They say hope is what we cling to when reality has left us with nothing else, but I have to disagree. As the minutes ticked down on the second-to-last day of my daughter’s first deer season, we weren’t clinging.
We were hanging on by our fingernails.
Thankfully, Emily had a champion’s attitude. She sat quietly for several morning and afternoon vigils, all from the ground, without seeing the first hint of a whitetail. One sit was literally that — on the bare ground — because Dad forgot to bring a chair for that blind. Another three-hour session was spent watching full trees in motion during an afternoon of sustained 30 mph winds. None of that deterred her, however, as she declared she just wanted to see a deer up close even if that meant venturing out every day until the finale.
Dad knew this wasn’t 1983 and orders of “sit here until I come get you” wouldn’t cut it in mentoring this young hunter. It would take some patience and goodly supply of fruit-flavored Tootsie® rolls and at least one free download of Disney Emoji Blitz.
Hey, Dad’s a realist. Whatever it takes to keep ’em in stand and from thinking about how cold it is.
So they were sat. The sun’s sneaking past the trees. The candy’s all gone. The phone’s battery is almost dead. There’s maybe 10 minutes of legal shooting light left in the surrounding woodlot.
“I really thought we’d see one today,” she sighs while peering out the blind’s windows.
I fought off those feelings of helplessness while trying to maintain a never-say-never attitude.
“You know, Sweetie, sometimes when you’re hunting you look away momentarily from a spot you’ve been watching and then look back and, BAM!, there’s a deer standing there.”
The words no sooner left my lips when I looked past Emily’s shoulder toward a corner of the woods I had been watching all afternoon.
“DEER!” I hissed.
She thought I was acting.
“No, really, there’s a deer standing right there!”
Emily’s eyes widened and she perked up in her chair.
“Do not move,” I instructed, my heart hammering harder than it has on any of my recent hunts. “There’s two of them, and they are going to feed their way right to us.”
How Emily reacted over the next few minutes assured me that she was paying attention when I home-schooled her on how to react while hunting. She didn’t move until the deer had their heads down, and when she did move she was beyond slow as to not spook them.
We had already agreed that any deer — buck or doe — would be a good one for her first harvest. When it was clear that one of these would step into range, she scooted over and sat on my lap so she could better position her .243 on the blind’s window ledge.
“This is really going to happen!” she whispered excitedly as she got into shooting position.
“Be calm,” I replied. “Let’s just see what happens here.”
As the first deer stepped into range — 85 yards and broadside — Emily settled in behind her riflescope.
“I can see it perfectly!” she whispered.
“Take your time,” I replied. “Remember, the first set of crosshairs. Right at the shoulder.”
“Yes,” she replied. “I have it lined up perfectly!”
Making sure hands and fingers are away from the trigger guard, I help her with the safety.
“Still lined up?”
“OK, now SLOWLY put your finger on the trigger. Take a breath, then squeeze.”
As she methodically follows the instructions, I instinctively grimace/squint in anticipation of the gun’s report.
The deer drops dead in its tracks.
Emily puts the gun’s safety back “on” and hands me the rifle.
What happened next is what I’ll remember the most:
JOIN THE CAMPFIRE AT THE SATURDAY NIGHT DEER CAMP!
Deer & Deer Hunting invites you to watch Saturday Night Deer Camp, only on Pursuit Channel.
Saturday Night Deer Camp is a primetime block of shows kicked off each week with the award-winning Deer & Deer Hunting TV. Hosted by Dan Schmidt, Gordy Krahn, Mark Kayser and Steve Bartylla, the show is in its 14th season and covers everything related to deer hunting, from tactics and strategy to gear, biology, great hunts and more.
Following DDH TV, you can watch Destination Whitetail, The Given Right with Kenneth Lancaster and then Land of Whitetail. These four shows make Saturday Night Deer Camp your must-watch viewing this year.
Check your local listings for Pursuit Channel. It’s also available now on AT&T U-Verse, Channel 1644, among other networks.
Saturday Night Deer Camp: It’s all about the people, the places and the camaraderie that make hunting a lifestyle. Only on the Pursuit Channel!