By Dave Kohl
I knew it was going to be a good day soon as I walked out the door. The temperature was 20 to 30 degrees warmer, and with the south wind it was going to be perfect. We’d had subzero temperatures the past two weeks. Today was going to be the day to take my 12-year-old son bow hunting for the first time.
Colton was at home enjoying his Christmas break when I came home at lunch time and told him we would be going this afternoon. I could see the excitement in his face. I told him a few things to bring, and to be ready at 3:30. When I got home, Colton was waiting on the couch with his camouflage and bow in hand. I grabbed my camera, changed clothes, and found my safety harness and one for Colton. It is a short drive from our home to where we hunt. As the crow flies it is about a mile and one half away.
The cattle had been moved, so I took down the fence and left it. It was obvious no one had been in the pasture since the last snow. Drifts were fairly deep. We had to put the truck in 4-wheel drive, and I could see Colton smiling from the passenger seat. We reached the familiar spot by the cedar trees where we park to help conceal the truck. We stepped out of the truck and sprayed down with scent killer. We always wonder how well this stuff really works, but it sounds too good not to use. We checked our gear and proceeded down the path.
After a short distance I turned the video camera on Colton. I asked him if we were going to shoot a deer and he sheepishly said “yes,” so I asked him again just to get a more affirmative answer.
As we neared the trees we had to pick and choose our path because of the deep snow. We could see deer were still moving through the field from the tracks we were walking across. As we reached a familiar opening in the trees we slowly crept through to see if we could see a deer standing in the clearing. The clearing was empty so we made our way across a partially frozen creek and to the stand.
The lift string had come undone and was tangled high in the air so I had to carry Colton's bow into the stand. Colton headed up the stand first with me right behind him. This is a 17-foot two-man ladder stand we made in our shop. We reached the top and immediately hooked up our safety harness. It didn’t take long to get situated in our stand for the evening.
With the warming weather we could hear the ice breaking in the Platte River and, at times it was loud enough that it sounded like a gun going off. There must have been Canada geese on the river because each time we heard ice break they carried on for a while until they felt at ease again. We saw a fox squirrel spot us and go into a barking frenzy. Colton asked why the squirrel was doing that and I explained that squirrels are nervous animals because just about everything wants to eat them. A squirrel’s warning sounds alert us as well as any approaching animal. So of you hear that noise in the distance it could be a deer approaching.
We had been sitting in the stand for about an hour and a half when Colton nudged me with his elbow. I looked the direction he was looking but I didn’t see anything so I whispered in his ear, “Do you see one?” He said yes.
I could see a deer slowly making its way to the clearing. It was a very still evening and I could hear Colton's breathing pattern start to change with nervous anticipation of a possible shot. The deer stood at the edge of the clearing for a short time before heading straight toward us. I could tell it was a button buck but it did not matter to me or Colton because this was his first opportunity at a deer with a bow. We both were excited.
The buck walked directly under our stand and I made the slight motion to Colton to draw. He stood and raised his bow but he remembered not to move or make any noise when a deer is standing still at full alert. So he waited. The deer took about three steps and started to drink when Colton drew his bow. He didn't quite come to full draw when the young buck raised its head and looked directly at us. He caught Colton right at the end of his draw and bolted, but only traveled about 20 feet.
The buck was quartering away and looking back at us. Colton was still in full draw and the moment of truth was upon us. I whispered for him to take the shot and he did. The buck dropped in its tracks. The shot was a little high but perfectly placed from left to right. From Colton's reaction I believe he was standing there in disbelief. He simply stared at the deer.
I told him great job and gave him a high five. I was very proud and excited for him. All his hard work practicing during the summer and fall came together.
We climbed down from the stand and dressed the deer. As we dressed the deer, it was time for Colton’s quick lesson about a deer’s anatomy. This is how I had learned shot placement.
It was over. The hunt I have been waiting 12 years to experience was over, or so I thought. I have not been able to get Colton’s hunt out of my mind, and I have replayed it in my mind as many times if not more than any other hunt I have experienced.
I’ve come to realize just how fortunate I really am to have spent this time with my son and to witness his first deer harvested with a bow. For those of you who have experience your child’s first hunt, you must know what I mean when I say the experience will change you forever.
Central City, Nebraska