By Lisa Price
Larry Treat has harvested a variety of big game during his 10 years of hunting with his dad, Doug, including this mule deer taken in Colorado.
-- Tip back in your chair at a summer cookout and ask Doug Treat how many days it is until archery season opens in Arkansas, and he'll know. In fact, he might know it right down to how many hours. All year long, except for hunting season, he was mentally and physically preparing for opening day and beyond.
"It was all I lived for," Doug said. "That is, until my son Larry started hunting and that changed everything."
Some of Larry's earliest memories are of going hunting with his dad, who often took him along when he was just a baby. Larry harvested his first deer with a crossbow when he was seven, taking the doe in the last few minutes of daylight. He couldn't know it then, but last-minute success would become common in his hunting career.
"It was close to getting time to quit, and then here came a little doe," Larry said. "My dad said we'd wait to track it until morning, and I didn't sleep any that night."
They found Larry's doe in the morning, and proudly decided to have his first deer mounted. Larry got two more does with his crossbow that season.
Sounds like a typical tale, where father introduces son or daughter to hunting. But Doug and Larry's hunting has more than the usual challenges of the sport.
Larry's life has been full of visits to medical specialists, who still aren't 100 percent sure what's happening in his body, and why. The doctors believe Larry has a form of muscular dystrophy, which has limited his physical growth, taken away his ability to stand and made it impossible for him to fully extend his arms and legs. Doug carries his son into the woods and places him in a treestand.
"He won't hunt at all unless I go," Larry said of his dad. "And I really like hunting with my dad."
Larry is now 17 years old. During the 10 years since he harvested that first doe, he's taken 20 whitetails, one axis deer, a mule deer, five turkeys and a bear.
"We went to Texas when I was nine, where a friend of my dad's had a lease, and while we were there I got three whitetails - two 7-pointers and a forkhorn," Larry said. "I was using a .223 then.
"We went back the next year and that's when I got the axis," he added. "Its antlers were 31 inches long and 181/2 inches wide."
The axis had walked into their spot at dusk, traveling with a couple of does. Another five minutes, and it would have been too dark to shoot. Larry also had taken each of the whitetails in the last few minutes of shooting time, and that's a pattern that carried over into turkey season, too. His biggest of the five turkeys weighed 25 pounds and had 10-inch spurs.
"We were just going to leave and heard gobbling," Larry said. "So we got back into our set-up and my dad started calling."
But something was wrong with Doug's turkey call. Instead of sending out a nice hen yelp, it was creating a squeaking sound. Doug tried to fix the call, but it continued to broadcast the not-so-pleasant sound through the woods. Larry's heart sank - but that big tom kept gobbling, closer and closer.
"Sometimes they're just coming in, and I guess it doesn't matter what your call sounds like," Larry said. "My dad kept squeaking, and the turkey kept gobbling until it was close enough and I shot him about 30 yards out."
Doug is originally from Colorado, and the pair's next trip was to that state in search of mule deer using blackpowder guns. On the last day of their five-day hunt, in the last few minutes of shooting time, 13-year-old Larry shot a 5x5 mule deer. He had passed on a couple of small bucks during the hunt.
"He wasn't really, really big, but he was really pretty, almost perfect," Larry said. "He was just a beautiful animal, 18 inches wide - and he came in at the last minute, too, when we were just saying we were ready to call it a day."
Along the way, Larry had grown out of the .223 and switched to a .260. He used a PSE Star Fire crossbow for eight years and now uses a Horton crossbow. He's also taken big game animals with a flintlock, shotgun and .357 pistol.
In 2005, using his PSE crossbow, he bagged a 200-pound Arkansas black bear. His dad had handled the baiting duties.
"He really enjoys baiting them, and we put out a camera so we had an idea of what was using the bait," Larry said. "We had two different baits out."
Doug would rather bait bears than hunt them.
"I had never hunted bear before when Larry said he wanted to," Doug said. "At first I tried to get him off that idea, because to tell you the truth, they scare me to death."
The two hunted hard, going every day for eight straight days. Larry passed up a sow and cub, feeling that the cub was too small. Both had noticed that the sow was wearing a tracking collar, and a state wildlife official told them later that given their information on the sow, her cub would have been old enough to survive on its own.
Finally, on the eighth day, and with less than an hour of shooting light left, two boar bears came to the bait.
"It's a definite difference in the way you feel between a deer and a bear," Larry said. "We were sitting only 10 steps from the bait, and those bears looked right at us. I was shaking. Somehow I got my sight pin on it in the right place and shot."
The bear's skull green scored at nearly 19 inches and dried just over 18 inches.
Larry has taken all five of his turkeys in Arkansas. Thinking about the animals he's taken so far, the 11th grader's favorite game to hunt would be white-tailed deer, followed closely by bear.
"Bear are a thrill, especially being that close to one, and you know they know you're there," he said. "But I haven't taken a really big buck yet, and I'm still on the lookout for one.
"A lot of times, I've gotten to the point late in the hunt when I thought I wasn't going to get anything, that I was going to go home empty-handed," Larry recalled. "But just about the time that thought would cross my mind, something would happen - so my advice is, just stay out there.
"Even though I haven't gotten a big buck, I've been pretty blessed in 10 years of hunting," he added. "For me it's the thrill of getting out there, just being out in the woods, and especially, being with my dad."
His dad feels the same way.
"I don't hunt anymore; I just take him hunting," Larry said. "And I get so much more out of it than I ever did when I went by myself."
-- Lisa Price
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