After tough season, father helps son get back in the saddle
By Derrick Schreiber (Bryce’s Dad)
Two years ago, my son Bryce wanted to try deer hunting. At age nine, he wasn’t quite strong enough to draw poundage adequate for bowhunting, so we chose a rifle.
During several outings, Bryce endured some very cold and harsh Midwest winter conditions, but he fared much better than I’d expected.
On our first rifle hunt, he passed on a small buck in hope of seeing a bigger one. This was his choice. Unfortunately, a larger buck never appeared.
He passed on several does, too, but finally decided he’d shoot one the next time. Of course, another doe never showed.
Fast-forward to 2013.
In early fall, I asked Bryce if he wanted to try hunting again because if he did, I’d need to get his gear ready.
He thought for a moment, then told me he didn’t want to hunt this season! I was surprised and disappointed, but I figured, he’s only ten. So be it. I didn’t want to force my son, and given his experiences in 2012, I figured he might want to wait until next season.
Lo and behold, about three weeks later Bryce told me he wanted to go deer hunting. I was very happy!
Bryce asked if he could try bowhunting, but I told him he couldn’t since he needed to practice all year long to do that.
“Okay,” he said, and that’s how this season began.
As we scrambled to find gear for Bryce, we discovered he’d grown so much none of his clothes fit! Thankfully, my longtime buddy Curtis had some that fit perfectly.
And, when we needed a place to sight in Bryce’s little .243, another buddy allowed us to use his range. Once we got it dialed in, Bryce shot very well and was ready to go.
Early in the week, a freezing drizzle prevented us from going, but later in the week, temps were comfortable enough for a 10-year-old to enjoy hunting. I’d set up a pop-up blind earlier in the week, and we settled into it at 3:25 p.m.
We began talking about what Bryce might expect to see, along with where the deer might appear. At 4:15, two yearlings came in just where I’d told Bryce to expect them. An ornery little button buck kicked, shoved and bullied its sister, and Bryce was amused by their play.
It suddenly occurred to me that my son was having a really good time! I was glad when he said he didn’t want to shoot either of them, opting instead to watch until they wandered off 20 minutes later.
Now, Bryce was on high alert, but as the afternoon wore on, I knew he was slowly losing interest.
After about 40 dull minutes, he said he wished he would’ve shot one of the yearlings. I told him he’d made a good choice, and the next 40 minutes before dusk was really the time to be on high alert.
As his optimism faded, I prayed and hoped something else would come in, but at 5:15, Bryce said, “Dad, I’m glad there aren’t any deer around.”
I was bewildered by his statement and wondered why he thought that.
A huge grin spread across his face and he replied, “Because I just farted!”
I literally laughed out loud!
We continued to sit and watch diligently, and I loved sitting and talking with him, answering question after question.
At 5:35, I told him we had six minutes of legal shooting light left, and by then, I’d lost my optimism, too.
Three minutes later as I was gathering our gear to leave, Bryce said, “There’s a buck!”
Sure enough, I grabbed my binoculars and could tell by body size it was a buck of some sort, probably one of the young resident bucks. I determined it was a 7-pointer standing about 86 yards away.
I told Bryce to settle his gun into the rest and find the buck in his scope.
When he said, “Got it,” I reached over, slid the safety forward and told him to fire when the crosshairs settled on the bucks’ vitals. I was fumbling with the video camera and had just flipped open the viewfinder when, BOOM!
The buck bolted to the east, and Bryce turned to me and with the biggest smile I’d ever seen and said, “I got him!”
It was the most extreme excitement I’d ever heard in his voice, and I was absolutely elated!
I gave him a huge hug, told him he did a great job and how extremely proud of him I was.
He handed me the rifle and tried to stand. “Look, my legs are shaking, Dad!”
Yes, I told him, “that’s your adrenaline pumping, buddy.”
We climbed out of the blind and headed toward the spot we’d last seen the buck. Upon arriving, I was pleased to see sign indicating a good lung hit.
I explained to Bryce what we were looking at, and we followed the blood trail 15 yards or so to the edge of the timber.
With only a marginally-charged headlamp, I decided we’d better go back to the truck and get the good flashlights. I also figured the walk back would give Bryce time to recover from the adrenaline surge. He was still pretty charged up. We continued to talk excitedly, so the hike to the truck seemed to take only 12 seconds.
I decided to drive to the lower meadow, and I asked Bryce what he was thinking.
He said, “It feels like I murdered him.”
I said, “Well, you could look at it that way, but you could also look at it like this: We prepared for the hunt, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“We sighted in your rifle and you practiced with it, right?”
“And we bought tags, set up our blind in a good spot and talked about where to aim, how to be quiet, right?”
“You made a great shot that downed the buck quickly, right?”
“Yes,” he agreed.
“We did all that in order to be as ethical as possible to take this buck with respect, right?”
I continued to explain how we would show the animal respect by taking care of it properly and utilizing its venison for steaks, jerky and deer sticks.
We would also honor it by taking nice field pictures and saving its antlers to remember it by.
I also explained that murdering it would be like if we’d shot it just to kill it for no reason.
“Yeah, okay, I get it now,” he said. I was relieved he could now view hunting in a different perspective.
When we returned to the lower meadow with our good flashlights, I taught Bryce how to track using two people.
Given the sign, I didn’t expect the buck to be far, but I wanted my son to learn about the art, skill and patience of tracking, just as I was taught.
We started where the buck was standing at the shot and followed the trail to the timber. Once there, thick foliage made tracking difficult, so I made Bryce stand on the last spot of blood and I would jump ahead to scan the obvious trail to look for the buck.
In the meantime, I told him to look closely for the next spot of blood. He caught on quickly, and I was just a little bit up the trail when he told me he saw another spot. I was very pleased. I told him to move to that new spot and look for the next spot.
As Bryce was continuing to track, I walked ahead, looked to the south when, YAHTZEE! There was Bryce’s buck!
I told Bryce that I’d found his buck, and then taught him how to properly approach a downed buck from the rear and how to nudge it carefully with a rifle barrel to ensure it was dead.
Bryce exclaimed, “He’s big!”
Now the fun part: dragging the buck out.
Fortunately for us, the lower meadow was only 20 yards away, but between deadfalls, thorny rose vine and low hanging branches, it was the most difficult 20 yard drag I’ve ever had!
When we finally got to the lower meadow, Bryce inspected his buck was beside himself at the size of the buck. My wife Ginger came to take field pictures, and she and Bryce hung out while I skinned and deboned the buck on the hoist.
My son seemed to have processed everything, and the end result of the hunt was exactly as I’d hoped. I’m pretty sure I will be hunting with him for many years to come.
God certainly blessed us with a great evening. The weather was nice, we spent wonderful time together, and Bryce made a perfect 86-yard double lung shot. I’ll cherish this memory the rest of my days.
So, it’s official. There’s a new deer hunter in Kansas!