By James A. Weaver Jr.
-- Oct. 12, 2008, started out as a cool morning in southeastern Ohio. My brother, Jason, and I were in our stands well before sunrise, one of my favorite times. You are given the opportunity to think about things and just enjoy the peace and quiet. For me, hunting is about being in the outdoors, learning about the game we hunt and leaving behind the difficulties of the world.
I have not had many opportunities to hunt in my 25-plus years of military service. I have done my best to make the most out of every opportunity.
I was hunting next to a creek on our property. Just before 8:00, I looked across the creek and saw the tall grass moving, and then I noticed the head of a buck, although I could not tell how big it was.
The deer was browsing, and then it suddenly lifted its head. The rack was wider than its ears.
The buck’s right side was facing me, but obscured by the tall grass. I wanted to look at it through my binoculars, but I didn’t want to spook it.
The deer was moving ever so slowly, but it finally cleared most of the tall grass. I knew it was about 42 yards away, having ranged certain spots from my stand a couple of days earlier. I practice consistently at 40 yards, so I was comfortable with the distance.
I drew my bow and put the pin just above the top of his back, but I couldn’t hold steady and had to let down. I took a minute to compose myself and drew the bow again, putting the pin just above his back in line with the vitals.
The release of the bow surprised me, and I watched the white-crested arrow fly across the creek to the deer. It was a good hit, and I watched the buck turn to the left and run into the woods. For a minute, I replayed everything in my mind, asking myself questions. Then I called my stepfather on my cell phone and told him about the buck. He told me to sit tight while he got dressed and skipped into his waders.
About 20 minutes later, I could hear voices as Pop and Jason were making their way to me. Then, suddenly, I heard splashing in the creek.
As I looked, I realized it was the buck I’d shot! I used my right hand to get Pop and Jason’s attention, and they stopped. I could see the buck trying to climb the creek bank back up into the tall grass, and then it disappeared. I waited a few minutes before waving Pop and Jason over. I got down and told them what happened.
Pop waded across to the other side of the creek, and I heard him say, “Well, that’s the easiest tracking job I ever did. He’s lying right there on the bank.”
I walked over to the edge and looked across to the other side. Sure enough, there lay the buck. I could not see it from my stand because of some small trees and bushes on the near side of the creek.
Pop held up the buck’s head for me. The antlers had five points on the left side and three on the right, plus lots of character.
In that moment, I thought of my father. He passed away suddenly less than a year after I had been promoted to Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, back in 2001. I would’ve loved to have shared that moment with him. I could feel the warm sun on my face. It felt like he was watching.
I remembered the last year we hunted together, taking bucks about five minutes apart. It made me smile. I looked back across the creek at the man I consider to be my second father and thought that it was only right for him to put his hands on the deer first. He had been working hard on the property ever since we purchased it eight months earlier.
Jason threw a rope over to Pop so he could tie it to the deer. After the buck was secure, Jason and I pulled him across the creek to our side, when I was finally able to put my hands on it. What an awesome moment!
I bowed my head in respect for a minute, and then took some time to admire the largest buck I’d ever taken. When Pop knelt down next to me, I put my arm around him and realized how lucky I was to have been blessed with a second father in this life.
I can think of nothing that makes hunting more worthwhile than being with family and friends while you do it.
The buck’s field-dressed weight was 190 pounds. It was truly a magnificent animal.
I will retire from the Navy next year with 26 years of service. I truly hope God gives me many more hunting seasons.
--James A. Weaver Jr.
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