By Marty Shaffer
-- "Daddy, I want to go!" Delaney, my 5-year-old daughter, enthusiastically awaited the reply.
The answer was as certain as the sun coming up in the East. "You bet!" I replied.
This would be Delaney's first venture to the deer woods. The next few moments were a scurry around the house trying to find the appropriate clothing for this first adventure. The 2006 muzzleloader season in Oklahoma was hot and dry. While not good for deer movement, this would be easier for a youngster on a first outing. Armed with a backpack full of extra cloths, drinks, snacks and whatever else could be stuffed into the former school backpack pressed into service, we headed off.
The green 1966 Chevy pickup rattled and banged its way down the dusty washboard road and found its parking place on the side not far from our evening destination. We quietly gathered our gear and made our way to a box blind overlooking a wheatfield bordered by a winding creek. The previous muzzleloader season had produced a 170-inch, 12-point buck, which is proudly displayed in our living room.
This year was a little different. The severe drought had taken its toll on the land, and the wheat pasture, which normally abounds in this field, was barely visible. Nonetheless, we settled in for the evening hunt with high hopes.
The evening began to pass very slowly. The deer that normally left the cover of the creek to graze on the lush wheat had given up hope of rain and were feeding elsewhere. A flock of turkeys materialized for a few minutes to scratch in the parched field, but they, too, moved off in search of better pickings. What I had hoped would not happen was playing out before us and there was nothing I could do about it. I began to notice the sighs of boredom from Delaney and began to worry.
"Daddy when will the deer come out?" The first signs of despair entered the deer blind, and I could no longer ignore it.
"Deer like to come out right before dark," I replied, hoping that would buy some time.
"Well lets go home and come back right before dark." Delaney stated.
The evening dragged on. The sun settled behind the trees and images began to fade. I had lost all hope of even seeing a deer when off in the distance a doe and its fawn jumped the fence into the wheatfield and nosed around the small shoots.
"There are two deer!" I am surprised they didn't hear my jubilation, as I directed Delaney to their presence. Frantically I pointed the binoculars toward the two deer that had to be over 300 yards away.
"I can't see them," my daughter said. Night was approaching fast, and Delaney could not make out the distant images. Undaunted, I kept trying to direct the binoculars so Delaney could catch a tail flicker or something before darkness overtook the field.
The Good Lord must have known my distress because suddenly, 30 yards directly in front of the blind, a buck appeared. "There's a buck. Do you see him?"
"Yes, I see him. Are you going to shoot him, Daddy?"
What seemed to be an eternity of waiting just to see a deer now was racing by. "Do you want me to shoot him?"
"Shoot him Daddy." Normally I would have let this buck pass in hopes that age and more nutrition would produce a nicer set of antlers, but it was still a decent deer. And Delaney had been so patient on this trip, I didn't want to disappoint her.
The crosshairs on my muzzleloader quickly found their place and the shot followed. I instantly looked to my daughter to see her reaction and noticed her gazing with eyes wide open and jaw dropped to the ground. Muzzleloaders have a very dramatic effect in the evening twilight. The cloud of white smoke and sparks emitting from the muzzle must have seemed like a bazooka to little girl who had only been associated with a .22 rimfire prior to this experience.
"Did you get him?" she asked.
"I think so," I replied.
The green '66 raced back to the house to load up a four-wheeler and her older sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 9 and had lots of hunting experience. She wanted to accompany Delaney and me on the deer retrieval.
As we bounced along, we managed to give the old green pickup a name: "Buck Truck." And we began to sing songs about the truck, the deer, and how good of a hunter their daddy is. (The girl's versions of the songs were a little different than mine, especially about how good a hunter daddy is.)
We loaded the four-wheeler and the deer onto the "Buck Truck" and rumbled back home where Momma was waiting with a camera and supper that had been turned on low, anticipating a much sooner return. The snapshots marked the end of Delaney's first time in a deer blind.
Many hunters like to tell the stories of their monster bucks, and I have a good story about a monster buck of my own from the year prior, but my favorite story so far is the one that started with "Daddy, I want to go!"