By Russell and Benjamin Siler
-- Both boys were away at college when the shotgun deer season opened on Nov. 15, 2006.
My son, Benjamin, was attending Baker College in Muskegon, Mich., which is a 2 1/2-hour drive from our home. The 2006 Michigan shotgun season was fast approaching, and I wanted my son to be here on opening day.
Unfortunately, exams, work and a girlfriend were taking up his time. My oldest son, Andrew, was away at college in Virginia, so we both knew he wouldn't make it home this hunting season.
I called Ben to see if he could go hunting with me on opening day, but he could not make it. So, each night after hunting, I'd call to ask if he could come home for the weekend and hunt. He wanted to but his new life was getting in the way. I finally resorted to taunting Ben just a little.
He had yet to harvest a wallhanger where as his older brother, Andrew, had taken a big buck a few years ago, and I already had several nice bucks hanging on the wall. It didn't matter to me that Ben hadn't shot a larger than average buck, I was just trying to find a way to get him home to hunt and escape the pressures that life brings us all.
I told Ben I knew this was going to be his year - it had to be. It was his FIRST year away from home, FIRST time at college, FIRST real girlfriend and his FIRST attempt at starting his new life. It just had to be his year to bag his FIRST big buck!
I was trying everything I knew to get him home to hunt with me. His answer each time was, "Sure, Dad if I can work it out, I'll come home to hunt." I must have worn him down because he called me Saturday morning around 10:30 and said he was on his way. He could hunt only hunt that evening because he had to be back at work Sunday morning.
When Ben arrived, we had lunch and discussed which stand we each wanted to hunt from. My favorite stand is one that overlooks a large swamp with big patches of tamarack trees. I was headed to the stand when I decided that Ben should in it. Besides, I can hunt this stand any time. It would take him just a few minutes to walk the 400 yards to the swamp edge and climb 28 feet into the maple tree. I chose another stand that was a 20-minute walk from where Ben was sitting.
I hadn't made it very far when I heard a shot from what sounded like Ben's stand. I thought there was no way a deer walked out that soon. Just then I heard Ben's excited voice come over the radio.
"DAD, come quick," he said. "I've just shot the largest buck ever for this farm!"
I hurried back to the swamp's edge to see Ben in the maple tree. I called up to him and asked what happened. Ben recounted the story as follows:
"Once I got to the tree, I made sure my muzzleloader didn't have a cap on it. I tied it to the rope, tightened up my backpack and started climbing up when around 12 feet I noticed several does and two small bucks about 50 yards away in the swamp.
"The bucks were bumping the does so they were all bouncing around in the swamp, moving between the patches of red brush and tamaracks. I continued to move up the tree slowly when at about 18 feet I noticed a large buck looking at me.
"The buck was about 60 yards away, looking in my direction, which was west into the afternoon sun. The buck must've thought I was a raccoon or something due to how slow I was climbing the tree. The buck stood there while I finished my slow climb to the platform. Then he allowed me to pull my gun up, untie the rope, take off my backpack, cap the gun, slowly aim and Pop! The muzzleloader did not shoot!
"The buck didn't run off, in fact it seemed more intent in discovering what I was because he closed the distance to 45 yards. I loaded another cap, carefully aimed and this time the muzzleloader fired!
"I'm glad you kept bugging me to come home to hunt. I needed to take time away from my new and busy life to take my FIRST big buck. Besides, if I can hunt for basically two minutes and shoot bucks like this, I'll make the trip home every year on the first weekend!
"Thanks for making my year of firsts so special and thank you for teaching me how to enjoy hunting and the great outdoors."
Benjamin's buck is a handsome 12 pointer. It is no monster but it is a very respectable buck for our area.
Russell and Benjamin Siler
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