Son's reaction to first buck only ranks second best
By Tim H. Martin
Since hunting season is long gone and the 2013 season is depressingly far away, let's reflect on our favorite hunting moments of 2012.
Mine came on the day my 12-year-old son, Graham, got his first buck.
After three seasons, countless cold hours and 26 fruitless trips to the deer stand without a presentable shot, I can honestly say Graham paid his dues for that little 3-pointer. My first buck didn't come easy either, so I wouldn't have it any other way.
It was a bluebird day, as we call it in Alabama, without a cloud in the sky. I prefer overcast hunting conditions, but the bucks were becoming rutty, and I knew one might respond to the tickling of rattling horns. I'd hoped I could provoke one out of the Alabama briar jungle and into the open in front of our ladder stand that afternoon.
Graham and I arrived early, around 2:30 p.m., and I decided to rattle around 3:30.
But around 3, the wind subsided, and I couldn't wait any longer to tickle the rattling antlers together.
Clack. Clack. Click-clack! Clickity. Clickty. Click-clack-click!
Simultaneously, I grunted on my tube, then went silent.
I whispered, "Graham, get the gun up on the rail and keep your eyes peeled. And be ready to shoot when he steps out."
Graham was accustomed to only seeing deer right at dusk and said unenthusiastically, "Yeah, okay." I could tell he didn't believe all my ruckus would actually make a buck appear in broad daylight. To be honest, I wasn't so sure myself.
Five long minutes passed when I spotted a deer moving in the swamp about 200 yards away. I raised my binoculars and was thrilled to see it had small antlers. It wasn't a monster by any means, but the perfect size for a boy's first buck.
It was making a beeline toward us, and I struggled to keep my voice from shaking and said nonchalantly, "Okay, bud, here comes one. It's going to walk right out into the field, so get ready."
Graham sprang to life. "Where?" he asked, moving one hand to the safety.
I pointed to the swamp and he stared in disbelief as the husky little 3-pointer materialized before his eyes.
From past experience hunting with kids, I knew to keep everything matter-of-fact and low-talk him through the process, not rushing anything.
"Let it get closer and we'll wait until it stops in the open. Now put your headphones on, take off the safety, and I will tell you when to shoot," I coached.
The buck continued approaching with ears forward, scanning the area for the mystery fight. I wanted it to come to within 60 yards and turn broadside for Graham.
It stopped for a moment at about 90 yards out, but I wanted it to be at least 20 yards closer, so I said, "hang on, when it gets to the field I want ..."
I'd forgotten Graham had his headphones on and couldn't hear a word I was saying!
Our practice on the bench paid off, because the .243 round pinpointed the buck's vitals. It dropped and never even flinched.
After a few seconds Graham turned to me, wide-eyed and animated and said, trembling, "I can't believe that just happened!"
Now, I've never won a lottery or a Super Bowl, but I've seen the look in a person's eyes when they've won it all, and Graham had that same expression.
Three years of hard work and anticipation culminated with big hugs, belly laughs and a chorus of "WOO HOOs!" which I later learned could be heard a half-mile away by other hunters.
But, believe it or not, that wasn't my favorite moment of the year. The best moment came later that day.
After an evening of picture taking and field dressing lessons, our family and friends gathered around the dinner table for supper.
I said, "Graham, you're the man of the hour, why don't you do the honors of asking our blessing tonight?"
He said, "Okay." nodded his head, closed his eyes and began to pray, "Dear God, thank you for this food and for all our blessings. Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins. And, oh yeah, thank you that I finally got my buck ... Amen!"