what I thought! Being an active 8 year old and on his first hunt, he didn’t exactly know or follow the rules.
Shortly after heading out, the sound of a bell ringing filled my ears. There hanging from my son’s coat zipper was a charm of some type, clanging against his zipper and sounding like a warning bell for all the deer to hear. I told him that we had to be quiet and removed it from his coat. His “whispered” response of, “Okay, Dad”, sounded through the woods.
Then, as he followed me in the snow – me in the tire tracks and him in the “freeze-dried snow” – the crunching sound pierced the silence of the morning. Like any inattentitive 8 year old, he had simply wandered out to the side of me to be next to his Dad.
Once again, I stopped to explain that we had to be quiet. Again, he responded with a less than quiet, “Okay, Dad.”
By now we had traveled a maximum of a ¼ of a mile from our truck.
Now the “clang…..clang”, “crunch…..crunch” and “Okay, Dad”s might have discouraged some hunters, but not me. As I knelt down beside Skeeter, I put my arm around him and explained to him that if we were quiet, that many times you could hear a deer before you ever see one.
The words had hardly left my lips when the telltale “thumping” of hoofs could be heard running through the forest and down the hill towards us. Without thinking of the consequences, I said, “Shush, I hear a deer.”
Looking up the hill in the direction of the “thumping”, a nice 4×4 whitetail buck was apparently escaping the hunters above us. The buck appeared to be looking over his shoulder and enjoying what he thought was his clean getaway.
The crack of my 30-06 brought him sliding through the snow and onto the road. Within minutes, the buck was field dressed. All of this occurred within an hour of leaving “our spot.” Ours was the only shot heard that morning!
After loading the buck into the bed of the truck, we were on the way home and on time for our Thanksgiving dinner. My son was now talking non-stop about how exciting it was to go hunting and that he couldn’t wait until we went hunting again.
We’ve shared many enjoyable and rewarding experiences together since that initial hunt. Although I’ve never heard them since, sometimes I miss the memories of the “clang…clang”, “crunch…crunch” and “Okay, Dad” of our first hunt together as father and son.
Sometimes you have to think outside the box in deer hunting to be successful. This Online Course from D&DH Field Editor Les Davenport shows you how to do it.