A giant buck is the perfect hunting cure for a kid who would rather be fishing.
By Quintin Sullivan
Let me preface this story by saying that my son Joseph is one of the best kids on the planet. Sure, I’m biased, but the kid has some amazing accomplishments under his belt, and he’s not even 13 yet.
Joseph is an avid fisherman who ties his own flies (and sells them under the name Joe Hunter), and in 2013 alone caught a 7-pound largemouth from the Rappahannock, a 4-pound smallmouth from the Rapidan, a 10-pound snakehead from the Potomac and a 65-pound, 59 1/2-inch release citation cobia from the Chesapeake Bay.
When it came to hunting, however, his resume was pretty blank, except for a few squirrels.
After hunting with me for the past three years, putting up deer stands and setting up game cameras and regularly checking them, he had seen some deer but had yet to get a shot. Partially because of his fishing success, and partly because he is a kid, he was getting frustrated. I feared he was on the verge of giving up on deer hunting.
My concern was compounded by the fact that my time with Joseph is limited. I have shared custody with his mother, so our opportunities to get out to the woods are more than cut in half.
I could tell he wasn’t thrilled when I picked him up from school on the afternoon of Nov. 11 and told him we should go hunting. I explained that there had been a nice 8-pointer on the camera the two days prior, so he agreed to go.
We got home and changed clothes, and I loaded my muzzleloader. Next, we headed out to the double ladder stand in the woods behind our house. We jumped a doe on the way in, and she crashed through the woods, prompting Joseph to give me one of those “not again” type looks. We got into the stand at about 3:30.
Trying to keep his hopes alive, I explained the bucks were in the rut and chasing does, so he still had a chance to see something.
At about 4 o’clock, I was listening to some deer walking behind us when Joseph whispered, “Don’t move.”
I eased my head around and saw a large deer coming down the logging road about 75 yards away. When it looked our way, I realized it was a wide buck, and I immediately thought it was most likely the 8-pointer from the camera.
Although he had never killed a deer, Joseph is a hunter. At 7 years old, he passed the Virginia hunter safety course without missing a question, and he has spent a lot of time in the woods and knows how to be quiet and stay hidden. In other words, he knew what to do.
There we were, sitting in the stand, camouflage from head to toe — face nets, camo skull caps, gloves, scent spray and everything else you’re supposed to have. Basically we were two pairs of eyes floating in the trees.
As the deer got closer, it was a steady sequence of raise the gun a bit, stop, raise the gun a bit, stop. Every time the buck glanced up in our direction, we both froze and didn’t blink. The problem was the buck was walking directly toward us with no margin for error.
When it got to within 50 yards, it was still facing us. I told Joseph he was going to have to take the shot because the deer was starting to get spooked. He already had the throat patch in his scope, so he lowered the crosshairs just a bit and squeezed the trigger.
The buck fell almost immediately, and I wrapped my arms around Joseph. He was as excited as I had ever seen him.
After the smoke cleared, we could see the buck was down for good just 60 yards from the stand, but we didn’t really know how big it was until we got over to it and picked up the rack.
It wasn’t the deer I thought it was; it was much bigger! Joseph’s buck is a very symmetrical mainframe 8-pointer with two equidistant drop tines and one 2-inch hook point protruding from the rear of the right main beam.
Joseph was shaking like a leaf as he picked up the rack for me to take pictures. It was easily my greatest hunting experience ever because I got to share it with him.
He got phone calls and congratulations from seasoned hunters and other adults and peers, and just about everyone in the greater Fredericksburg area we know, along with some that we don’t!
I am not sure if Joseph’s feet have touched the ground since that day, but I can tell you I no longer worry about him losing interest in deer hunting.