By Jerry Hospodka
-- My mom and dad were divorced when I was 4 years old. I grew up with my mom in California and would visit Dad during the summer in Nebraska. After I turned 11, I didn’t see him again until I was 31 years old, married and had a child and two step kids of my own. During those 20 years, I talked to my dad maybe seven times.
I started hunting when I was 13 with my best friend and his dad, but I didn’t take up deer hunting until I was 23. Since then, I’ve hunted deer in California seven times, but never got at shot at a buck.
After my son was born on January 1, 2007, I decided to contact with my father, who I hadn’t talked to in five years. I flew to Nebraska to visit and spend time with him on the Platte River, like I did when I was young.
During the visit, my dad and I decided to do some whitetail hunting. We would hunt on property that was my grandparents’ and had been in the family for 45 years. The cabin sits along the Platte River with woods on the north side and cornfields south of the cabin.
The following November, I flew back to Nebraska to do what every son should have the opportunity to do with his dad: go hunting.
We decided to put our two-man deer stand on a tree that my grandfather and dad had their deer stand on for many years. The area was always known for small bucks.
We hunted morning and evening for the first five days, seeing lots of does. Thursday came, and, having an either-sex tag, we decided to take a doe. Of course, that morning there were no deer in sight. It seemed a little odd considering we’d seen five to 10 deer daily.
Around 3 p.m., I walked out on the front porch of the cabin and saw what I thought was a big doe walking across a cornfield. We had seen this doe all week. It was close to 200 pounds. But when I looked at the deer through binoculars, my jaw dropped. It was a big buck!
I watched him enter the woods 300 yards up the road. I ran into the cabin, grabbed my gear, and Dad and I went on a quick walk.
We slowed down when we reached the spot where the buck had entered the woods. Then we spotted him. He was 70 yards away looking at us, standing broadside, his big rack blending with the woods.
I had only a foot-wide hole to shoot through because of all the thick trees and brush. I found a rest that allowed a clear shot to just behind the buck’s shoulder.
It all happened fast. I shot through the heart and saw the animal’s back legs rear up on the other side of the tree. I pumped my fist and hugged my dad.
I guess God works in mysterious ways. I was meant to get my first deer while hunting with Dad.