By Darrell Maidlow
-- This story began a long time ago. My grandpa, Leo, and father, Ron, hunted out of necessity due to the fact that it was the Great Depression and they ate meat from the animals they harvested. My grandpa even loaded his own shells because ammo was considered a real premium during those days.
He would give the shells to farmers in exchange for hunting their land. Along the way, many strong friendships were formed which have lasted for generations. My family continues to hunt most of these same properties today.
When I was eight, my grandpa said I was ready for my first hunting trip. "We need a dog," he said jokingly. I wasn't sure what that meant but I didn't care. Then, I found out the next day what he was talking about - no gun for me. I needed to learn with a stick first, stomping brush and brier patches while they shot the game. I got to dress the harvest and carry them my first year. I still loved it. They made it fun for me and taught me a lot.
I was so excited to go hunting that I would have a hard time going to sleep the night before. I still find myself excited the day before opening season to this day. My family was never into deer hunting. We always hunted small game; pheasant, squirrels, rabbits and some raccoon, even though we spotted deer while hunting.
Over the years, grandpa aged a little and eventually gave up hunting. My father and I continued hunting for many more years. We would go back and tell all the stories of the hunts to grandpa. He would share his vast knowledge with us, and tell us where we went wrong.
Then my father was diagnosed with a heart condition and after open heart surgery he gave up hunting. I could sense that he really missed being in the woods. I continued hunting by myself and shared my stories with them. I would catch a twinkle in their eyes when I told them about my hunts.
Eventually, I started watching "Buckmasters" on television and became interested in hunting larger game, mainly white-tailed deer. Watching the shows help me to look for all the signs. After many years of hunting this elusive animal I finally got a nice 8-point buck.
Then my cousin Leo, named after our grandpa, started hunting with me. He went through the learning process just as I did, until he finally got a nice buck. When we went to grandpa with the story of us both getting deer grandpa he was excited. Grandpa proudly announced that he would go deer hunting with us the following season. We both smiled and said we would get him in the woods. I thought grandpa would back out of our plan before the season started.
The following deer season was a few weeks away when my cousin and I stopped by grandpa's house to talk about our plans for the hunt. We walked into his house and there on the table sat a new scoped Winchester shotgun, boxes of slugs, Realtree camo, boots and a knife.
"This will be the hunt of a lifetime," grandpa said. "I will show you boys how to bag deer."
What could we say to that? Nothing more than we'll be by at 6 a.m. on opening morning!
After leaving, Leo and I asked each other what we are going to do. You have to understand that grandpa was a proud man and very set in his ways. So at 6 a.m. on opening day we pulled up to his house and there he sat on the porch ready to go. The ride to the farm house was very unusual because grandpa told us where we should set up and what part of the woods we should hunt. Keep in mind that this man never hunted deer before in his life.
We did as he asked and took him to the area he wanted to hunt. We practically had to carry the old timer half the way. The expression on his face was unforgettable when he sat down. He decided to sit on a stump located along the edge of a ditch on the back side of the woods. Then he told us to split up. Leo headed in one direction and I went the other way. We stayed where we could see grandpa.
The sun came up on that brisk, frosty morning and there sat grandpa smoking his pipe and tapping it on the side of the stump he was sitting on. I thought to myself we will never see a deer with him making all this noise. So I just sat back in my stand and let him enjoy his day. The next thing I knew, my cousin started waving his arms and pointing at grandpa.
Worried, I looked at grandpa and saw the funniest thing ever. Grandpa had his back to the woods. Across the ditch and directly behind him was a nice little buck just looking at him. Grandpa never saw or heard the deer. Then it walked down the backside of the woods toward me. I got off some shots at the deer and took off to follow it. I knew if the deer went through the woods and across the road another hunter might get it.
Shortly after, my cousin caught up to me and we found the deer. We got the deer out of the woods and across the ditch to grandpa. He began to laugh and told us he knew we would get a deer in this area. What happened next really surprised us. Our grandpa pulled out his hunting knife and stuck it under the hide of the buck.
"Okay boys, dress my buck," he said. "You don't want to drag it back to the truck like this."
Grandpa was as proud as I had ever seen him after the hunt. I don't think it was because of the deer we harvested but because he was with us doing what he loved to do. To this day, I believe he was right. This was a hunt of a lifetime and one we will never forget.
The following summer grandpa passed away to be with our grandmother in heaven. I still have the rack of that little buck and my cousin still has the tail. Whenever any one asks about them we get to remember him and our hunting trip of a lifetime.
Now, I am a grandpa and look forward to the lifetime of hunting memories with my grandsons.
Dedicated to Leo W. Maidlow
By Darrell Maidlow
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