How a grateful son helped return the gift of hunting to his proud father.
Forty-three years ago, I went on my first deer hunt and harvested a fork-horn on opening morning. I discovered the meaning of buck fever, but not from the deer I’d taken.
I recall discarding the paper-jacketed 16-gauge pumpkin ball casing. Morning rain had made the old paper jacket swell in the single-barrel gun, making it almost impossible to extract. Then, as I put my foot on the forky’s antler (thinking this would keep him from jumping up and running away), I looked up and saw a huge 10-point buck and a doe just 40 feet away. That’s when I got my first case of buck fever.
Hunting seasons came and went while I searched for and dreamed about another chance at the monster 10-pointer. Two years after my silent encounter with the big buck, my son Marvin was born. When he was 5, I bought him his first gun, a .22 Stevens. I took him hunting when he turned 8 and introduced him to archery. Today, he’s a much better hunter than his old man.
One of my closest friends and hunting partners is Kenneth Teague. We are reaching our senior years and have slowed down a good bit. We stay away from younger guys and do our own thing. On opening morning of the 2003 Ohio season, Kenneth and I went to our usual spot in a public state park only to find there had been a forest fire. Our hunt was ruined.
But our disappointment quickly turned to good fortune. Marvin called to see if we were doing any good. When we told him about our ruined morning, he insisted that we hunt on a private farm where he had harvested several big bucks with his bow. His best was a 140-inch 10-pointer. He’d also had a close encounter with a 180-inch buck. So we met him and went out that afternoon to set up for the next morning.
As we fixed up a blind of dead tree limbs behind a big briar patch at the base of a huge tree, Marvin smiled and informed me that my hunt would probably be over by 8:30. The spot was a travel corridor between picked corn and bean fields and a clear-cut bedding area. “Just maybe that big buck will be a little late getting to bed and you can get a shoot at him,” Marvin said.
The next morning, he dropped me off and wished me luck. I started the 15-minute walk to the back of the farm. It was cold and quiet, and my mind wandered back in time as I relived past hunts. I got to my stand about 30 minutes before daybreak.
While sitting and waiting for daylight, I got an eerie feeling that this might be my last deer hunt. Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by two does that appeared in front of me. A few minutes later, I looked over the horizon as God was bringing another beautiful morning to life and saw what I thought was another hunter cresting the ridge.
It seemed he had a treestand strapped to his back, and it was sticking up above his head. As he kept coming closer, I was getting upset, because I had two does feeding right in front of me. He stopped for a minute and turned to look toward the main road. That’s when the treestand turned into very long tines, and the body turned into the broad chest of a white-tailed deer.
The upset feeling turned into excitement when the buck began a brisk walk toward the does. Marvin had bought me a 20-gauge slug barrel for my T/C Encore since arthritis had made shooting a 12-gauge too painful, and I didn’t want to take a long shot.
The buck was at 40 yards and closing quickly when I fired. It didn’t give any indication that it was hit and ran another 20 yards to the right. I fired again but hit a branch that fell to the ground. As I prepared for another shot, the buck went down. My first shot had taken out both lungs.
Marvin was right about my hunt being over early that morning. It was only about 30 minutes from the time I left the truck to my shot. As for the eerie feeling, in the spring after I took that buck, I found out I had lung cancer. Already in the midst of a 10-year battle with rheumatoid arthritis, I figured my hunting days were over. Then in 2005, about a year after my lung was removed, I suffered a heart attack and had triple bypass surgery.
It has been an up-and-down battle, but it seems that God has given me a second chance; I guess I’ll start all over again.
Whether or not I get another buck, I have enjoyed many hunts with friends and with Marvin. He deserves the credit for that 16-pointer. His knowledge of the area was the key. All I needed was 43 years and 15 minutes of patience.
Read Recent Buckmasters Articles:
• In A Zone: Break down buck behavior to know where to set up stands.
• Role Reversal: This time it was Dad’s turn to be told where to hunt.
• An Ounce of Prevention: Muzzleloaders require extra care to prevent mishaps and ensure functionality.
This article was published in the October 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.