By Fred Atha
-- My story begins in early September 2006. That is when deer fever begins to set in with my son Jared, best friend Curtis and his son Clay, and me. We start to put up the deer feeders, before we clean out and repair our permanent deer stands. The Oklahoma archery season begins in early October, the primitive season follows about the fourth week of October for nine days, and then rifle season comes in the Saturday before Thanksgiving for 16 days. As you can tell, we do not have much time to sit in the deer stands.
None of us are archers, so we have to wait for primitive season to open. Eleven days before primitive season in 2006, I had a stroke. It was severe, but God and good luck were with me, and I have made a near full recovery. When I was still in the ER, getting ready do be airlifted to an Oklahoma City stroke unit, Curtis came to me and said, "Eleven days, Fred." No one believed that I could be in the deer stand on opening morning, except me, and maybe Curtis. And I was. My buddy was about a 1/4-mile away in another stand, with a walkie-talkie in case I needed him.
Luck was with Curtis. He harvested his biggest deer to date on that first day we went out. I had already climbed out of my stand because I wanted to look over a food plot before legal shooting time ended. I had walked about 20 yards when I heard a shot from the direction of Curtis' stand. I called him to see if it was him. His voice was excited, so I knew he had shot one. It was the only deer he saw that day. It was traveling from the bedding area to a nearby wheat field and was about 50 yards from him when he shot. The deer was not big by some people's standards, but it is his personal biggest to date.
Curtis and his son, Clay, went with me to my brother's land on the last Saturday evening of primitive season. Curtis had his tag filled so it was only Clay and I carrying guns. We have a nice, big "deer condo" as I like to call it, so all three of us were sitting in it. Clay and I had different goals in the size of buck we were hunting for, so there would be no argument over who got to shoot what deer.
We were there until the last few minutes of legal shooting light when a buck with a real strange rack came out. It was not a huge rack, but its shape was really unique. It also happened to be bigger than any deer Clay had harvested so far.
Two bucks down, and both personal bests for my hunting partners.
While we were checking the buck in, Curtis got a call. It was a call asking him to tell me that my brother had just passed away. He had been sick for a long time, so it was not totally unexpected. He had been my hunting partner for many years.
I didn't get one during primitive season, but I was just as happy as if I had, since Curtis and Clay had such good luck.
When rifle season rolled around, I was kind of still just going though the motions of getting back to work and trying to go on with life. Curtis and my nephew and his son, Oren, and I were all sitting in stands on the same section that Curtis had harvested his deer during the primitive season.
I was in the stand Curtis had used when he shot his buck. It was a warm first day, so there was not much movement. Finally about 5 minutes before sundown, a small doe ran by the stand. Then a nice 8-point buck ran by the stand just 15 yards away. The buck stopped just as I hit the barrel of my rifle on the side of the deer stand. The deer looked directly at the stand then continued on toward the doe, which was about 100 yards away from me.
I shot, and the buck hit the ground in its tracks. I was extremely excited. It was a nice buck, and as it turned out, my best so far. In all the excitement I couldn't find my radio, so I used my cell phone to call Curtis to have him come help me. I later discovered the radio was in a pocket I had checked about three times before I used my cell phone. If I ever stop getting excited, I will stop hunting.
Almost at the same instant, my great nephew Oren, 11 years old, had shot his biggest deer to date. We couldn't find his until the next morning. He seemed relieved and proud when we found it. He has shot four now.
Well, as fathers and sons always do, I was proud of my deer, and so was my son, Jared. There was some kidding that if he didn't have a hot date that day, he could have shot that deer.
Jared did not have a chance go hunting on opening weekend, but he had some time a few days later. He was hunting with Curtis and Clay in the "deer condo." At first light, a nice buck came into view that Jared immediately knew he was going to shoot. He was the only one who had not pulled the trigger yet, so there was no discussion of who was going to take this deer.
He put the gun up to his shoulder then realized he had only put one round in it. I don't know if he was not confident in seeing anything that morning, or was just confident he didn't need two shots. However, when he realized he only had one shell in it, he started to pull the gun down to put another round in it. Curtis convinced him he should shoot before the deer disappeared. Jared took the advice and dropped the deer. This buck was Jared's personal best.
What these hunts have in common is that all five of us harvested the biggest bucks of our lives.
When my son retells his hunting story he gives my deceased brother, Bob, credit for our successful season. He guided those big bucks to us so we could harvest them. I have read stories that have similar claims. Typically, I have scoffed at them but now I truly believe in them.
Thank you, Bob, for your help. We know you are still watching over us up there. We all miss you. You are gone in body, but not in spirit.
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