By Lawrence Miller
It was Nov. 17, two days before Tennessee’s 2011 firearms deer season.
Around 8:45 p.m., after all the kids were in bed, my 10-year-old son, Jack, came into my room. “Are you going hunting tomorrow, Daddy?”
“Sure am, bud,” I replied. “Saturday is opening day.” Even though we hunt through the bow and muzzleloader seasons, the gun season is special.
I knew what Jack was going to say before he said it. “I’m not doing anything this weekend. Can I tag along with you?”
“Buddy, this is serious stuff,” I replied.
“That’s okay, Daddy. I understand.”
I knew right then what I had to do. I told him to get his clothes ready and we would prep his gun. Not only would he get to tag along, he would be hunting for his first buck.
Jack was proficient with his lever-action Browning and had already taken two does with perfect shot placement at 75-80 yards. I would like to say I taught him well, but he has a great eye and natural shooting ability. He had passed up deer because it wasn’t the angle or shot he wanted. My brother Michael also had a big hand in his shooting ability.
Jack was so excited to be in the hunting cabin with us on Friday evening that he couldn’t stop talking. I’d called Michael earlier that day to let him know another hunter would be joining us. “It’s Jack,” I said. “I couldn’t tell him no.”
The property we were hunting was a couple of miles from the cabin. We had the whole farm to ourselves, and the game was on! We hiked a mile to reach the stand. It was then I realized I had made the best decision a father could make.
About 8:45 a.m., a doe came down behind us and stayed for just a minute. An hour later, a 6-pointer appeared below us. I motioned to Jack that the deer was easing up from the right and to get ready!
The buck went behind a big oak tree and stood for a minute. I told Jack he would have his chance, and to be patient.
When the buck eased out, he headed straight for us at about 60 yards. At that moment, the wind swirled and the buck looked straight at us.
Jack never flinched! It was a stare down between him and that 6 point. Although Jack had a straight on shot, he wouldn’t take it. He never moved. The buck turned around and went down the ridge, not spooked, but just knew something wasn’t right.
Jack was pretty torn up. He just knew that was going to be his chance. I said, “Son, that is a lesson about deer hunting that is tough to learn and just as hard to swallow. We can’t control the wind.”
Dejected, I asked him “Are you ready to quit and go back to the cabin, or do you want to keep going? Son, when the Lord closes one door, He will open another. You just have to have faith and patience.“
“I want to keep going,” Jack said with a smile. I know that smile was hard to give, but he gave it just the same.
I had a timeline I wanted to keep. Hunt halfway up the ridge until about 10 a.m., hike to the top of the ridge and walk around it to hunt a point. I wanted to be settled in the box blind by 2:30 p.m.
Soon we made it to the ridgetop, Jack was fine, but still haunted by the buck that eluded him earlier. We ate lunch on the side of the mountain. There was no place either one of us would rather have been.
We reached the box blind 30 minutes ahead of schedule. By 3:15, the wind stopped, clouds rolled in and the temperature started dropping. I have seen these conditions before, and it’s always good!
“Showtime came early today so be ready for anything,” I told Jack. He eased his rifle in place and was on point.
At 3:50, Jack’s eyes grew wide, and I asked him if he saw a deer. It wasn’t the 6-pointer. This one was bigger. I didn’t get to focus on him long this buck was in a hurry.
When he reached the far side of the field, I thought it’s now or never. I bleated real loud, the buck stopped and looked — and Jack shot! I knew he’d had hit him good by the way the deer reacted. The buck jumped and ran into the woods up the ridge.
I was speechless. I grabbed Jack, hugged him, gave him high fives and just enjoyed the moment. I couldn’t believe it just happened. I started texting right away, and everyone asked the same thing, “How big?” At this point, I couldn’t tell them because it all happened so fast.
I gave the buck about 30 minutes or so, I felt pretty sure I had heard him crash up the ridge so we started tracking. We found a good blood trail and followed it for 120 yards. I started getting worried because daylight was fading fast. I told Jack to stop for a minute and let me look around. The buck was about 60 yards away.
Once again, Jack made a perfect shot. I motioned for him to come up and see his first buck, and he practically sprinted up the hill! The buck was a 10 pointer, a mainframe eight with a kicker on the back of each main beam.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my son’s story with you. I am so proud of him and the young man he is. He has a younger sister, Ally, who has been hunting with me a couple of times and younger brother, Calen, who is following in his footsteps. He loves to go hunting with me just as much Jack does.
Congratulations on your first buck, Jack!