By Lori Poole
My father and I had not been on good speaking terms since I discovered he'd been taking my 5-year-old son, Will, hunting without my knowledge and against my orders.
I should have figured it out when Poppy, my dad, had hinted about taking Will on some new child mentor program implemented by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Supposedly, it allows a child to go hunting with adult supervision. I hadn't heard of it and jokingly accused him of just making it up.
I knew Dad had been working with Will, teaching shot placement and shooting a crossbow, but I felt that, at age five, the boy might be too young to pull the trigger. Call it a mother's instinct.
I didn't start hunting until I was 12-years-old, and I always felt that age would be just right for my son, too.
The cat got out of the bag on the day Will came home from Poppy's house nonchalantly saying he'd "almost got a shot at a buck."
I was a bit shocked, and began to ask more questions. Then Will revealed he'd been hunting with Poppy on three other occasions!
When I quizzed him about safety issues, Will said they were wearing harnesses and the treestand had rails on all four sides. I was relieved to hear this, but I was still angry that Poppy had gone against my wishes, so I called him.
Poppy confessed to everything, but it sure didn't make me feel any better. We went a long time without speaking after that.
Then one day, my dad called to tell me he'd just seen a big 10-pointer and needed my help.
Poppy had already taken an 8-pointer with his bow earlier in the season, and had spent that particular morning trying to video my Uncle Pablo shoot the 10-pointer with a rifle.
Apparently, the buck had appeared, then disappeared into thick timber. So, Dad attempted to push it to Uncle Pablo with a one-man deer drive. He was unsuccessful, but knew the area where the buck could likely be found.
Poppy had left Uncle Pablo in the treestand to call a few extra shooters and drivers. First, he called his oldest son, Vernon, then his buddy, Herb, but neither could come. I guess my brother, Victor, and I were his last hope.
I hadn't hunted in 15 years, but Dad urged me to go quickly buy a license, pick up my brother and be at his house by 3:30 p.m.
I reluctantly agreed.
When Victor and I arrived, Dad had my hunting clothes laid out, and my old shotgun was ready to go.
The clothes were musty and probably as old as Poppy, but they'd do.
Dad sent Victor down into the valley with a snack and water for Uncle Pablo, who had been on stand since 5:30 a.m. with nothing to eat or drink. Dad said Pablo was "dressed like it was archery season," so I knew the poor old guy was cold and starved.
Dad and I were to leave 30 minutes later and sneak in close to where he thought the buck would bed down.
Just before we left the house, the sky turned black and it started to sleet and rain. This was something Dad hadn't planned on, but it was perfect for stalking a big buck.
Dad tried to keep the camera dry, and I tried to keep my scope dry by sticking gloves over the ends. As we snuck closer to the bedding area, you could hear the sleet on the leaves. It sounded like bacon cooking in a hot frying pan — perfect for sneaking!
As we neared the spot where Dad had last seen the buck, I inched forward and was surprised to spot a rack moving in the undergrowth.
Dad excitedly whispered, "Crawl to that next tree and smoke him before he gets away!"
I think Dad probably expected me to spook the monster to my uncle or my brother before I could sneak 20 more yards and set up for a shot. But, when I raised up behind the tree, the buck arose from its bed.
To this day, I'm still not 100 percent sure if my perfume had gotten its attention or if the buck had coincidentally decided it was time to get up and eat.
When the buck stood in the underbrush, I could only get a clear shot at its massive neck, so I aimed lower, where I could barely make out the vital area.
This was the only shot I was going to have, and I didn't want it to get away!
I aimed carefully and squeezed off a shot at its vitals. It dropped like a skydiver with no parachute!
Dad, who was still recording, turned the camera on me and exclaimed, "Nice shot!"
What a great feeling!
Soon, Poppy was on the phone with my family, telling them I'd just taken my "first monster buck."
I think I'll return to hunting retirement for a while, or at least until my son reaches the age I'm comfortable with him coming along.
Or, who knows? I might just let Will and Poppy tag along with me next year.
Life has a way of changing.