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A Greater Joy

PhotoBy Daniel Powell
 
-- I always wanted to hunt deer. As a child, I hunted small game because my family was not interested in deer. These dreams of hunting deer never went away as I became an adult. By the time I was 30 years old, I had the opportunity to lease a small track of hunting property 45 minutes from our home.

Excited about the lease and the opportunity to hunt deer, we built stands, installed feeders and put up trail cameras. I spend a lot of time in the off-season asking questions and reading articles. Six months had passed and deer season was here. I spent three days in the stand and only saw bobcats, coyotes and rabbits. My dreams turned to reality when a deer stepped out on the fourth day of my hunt.

The deer was about 180 yards away and at first appeared to be nothing more than a shadow. I was overcome with "Buck Fever" once I realized this deer sported antlers. I started shaking and could not lift the gun. I had to coach myself through the shot.

"You can do this," I said. "Squeeze the trigger, don't pull. One shot."

I finally placed the crosshairs on the buck's vitals and squeezed the trigger.
 
Looking up after the shot, I did not see the deer and decided to wait 30 minutes before I climbed down. The wait seemed like it was hours. A walk down the trail revealed no deer or any sign. I returned to the stand, looked through my riflescope and immediately remembered where the deer stood when I fired. Eventually, I trailed the deer and found the beautiful 8-point buck.

My first buck was in the bag.

If you would have asked me what my level of joy was at that time I would have replied a perfect 10. But come to find out there would be a greater joy the following season when my son, Riley, who was 5 years old went hunting with me.

He sat in my lap on opening morning when, only 30 minutes into the hunt, a nice 8-point buck stepped out. Riley saw it first and quietly whispered in my ear that he saw a deer. I asked him if I should take a shot. Naturally, he said yes. The 20-yard shot connected, the buck ran around a corner and was out of sight.

We sat in the stand for 30 minutes and stayed quiet. He had numerous questions for me once I said we could talk. I answered each one with a smile. We climbed down and walked together toward the buck. I turned to see Riley grinning from ear to ear.

I gave him a high-five and realized this experience with Riley is my new perfect 10. I thought harvesting that first deer was a high point in my life but I was wrong - it simply did not compare to this moment we shared.

Riley turned 6 years old last season, and we hunted hard. He carried an unloaded .22, so I could teach him gun safety. We stalked a doe and shared some great times together. He impressed me with his maturity and responsibility carrying that rifle.
 
I plan on giving Riley a rifle for his next birthday and hope to be by his side to share the joy of his first deer.

Daniel and Riley Powell
Gainesville, Texas

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