By Anthony R. Knight
Timely invite salvages dream hunt for new father.
My love of hunting began when I was 10 years old when I went rabbit hunting with my dad near our home in Tennessee.
I got my first rabbit that year with a 20-gauge single-shot H&R shotgun my parents got me for Christmas. Although I didn’t get a deer that year, I was hooked on hunting. I was lucky enough to get a doe with Dad the next year.
Fast forward 29 years, and I love the outdoors more than ever. I am now at the stage where I enjoy hunting mature deer. In December of 2008, I decided to try to find a farm to lease in Kentucky. I had hunted the Bluegrass State in the past on guided hunts and occasionally with friends, but I wanted my own place.
With the help of my wife, Nicole, I did a lot of research and decided to try to lease a farm in Butler County, which is about 95 miles from my home. I placed ads in the newspaper there, talked to some local sawmill owners and had a few leads to go on. After several trips and countless phone calls, nothing was working out. If I liked a property, I couldn’t afford it. Those I could afford didn’t look very appealing.
After months of searching with no success, I put the idea on the back burner. Also during that time, Nicole and I got news we had been anxiously waiting for: She was pregnant! We were very excited.
I had a lot of things to do around the house to prepare for the baby, so I figured my dreams of hunting in Kentucky would have to wait for at least another year. Then I got a call from my dad, Roger.
He asked if I would like to hunt in Kentucky about 30 minutes from home on a farm his friend had just purchased. He said he was there and it looked promising for deer hunting.
I jumped at the chance. It was close enough that I could do my baby preparation work and still get in some decent hunting. I began scouting in late winter to see what kind of deer sign remained after hunting season. I saw enough rubs and old scrapes that I was very excited about the upcoming archery season.
Opening day of bow season was uneventful, however. I didn’t see any deer, and my next few trips produced only a few doe sightings. I was getting pretty busy at home, so I didn’t get out much after those first few weeks. With the baby due Oct. 31, I had pretty much written off gun and muzzleloader seasons.
Then, on Oct. 9, three weeks early, Nicole and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Alli. I couldn’t have been happier.
Muzzleloader season opened Oct. 17, and Nicole encouraged me to go hunting. The first morning, I had a young 8-pointer come down a hill around a dozer pile. He came to within 50 yards and hung around about 15 minutes before slipping out of sight in a treeline. The next day, I was back in the same spot. Around 8:30 a.m., I tried rattling and grunting to see if I could make something happen.
Suddenly, out of a nearby thicket, a doe popped out. Sure enough, a buck followed. He stopped in a small opening for just a few seconds, but it was long enough for me to see long tines on one side.
The buck went around the opposite side of the dozer pile and vanished into the same line of trees. I didn’t see anything else the rest of the day.
I wasn’t able to go hunting again until Nov. 14, the opening day of rifle season.
I decided to move to where I could see into the treeline where the bucks had disappeared on my earlier hunts. As soon as it got light enough to see, I spotted two big rubs. I settled back against a cedar with the wind in my face and got ready.
At about 7 a.m., a doe broke out of the trees and stopped, looking over her shoulder. I knew something was after her, and I hoped it was the long-tined buck. A few seconds later, there he was, hot on her trail and moving fast.
I quickly shouldered my Remington .30-06 and fired. The buck went down immediately, so I rushed over to him. When I got close, I couldn’t believe it. The closer I got, the bigger the rack got. It was my biggest buck ever, and I was ecstatic.
If my dad hadn’t gotten permission for me to hunt that farm, I would never have taken that buck. If it wasn’t for him taking me hunting the first time all those years ago, I never would have experienced all the great times we had hunting together.
Dad doesn’t hunt much any more, but when he does, it’s always fun. I hope I can take my little girl hunting and share great times like Dad and I have done. I can never repay him for everything he has done for me over the years, but I can start by saying “Thank you, Dad.”
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• When Opportunity Knocks: It’s good to have a game plan, but better to hunt a hot stand. This article was published in the October 2011 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.