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Uncle James

Uncle James

Ted Nugent might have the nickname Uncle Ted, but he’s not the only Nugent uncle who knows how to take kids hunting

By James Nugent

My oldest niece Briley, an eager 8-year old, had begged to go hunting with me for several years. After weeks of discussion and planning, the time finally arrived for her first trip.

Still not comfortable enough with a rifle to hunt, she was excited to watch and learn all she could. Briley is no stranger to the outdoors; she won first place in the youth flounder division in the CCA STAR tournament in 2012, but this would be her first hunting experience.

I picked her up shortly after 5 a.m. on a cool Sunday morning before Thanksgiving. Despite being surprisingly awake and energetic, her momentum quickly faded as we began the nearly 6 hour drive from Houston to my deer lease southwest of Junction, Texas. As the sun rose in the rearview mirror so did she. I began answering an endless barrage of questions about the adventure unfolding before us.

As we discussed everything from hunting safety to what to look for in a deer, I felt a humble satisfaction and joy for doing my part to help the next generation, and also that we were creating a memory we would both share forever.

Shortly after arriving at camp, it was finally time to head to the blind for the afternoon hunt. As we gathered gear to take to the field, Briley had a very concerned look on her face and asked if I was still wearing the matching lucky rubber band bracelet she had made for both of us during the drive. Satisfied that I was still sporting the fine jewelry she’d hand-crafted, we were on our way.

Earlier, I’d explained the importance of arriving early to the blind or area you will hunt. Heading into the field a little later than I wanted, we settled into the blind about 45 minutes before the feeder was to go off. We passed the time by talking about what animals we might see. I was expecting the feeder to go off at any minute when I heard Briley’s little voice say something I should have known was coming.

“Uncle Jay, I have to go to the bathroom.”

Oh, no, I thought, and asked if she could hold it a little longer.

“No,” she said and, to my amusement, proceeded to do the I-gotta-go dance. More concerned with ensuring her first hunting experience didn’t leave her a bad memory, we returned to camp.

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as we stepped out of the blind, I heard the distinctive sound of corn slung to the ground a hundred yards away. I couldn’t help smiling as we quickly made our way back to camp to accomplish the mission. Upon our return, my hope of settling into our seats before deer showed up quickly vanished. We rode within sight of the blind only to find 5 pairs of axis deer eyes and ears looking straight at us.

Not discouraged, I explained my plan to sneak back without being seen. When we re-entered our two-person blind, it was obvious we weren’t as sneaky as I’d hoped because our onlookers had vanished.

Despite the slight setback, Briley’s very first hunt ended up a success when “we” shot a white-tailed doe. However, her excitement quickly turned to apprehension when we arrived where the doe lay. Now that it was dark, Briley was adamant that I tie the doe very securely to the back of the ATV. She was concerned it might come back to life and get her. It took effort, but I contained my laughter.

Our hunts the next day were uneventful. We did not see anything worth shooting during the morning rifle hunt, but the afternoon hunt proved a little more exciting while bowhunting from a popup blind. After explaining the importance of being quiet when in close proximity to deer, the point was really made when a whitetail spike busted us from 20 yards.

The next critter to step out was a single axis doe, which came as close as 10 yards while nibbling on corn. After examining our visitor for a few minutes, I decided not to take her because she was a bit too young. Although Briley was a little disappointed I didn’t shoot, I could tell she was consoled by getting so close to a wild axis deer.

I explained that hunting isn’t just about shooting an animal, but about being in the outdoors and experiencing nature, and taking an animal is a bonus. So we wrapped up our second day of hunting without adding venison to the cooler.

On the drive back to camp, the mercury was falling and I could tell the hunt the next morning would be the coldest yet. Thank goodness for portable heaters. We were up extra early with plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast and, most importantly, go to the bathroom before heading out!

Shortly after settling into the blind in the still black morning, I noticed my new hunting buddy was unusually silent. Clicking on my flashlight, I discovered a camouflaged 8-year-old curled up in the folding chair next to me, watching some eyelid theater. After letting her rest for a little while, I woke her after the breakfast crowd began trickling in.

With binoculars in hand, she studied the whitetail and axis getting their morning dose of corn. I had my eye on one of the axis does, but after patiently watching the deer, anticipating something with antlers would walk out, the three axis deer disappeared back into the brush and didn’t show themselves again that morning.

As we continued watching the remaining deer, something happened that had never happened to me while hunting. It was snowing! Although short-lived, we can still claim it snowed on us during that hunt. With no shooters in sight, and the remaining critters returning to the brush one by one, it looked like this would be our third consecutive hunt with nothing to show for it.

After the last deer disappeared I could tell Briley was discouraged, and getting up so early three mornings in a row was taking a toll on her. She was ready to head back to camp, but I told her to wait just a few more minutes. As we talked to pass the time, something caught my eye down the sendero to the left.

It was a shooter whitetail buck! And it was coming right for us!

I took a better look and told Briley I would stop it and take a shot when it cleared the bushes. After what seemed like hours, the buck stepped out between two bushes. I let out a grunt that stopped the buck in its tracks, looking in my direction. BOOM!

When the buck jumped and kicked his back legs in the air, I knew the Remington .270 had found its mark. We left the blind and returned to camp to get the trailer.

After showing fast-learner Briley how to follow a blood trail, we found the deer piled up just on the other side of a cedar bush 40 yards away. With a few snowflakes still falling on us, we posed for pictures before loading him up.

Since I was still wearing my lucky rubber band bracelet, I thought maybe there was something to my little jeweler’s creation because I’d just taken my largest buck to date.

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