By Jeff Carlson
-- After a great early youth rifle hunt with my son and a notable archery season for me, I took my son, Solomon, out on his first rifle hunt for a Pennsylvania buck. During these hunts, we'd learned how the deer were traveling, so several weeks earlier, I set up a small blind just big enough for the two of us.
As many understand, it is hard to put into words the feelings we hunters get from waking before the sun comes up, eating some breakfast and enjoying time spent with someone we love.
The morning as we walked to our blind before the sun came up, I was feeling really good. I was excited for Solomon because I had seen some nice bucks in the area during archery season. We were careful to take the long way around not to disturb the deer. However, we walked right up on the deer. Our small flashlights enabled us to see eyes all around our blind. I'm not sure how, but we did manage to get into the blind without one snort from the deer.
We sat in the blind for what felt like an eternity to Solomon. But he was a trooper and fell right to sleep. I woke him about half an hour after daylight broke. I had seen some does go by our blind. Several tense moments passed by as I waited for a buck to follow. However, the only thing to follow was another hunter. We sat tight for a while after the hunter passed. I asked Solomon if he wanted to go for a walk, and we made about a 2-mile loop around the area and headed back to the house for some lunch.
I had to go to work in the afternoon, so I asked Solomon what he wanted to do with the hour we had left. Of course he wanted to go back out. Solomon seemed to know that anything could happen in the brief time we would spend in the woods.
We headed back to our blind. Solomon carried the gun in case we jumped a buck. We were barley 100 yards from our house when I saw a doe. I got excited and told Solomon to get ready. As I watched the doe, Solomon shouldered the gun and fired. He yelled, "I got him! I got him!" I'm really embarrassed to say it, but I didn't see the buck.
It was on the other side of the creek, so we had to walk around to start to track it. We marked the spot and started off on our long trek. I was a little nervous because I did not see the deer my son shot. I took the gun as we walked around. Then, we saw a doe walk directly at us. I pulled up and fired. The doe turned and ran the other way. I thought my shot missed, but we went to follow the path the doe took and found a blood trail.
I was still not sure of my shot and asked Solomon if the doe could have been the deer he shot. He said, "No, Dad, mine was much bigger! The one you shot ran this way. My deer fell right where it stood."
We followed the blood trail across the creek and back again. We ran into another hunter, and he informed us that the doe went upstream. Sure enough, there lay the doe. We pulled it out to get a closer look. I'm embarrassed to say it was one of the smallest deer I ever shot, but it would definitely fit in the freezer.
Solomon was excited and wanted to find his deer. When we closed the gap to where my son had shot, we slowed down and approached cautiously. I was taken by surprise when a big buck stood up and started to run off. I quickly handed the gun to Solomon. He fired. The buck stumbled. I took the gun from Solomon, chambered a round and realized that we only had one shot left.
I threw the safety on and chased after the buck. I was fired up because I caught up to the deer before I realized Solomon was about 100 yards behind me. The buck stopped and looked right at me. Solomon caught up to me, and the buck was still looking right at me. My son held the gun steady and squeezed the trigger. Down went the buck. I was so proud of him that I was laughing and crying at the same time.
We went to get a closer look at his deer. I must have been making a lot of noise because the hunter we met earlier in the day walked up to us to see what was going on. I was crying in front of another man and did not even care. I was so proud of my son that I can't put it to words.
Going to work later that day was not such a bad thing. I was on cloud nine.
Jeffrey A. Carlson