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A Different Kind of Trophy

Ryan Thompson smiles with his first buck, taken the season before this story.
By Tom Thompson 

-- On Sat., Oct. 21, 2006, my 13-year-old son Ryan and I were bowhunting on private property in southern, Maryland. It was just after a cold front, and the weather was a sunny 61 degrees with a slight west-northwest wind. In other words, it was perfect!

We arrived at our site around 2:30 p.m., and I freshened up our bait with shelled corn, apple pieces and wild persimmons. We settled into our stands at about 3 p.m.

After about 30 minutes, I saw Ryan slapping at his left arm. He stood up suddenly and motioned to me to get down--fast!

Once on the ground, he told me he had been bitten by something and couldn't feel his left arm and wanted to go home.

Leaving everything in the woods, we rushed to the truck to find the first-aid kit. Ryan removed his shirt to reveal a green-colored hornet, about an inch long. Ryan seemed to take great satisfaction in obliterating the creature.

After an application of insect-bite ointment, Ryan decided that he felt better and could continue to hunt.

About an hour after we returned to our stands, Ryan indicated that he heard something off to his left. About a minute later, I saw movement and signaled Ryan that I saw a deer. He grabbed his bow and got ready.

The deer was moving our way fairly quickly, but we lost sight of it after it crossed a nearby creek. I finally got another look and gave Ryan a thumbs-down signal to hold off. We had decided earlier that we wouldn't shoot yearlings or small bucks, and this deer was a small spike.

I was impressed with the young deer's strong survival skills. It took the spike more than 35 minutes to finally reveal itself, and even then it was visible only for a moment. This was one youngster that paid attention to its mother's lessons on smell, sight and hearing.

Ryan had crushed an apple through the platform of his stand, and the pieces had fallen to the ground at the base of his tree. The small buck eventually worked its way to his tree and sniffed around under him until it ate every last piece of apple.

When finished, the spike began to circle our bait, reluctant to enter the open space around our corn. After about an hour of watching the small deer, Ryan and I were feeling the pain of remaining still. Sunset was approaching, so I decided to let Ryan shoot the deer if he wanted to.

I tried to get my son's attention for the next 10 minutes, but he was so intent on watching that deer that he wouldn't look my way. I was about to give up when he finally saw me give him a thumbs-up. He quickly chose to take the shot.

As Ryan stood, the buck caught the movement and locked up. Ryan quickly drew back and released, sending the arrow over its back. The buck trotted off into the sunset.

Thirty minutes later at dark, we got down from our treestands to return home. During the ride, we talked about what we had experienced that evening: the crisp fall air; the smell of the fresh forest; and the squirrels fighting over the buffet of free corn, persimmons and apples. Dozens of brightly colored cardinals and numerous varieties of finches also reaped the harvest of the free smorgasbord.

Just like the young deer, Ryan was far more mature than his age. He persevered and did what any good cowboy would after falling from his horse. We went home without a deer, but we took home a wonderful experience. We connected with our primal instinct for hunting and adventure and experienced the bonding of a father and son, memories forever etched into our hearts and minds.

A proud father, I grabbed Ryan's shoulder and took my trophy home.

Tom Thompson
Solomons, Md.

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