There are times in everyone’s life when events leave an indelible impression in the mind often lasting a lifetime. A first kiss, a first car, graduation day, your first house, your first child—all monumental moments during a person’s life with memories often permanently etched in one’s mind.
Of course, if you’re a deer hunter there’s no finer moment than that “first deer”—especially when you’re only 12 years old and still rather new to the sport of hunting.
This past Sunday morning I continued the mentoring process by taking my stepson, Luke, out into the woods with me deer hunting. His enthusiasm was flowing strong, but I could tell his confidence was starting to wane just a bit. You see, in years past we’ve certainly seen plenty of deer when out hunting together, but none have ever been in close range truly offering that heart-pumping excitement.
That situation certainly changed this past weekend.
Luke and I chose a stand near a river bottom that divided two unpicked corn fields. If you deer hunt the agricultural zone this fall, then hunting in close proximity to any unpicked cornfield will likely be part of that recipe for deer hunting success. It certainly proved that way for us.
As kids do, Luke was fidgeting on his chair to the point he finally laid his gun down to better reposition himself. Most of us experienced deer hunters certainly know what often happens next. With his 20 gauge no longer in his hands…along comes a nice doe on the opposite side of the river. His mentor (that be me) firmly whispered “freeze…don’t move. There’s a deer coming our way.”
During the next 15 minutes there were two nice does that mingled within 45 yards of our location. Often they stared directly at us as if to indicate they were watching us, too…but for the most part they continued on with their planned activities.
With my 12–year old certainly not at the ready, I figured this would be a good learning experience for him to move slowly, but deliberately, to retrieve his gun. The process took several minutes with no sudden gestures that could spook our early morning visitors. Once the gun was positioned back in his lap, I whispered “bring the gun to your shoulder…but leave it on safety.”
Luke complied with my every instruction as my intentions were simply for him to practice getting the feel for preparing to take a shot. I also instructed him we’re not going to shoot at these deer. My thinking was they might be slightly out of his range for his iron-sighted slug barrel and because of that I didn’t want him taking any marginal shots.
Then suddenly, something extraordinary happened. Both does that once looked as if they were walking away to disappear into the cornfield turned 180 degrees and started walking directly at us. Within a few seconds the largest doe had cut the distance between us to less than half and now stood a mere 20 yards away presenting the most perfect shot possible.
I commanded to Luke in words spoken under my breath “take ‘em…but click your gun’s safety off quietly.” Several seconds later a thunderous roar echoed throughout the river bottom breaking the silence of the early morning. A young boy, my stepson, had just taken a giant step toward becoming a young man. There, laying on the opposite side of the river in the very same spot where he had shot at it, was Luke’s first deer.
We jumped to our feet and celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime “first deer” experience with several rounds of high-fives.
I’m now convinced there is no other single event in a young child’s life that could illicit the same level of thrill and raw emotion comparable to what Luke was feeling at precisely 6:55 a.m. last Sunday morning. It’s a unique life experience that every youth ought to have the opportunity to embrace.
Yet, in the process, stepfather learned something rather important on that fabulous morning in the deer woods. I discovered how it’s possible to rekindle fond memories of your own “first deer.” I may have been living somewhat vicariously through Luke’s monumental achievement at that moment, but the pride and thrill of the event could not have been any greater for me had it been my very first deer all over again.
Indeed, when you choose to mentor a youth in the out-of-doors the rewards offered by the bonding experience will often stay with the both of you for a lifetime to come.
© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.