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Honoring Grandpa—Hunting Buddy, Hero, Teacher

Clint AndersonBy Clint Anderson

-- I sat perfectly still and listened to leaves crunch softly in the distance. I knew if I moved, I would be detected and all would be lost. I had waited too long and prepared too hard to risk losing it all now. As I stared into the thick underbrush and timber, I knew now was the moment of truth.  I had waited 28 years for this and now I would face my ultimate challenge.

I began hunting with my grandfather when I was three years old. He was a tall man with a chiseled face and a stern voice that demanded attention when he spoke. People respected and feared him, but he was different when it came to his grandchildren. In his sight no wrong could be done, and I loved him. Grandpa got a 2 x 4 from the old barn, and with a little whittling, soon had a very good resemblance to a gun—my first gun. With this stick gun, I would learn the rules of the woods, and the values of safety and patience. I would go hunting with Grandpa with my stick until I was five, and then he felt it was time for the next step.

This was my first real gun, but there was one catch. For the next year, I would tote my brand new single shot .410 through the woods with no shells so Grandpa could observe my handling skills. I hunted by his side for many years after I passed his tests and took many does, but my first buck didn't fall to the impact of my single shot.

I was nine and Grandpa and I were on a stand while the other hunters made a drive. I was beginning to feel more and more like I belonged at deer camp. I’d observed the way the men talked in the morning, their camaraderie. I’d heard the praise that came with each big buck Mother Nature donated to the cause. I also had witnessed the teasing that came with a miss. I knew what I wanted, but would the fear of missing cost me the prize?

We first saw the buck right before it disappeared in the valley. I looked so hard, my eyes hurt. I wanted to spot that deer and make Grandpa proud, but I knew it was too late—that he was already looking at it—when he touched my knee. That was before things got really crazy.
 
Whitetails were suddenly running everywhere, and I couldn't keep track. Grandpa, however, never lost sight of the buck. He calmly aimed and fired. At the shot, the big deer rolled into the valley.
 
Rather than finish it himself, Grandpa set me on his knee, told me to take my time and to shoot it again. With the .270 resting against his shoulder, I looked through the scope, found the deer and squeezed the trigger. It rolled over instantly, never moving again.
 
I'd never seen my Grandpa so proud, and that made me ecstatic. It was hard for me to keep from laughing as he told the story over and over at deer camp that week. With each telling, the buck was a little farther away and running a little faster. And somewhere along the way, he left out the part about his taking the first shot.

Five years later, I lost him—my grandpa, my hunting buddy, my hero, my teacher. I felt lost in the woods that year, even though I had been on my own for a while. Who would be proud of me now? Who would I tell my adventures to?

Now here I am, hunting this same buck for the fourth year now. I have used all the tricks Grandpa taught me and everything that he instilled in me. Something brings me back to attention, clearing the fuzz, causing me to focus intently on the cause.

Was that a stick? An acorn? There is something out there. I sense he is near and I freeze. I know he is looking for me, just as I am looking for him. I heard it then, just a slight sound. My senses locked as the leaves crunch as he makes his way toward me.

Everything is working out just like it should. What a beautiful day. The buck stops. I look through the scope, flip off the safety, and squeeze the hair trigger on Grandpa's old .270.

Clinton William Anderson
Wadestown, West Virginia
Date of Harvest, November 21, 2005

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