This post was originally written a few years ago. My daughter is now almost 18 and still hunts with me. She is going to be leaving home and starting her first year of college in September. For those of you who has a daughter (or a son, for that matter) you can probably relate to this post!
As my daughter, Megans 12th birthday was approaching I knew it was almost time when she would be able to carry a gun afield for the Wisconsin gun deer season. She first would be required to attend a Wisconsin hunter safety class, just like I had attended a mere 40 years earlier. I have to admit, although I was excited for her to start deer hunting, I had some pretty selfish thoughts running through my head. Why ? Well, I had become a pretty intense trophy seeker. I was used to hunting from dark till dark no matter what the conditions. Also passing so many 2-3 year old bucks in the last 15 years- I could not even imagine the number, but am sure it would be pushing the 500 number, yet I had not been able to close the deal on the one really big buck of my dreams. I knew he existed, because my trail camera pictures had often reminded me! As my years left to hunt were slowly getting fewer, and my opportunities less, I now would not be able to devote all my time to getting my trophy buck, because I would now have worry about her.
Yes, selfish was the perfect word and I probably would not be getting any father of the year awards. But I had a plan- The Wisconsin Deer Youth season. Wisconsin has a season dedicated just for youth hunting, usually early to mid October when its fairly warm and the deer are relatively relaxed. I would take her for that weekend and easily be able to get her a shot on a racked buck. That time of year it shouldn’t be difficult to see a 2-3 year old buck..would it?
The perfect plan, like usual, didn’t go as planned. The weather was blazing hot- mid nineties and the deer did not move a muscle, never even seen one – none – not-a ! That left the real Wisconsin gun deer season, 3rd week in November. The weather can be brutal for a seasoned hunter, much less a 12 year old trying to kill her first buck. The deer are on the run, not walking, making for a harder shot. Yes, she would be interfering with MY hunt! (there’s the selfish Dad again!)
Special preperations would need to be done to have this happen, I now would not be able to sit in MY favorite gun stand and I made the desition to hunt from the ground vs a double wide tree stand, simply because I new if I wanted to hunt 12 hrs straight I would have to make sure she was comfortable. I had not hunted on the ground in 20 years. We also needed rules, like who would shoot what and when. There might not be any time to decide, you ? me ?This is Wisconsin gun opener, most bucks are running wide open after the first 2 hours of light, and time to decide to shoot and when can be tricky. Megan in her unselfishness says-” Dad, if you see a buck you think is big enough to shoot…YOU shoot, you have been hunting such along time trying to get that deer of a lifetime ” What? OMG…Where did this unselfishness come from? certainly not from her selfish dad!
The night before the hunt we had a great time at the hunting trailer, laughing, joking, telling stories, some true, most …well, sort of. What deer hunting is really about. The anticipation was mounting as morning drew near and came to a reality when the alarm sounded at 4 am. I like to be the first one out the door and in the stand, and I was going to make sure Megan seen how I hunted, and that I was not going to change everything for her.
We got settled into the ground blind and had 30 -45 minutes to spare. The next step was getting Megan a deer so I could hunt, the way I liked to hunt. That should be easy right since over the years I have seen so many 2-3 year old bucks, this morning would be no different…right?
As light broke we could hear the deer running through the leaves but it was just too dark to make any out, I knew Megan was excited cause I swear I could hear her heart beating! Hey this is fun! Then there was a bunch, up on the hill, right there. I told Megan to get ready, then they were gone, no shot, oh well won’t be long before there will be another opportunity. This is fun, seeing her excitement.
Then everything was quiet, dead quiet, no shooting, no leaves rustling, nothing. For 2 hours we heard nothing. It was a morning where you could hear a squirrel at 200 yards. Then suddenly – BAAAAAWWWW- what the heck was that! I was pretty sure a neighbors cow had gotten loose and was down in the valley and got kicked in the stomach. What! wait, that was a buck roar, never in all my years had I heard it in person. I had seen in hunting shows, but now it was ringing in the woods still air like a train whistle. MEGAN – get ready, I had her position where I thought the buck might appear. Then the doe came, she was about 150 yards down the hill and ran through a small dry creek bed, only clear to shoot about 15 yards wide. How will Megan even get a shot on a buck there I thought. I scanned with my binoculars waiting for the buck to appear, then I seen him ” Just a small one Megan” I said. “NO Dad ” she says, there is a great big one back farther. While only feet away-being up the steep hill, she could see around a small nob the deer were coming from. I threw down the binoculars and grabbed my gun, as soon as I looked back down I saw him coming, he was a giant and was running head down, hot on the does trail. I literally had seconds to react, I put the cross hairs on him, hollered as loud as I could, he looked and I pulled the trigger. Then he was gone. After a brief search we found him. After all my years of trying for the buck of a lifetime, it just happened, not only that, but Megan got to witness it, and I was lucky enough to have her in the stand with me. We hooted and hollered like we just one a million dollars, and to me I just hit the jackpot.
Had I been in the deer stand I always hunted from, the only thing I would have seen was rustling in the leaves, because I cannot see the area where the deer were from that stand,so I need to thank Megan for giving me the privilege of taking her hunting. Megan made a nice shot on a huge doe, and had an opportunity on a nice 140″ buck but things didn’t all come together, she also passed on some small bucks, which was her choice.
That was 3 years ago- Megan doesn’t want to hunt the youth hunt anymore, she wants to hunt when all the guys are in camp, when the jokes and laughing and the half truths are spoken. I am so happy because I never enjoyed hunting as much as I do as when she is hunting with me. I hope the unselfish dad stays away, but if he appears, I think Megan will teach me a new life lesson.