As a family of hunters and soon-to-be hunters, this year was good to us. The early season was particularly generous, as I harvested three of my four deer during that time.
This season has been my most exciting yet, not because of my success, but because my son Hunter turned seven in October — legal hunting age for the state of Pennsylvania.
I took him out several times in hopes of getting him a big buck for his first deer ever. The area proved to be challenging for a seven-year-old, though, so we went home empty-handed for the entirety of the rut and then some.
With only two weeks left in the bow season, we only had a few more opportunities for Hunter to get the deer he’d been hoping for.
I’d previously scouted a private property that had great deer sign, and trails throughout the woods led to an area where the deer liked to feed. It seemed like a great spot for an afternoon hunt in early January. With much anticipation, we left immediately after Hunter got home from school.
Unfortunately, the area wasn’t very close to home. We were walking into the woods about 4:00 p.m. and sunset was only 45 minutes away. On the way in, we scared a bunch of does, but we were still hopeful.
We got in the ground blind and began the waiting game. As the sun started to set, a large 6-pointer came up the path right in front of us! I knew Hunter would be proud to take this buck.
When it stopped 20 yards in front of us, the buck turned broadside, giving my boy a perfect shot.
I lifted the crossbow onto the shooting stick. Hunter leveled it and took aim at the buck. What an exciting moment! That’s when I saw another set of legs coming up the same trail.
I whispered to Hunter not to shoot; he had to wait. He deflated like a balloon.
This was his big moment and we might not get another chance this year, and I realized this might be a mistake. With a heavy heart, Hunter waited for my next instruction.
But, just as I’d expected, the legs following the 6-pointer belonged to a larger buck. Following suit, this 9-pointer walked up the path and stopped broadside, standing beside the smaller buck at 22 yards.
This was it! With his arms shaking from holding the heavy crossbow, Hunter took aim.
I could tell both bucks sensed something was wrong. They’d heard my whispers, and were on-edge.
This time, I told Hunter to let it fly when he was ready. Then, he shot the 9-pointer!
The shot was a little low, but it hit the shoulder and punctured the bottom of the heart. The buck spun around and began to run, but with the crushed shoulder, it couldn’t use all four legs.
It fell over a couple of times, and after a short sprint, the buck was down for good.
I looked at Hunter and saw a widespread smile and glimmering eyes. He couldn’t possibly have been more proud of himself than I was!
Even a seasoned hunter would consider this a prized buck, and my 7-year-old son had taken it during his very first year of hunting.
This will be an experience we will celebrate, share and cherish forever — even the 90-minute drag.