By David Norton
-- The most memorable hunt to date that I can think of was when my son 7-year-old son Jared took his third buck. He received a new .243 for Christmas in 2003, and was really itching to try it out. So the day after Christmas, we woke at 4 a.m. and headed to the deer camp in Dallas County, Ark., with my brother, Dale.
The temperature was in the mid-20s, probably the coldest morning that he had hunted all year. We pointed Dale into the direction of good stand then Jared and I headed to another stand down the fire lane from him.
We saw a decent buck shortly after daylight, but he crossed the lane too fast and never gave Jared a shot. There were also a couple of does in a lane, eating wheat. Eventually, they meandered from the area. Jared didn't mind because it was nap time for him.
Around 8:30, the deer started moving again so I woke him up, and once he saw all the deer in the lanes, his eyes came wide open. There was a really mature doe in one lane; I encouraged Jared to try out his new gun on that doe since he had a permit, but he insisted that a buck was around because the doe and yearlings were acting a little nervous. A smart fellow for his age, he was right.
All of a sudden a couple of the does ran off, and Jared said, "Dad, did you see that? There must be a buck close by!" About that time I looked down the lane and all I could see were antlers sticking out from the trees on one side.
I whispered, "Jared, there's your buck; get ready buddy." The excitement was definitely in the air, and I don't who was more nervous, him or me. The buck was feeding with his head down, facing us. Jared lifted his rifle to aim, and I told him to wait until the buck turned broadside then put it on his shoulder and squeeze the trigger. Well, this was another time when he didn't listen to Dad. In his excitement, Jared shot the deer as it stood there. It was a shot that I wouldn't take and probably one that I couldn't make.
When he squeezed the trigger, that big buck hit the ground like a sack of rocks. It was unbelievable; he shot him right between the shoulder blades. I always get excited when I see a good deer, but this time I was more than ever, and I wasn't even holding a gun.
After the deer hit the ground, I let out a yell of excitement, and we started giving each other high-fives. We were both relishing the moment, what an unbelievable experience. We took off down the lane to take a closer look at his trophy. I told Jared that he didn't realize what he had just done, because most of the grown men I know haven't taken a buck of this size.
We immediately took several pictures and made a few phone calls on my cell to brag about his big buck.
This hunt certainly proves that a number of good deer make it through the season; most hunters have quit hunting by the Christmas hunt. My experience is that it seems the little break in hunting gives the deer a chance to settle down, probably because of the decrease in hunting pressure.
A good place to be standing during the late season hunt is near a good food source such as a green field or a corn feeder. Since Arkansas began having the Christmas gun hunt, I've seen a number of good quality deer late in the season the past few years. If you have the opportunity to get on a stand during a late season hunt I would encourage you to do so, regardless of what state you hunt, you just never if an old big one will step out.
My advice to all outdoorsmen/women is to share as much time as possible in the outdoors with your children. The State of Arkansas has so many outdoor recreational activities to enjoy, I would encourage you to take advantage of them; I guess that's why they call it the Natural State. I wrote a poem for Jared's Me-Me (grandmother) to remember this particular hunt and am glad to include it:
Christmas Deer Hunt
It was the day after Christmas, the year 2003
Seven-year-old Jared Norton sat patiently in the tree
All through the woods there were creatures a stirring
Jared was watching three doe and four whitetail yearlings
I asked if he wanted to shoot a big doe, the permits were plenty
Jared wanted a big buck, or he wouldn't shoot any
Jared had already killed three deer this year,
Two doe and an eight-point, would make most hunters cheer
Soon the doe and yearlings became kind of leery,
Jared said quietly, there must be big buck nearing
I couldn't believe my eyes as the big buck appeared
Jared was excited, as the big buck neared
Jared had his new .243; he had the deer in his scope
As he aimed from the tree
At one hundred and fifteen yards, Jared squeezed the trigger;
As the buck fell, he looked even bigger
We gave each other a high five, and let out a cheer
I knew this was one special deer
This was a really great deer season, there's none to compare
We're getting excited already, and looking forward to next year
Memories like these, we will never leave behind
Year after year, they'll always be in our mind
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
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