When I was about knee high to a grasshopper, I was sitting in a ground blind with my dad. It was one of my first hunts to sit on the ground and not on a board nailed in the limbs of a tree. I enjoyed it very much because I could see the critters better, draw in the dirt and sharpen a stick with my pocketknife. The blind was fashioned from logs we had gathered up previously that summer and built a mini log house of sorts, like a three sided square, and a large oak tree at our backs with a small opening between the tree and logs to enter and exit from. I really enjoyed building the ground blind and we worked very hard at making it just the right size and height for each of us to see from. There was no top on it but the large oak tree at our back served as a support to lean against and to shade and semi-cover our heads. Visibility was great from this blind as it set up on a rise overlooking a small field.
As dad and I walked to the blind that cold morning in the pitch dark, we flushed a covey of bobwhite quail. We were literally surrounded by quail when they erupted from the grass in the total darkness and I will never forget feeling the wind of their wings on my face. I think dad jumped about as high as I did when it happened and we had a good laugh after the fact.
We finally got settled in the blind and got prepared for the long wait for daylight. My dad leaned over and whispered to me that he was going to take a short nap and to wake him up if he snored or if I saw anything. He immediately fell asleep and I set there in the darkness wondering if every sound behind me was the big bad wolf or a mountain lion looking for an easy snack. I was so happy when daylight arrived so I could see what was really making all those scary noises! Finally, I was able to use the binoculars enough to see deer in the field, lots of deer. I kept glassing and inspecting every deer for antlers. Finally, way at the back of the field and staring in my general direction, I saw the largest buck of my life. He was huge, his neck swollen, his ears and eyes aimed right at me. I was frozen in my seat and I was afraid he could hear my heart pounding against my coat. For a brief moment, I forgot what I was there for; I was totally mesmerized by this huge buck. As the does and fawns fed throughout the field, the buck stood his ground, never moved a muscle and just stared at the other deer. I finally snapped back to reality and gently nudged my dad to wake him up. He shifted around and I leaned over to tell him the largest buck in the entire world was in the field and looking right at us. Dad immediately snapped to attention and grabbed the binoculars from me. He took one quick look at the buck and immediately grabbed for his rifle. The shot was a long one–across the field and over the top of the other deer as the big buck was facing directly towards us. I remember watching through the cracks in the logs while holding my fingers in my ears when the gun went off. The trophy buck hit the ground immediately and all the other deer raced from the field with their tails frantically waving good by. We both jumped from the ground blind and quickly made our way across the field to the trophy. He had not moved an inch and a small hole was obvious right in the center of his neck, just below the white patch on his throat. The body was huge and the antlers even moreso. We grabbed the rack and began counting the long dark brown tines. The spread was well outside the ears and the mass was as thick as my wrists. Dad and I said a brief prayer of thanks to the man above and gave each other a huge hug. It was a very powerful moment and one that I will never forget. We could not drag the deer at all, he was entirely too heavy for us. We left him there and returned with the truck. After several unsuccessful tries to load him, we finally managed to get it done, and I learned a few lessons about physics and leverage and critical mass.
We took the buck into town to show it to friends and family. I rode the entire trip facing backwards in my seat, just staring at the antlers poking above the toolbox. I can’t remember ever seeing my dad so happy as that day. You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. We drove that buck all over town and people came from near and far to see it and hear the story. The best part of the story, to me, was that dad told the story just as it happened–he was asleep, I found the buck, I woke him up and he shot it. It was a team effort and one of the most proud moments of my life. Dad let me hang the plaque-mounted antlers in my room and we wore the carpet out showing it to everyone that came to our house.
My dad passed away a few years ago, about thirty years after this story unfolded. At his funeral, I hung the antlers of this buck next to his casket. I couldn’t think of a better tribute to my dad, and to this buck, and for the story it represented. Today, the same rack hangs proudly on my living room wall where I see it every day. This rack is so much more to me than just the trophy it is, and is responsible for me choosing my life long passion as a profession.
Cherish the times hunting with your parents my friends. They are limited and they are precious. They will stay with you for the rest of your life.
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