It’s hard to say who was happier, the first-time hunter or his dad.
I am 45 years old and have been an avid deer hunter since I was 18. My dad didn’t hunt, so I picked it up on my own. For the first nine years of hunting, I didn’t shoot a deer, let alone a buck. But since then I’ve been on a roll. I’ve had my share of wallhangers and have become pretty selective, focusing on bowhunting. But I’m more than happy to pick up a gun if I have a tag left after the archery season.
The Pennsylvania gun season is something special, even for those of us who focus on bowhunting. The archery and bear seasons are over, and the arrival of Thanksgiving means that it’s time to go to hunting camp. This past season was a little different, though, as I decided to take my 12-year-old son Brian with me.
I was prepared to be Brian’s guide and had no problem with that, even though I hadn’t seen a shooter buck all year. What are your chances of seeing a big buck in the mountains, anyway? Bowhunting had taught me that the big boys all hung out down by the farms.
Brian had never shot a high-powered rifle until three weeks before gun season. We bought him a new .243 with a nice scope. His first shot at the range from 50 yards was a half-inch from the bull’s-eye. Was it luck? When all was said and done, Brian shot four times at 50 yards and four shots at 100 yards, all deadly; he was ready for the woods.
We headed up to hunting camp that Saturday morning. Brian was finally going to get to do what he’d been asking to do for years. The Monday-morning opener brought warm weather that melted the 6 inches of snow we had been so excited about. We had scouted on Saturday and decided to go deep in the woods. I didn’t want to run into any other hunters.
We made it to our tree after getting lost just once. Brian climbed up in his new stand, and I was right under him in mine. We were up about 20 feet or so, with Brian looking one way and me the other.
Ten o’clock rolled around, and Brian had not seen a thing. I saw three deer run through, one a small buck. I thought, “Brian’s going to get disgusted,” so I pulled out some sandwiches and broke the silence, telling him that we needed to be patient.
Not five minutes later, I turned my head and saw a huge buck walking slowly about 30 yards away with a doe behind it. I couldn’t believe this monster buck was on top of us, and Brian had no idea it was there.
I turned and grabbed Brian’s ankle and squeezed. At the same time, the buck stopped behind a tree. The look I gave Brian (eyes popping out of my head) told him the game was on! As he pulled up his rifle and looked through the scope, I quietly told him to wait until the buck stepped out. Five seconds later, it did.
Brian whispered, “Now?”
I responded, “Now!”
The deer was thrown backward, and then it took off and was gone. Three minutes later, we heard a shot in the direction the deer had gone. My heart sank. Brian and I hurried down the tree to see what happened. Had someone else landed the monster buck?
We got to the spot where the deer was when Brian shot and didn’t find any sign of a hit. All we had to go by was the turned up leaves that ended about 50 yards away. I took a look around and headed for the thickest area I could see; 70 yards later, there was the buck.
I got on the walkie-talkie and called Brian. He had wandered off in another direction, but when he got to where I was and saw the deer, the look on his face was unforgettable.
I couldn’t wait to get back to the hunting camp and show everyone this deer. It’s a perfect 12-pointer with double brow tines on both sides and lots of mass. It was the largest buck I had ever seen in Venango County. Back at camp, and from all the surrounding camps, we heard the same thing, “Been hunting here for 30 years and never saw a deer that big.”
You could say that Brian had the luckiest hunting day, his first, of his life. But I think I was the luckiest guy that day. Talk about mission accomplished! I had the pleasure of being part of a great hunt and taking my son hunting for the first time. I might have had more fun than he did.
This article was published in the December 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.