A good guide, spelled D-A-D.
OK, and a little luck never hurts.
My grandson Isaac used a good dose of all those ingredients to shoot his first deer during Iowa’s 2014 shotgun season.
Do you know how hard it can be for a 12-year-old to sit quietly in the woods with his dad for 3 or 4 hours, just waiting for a deer to appear? (His decades-older grandfather gets cold, hungry, and stiff after just half that time!)
Some people might get discouraged when deer amble by within range, but you can’t shoot because they’re obscured by brush or silhouetted unsafely against the skyline. Or you might grumble at a hunting partner (Grandpa!) who accidentally spooks the deer just as you were ready to pull the trigger.
Late nights and early mornings might require a catnap – as long as the trusty guide stays alert to wake you at the first sign of your quarry. Don’t let other game tempt you, though. That coyote trotting along near the deer trail might make a nice trophy – but what if you shot at the coyote, only to scare the deer that might be nearby?
Truth is, hunters have to stick with it, waiting until just the right moment. That instant finally came on day two, when 4 does walked down the trail Isaac and his dad were watching. Gun ready, Isaac squeezed off the lethal shot when the lead animal paused.
The deer died within seconds – but not before she stumbled headlong down a steep bluff into a creek bottom. That’s where Isaac and his dad found her, after following tell-tale splatters of blood.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the hunt, however, turned out to be “the rest of the story:” how it took Isaac and his dad a couple of hours to field dress the animal, secure it to the game sled, then push, pull, and drag it perhaps 100 yards up a steep, rocky, hillside to a semi-flat spot where the tractor was waiting. In addition to Dad’s muscles, of course, this all required the supervision and moral support of Isaac’s mother, his 5-year-old twin brother and sister, and Grandpa.
Then came the long discussion of how the deer should be processed. The whole family likes ground venison. Don’t forget the breakfast sausage and deer sticks. And we always save the loins to cook whole.
As Isaac thinks back on this season, however, we hope he remembers more than just the shot and the meat in the freezer. What about several years of hunting with Dad and Grandpa, carrying only an unloaded b-b gun to practice safety? (His dad started the same way!)
He also completed his hunter education class, with more than 10 hours of classroom work, and a half-day of hands-on instruction in the field.
Then he and Grandpa had to sight in his new shotgun to be sure he could put a slug in a fist-sized bull’s-eye at 50 yards. And we talked about using only solid copper slugs – not lead – to avoid poisoning any eagles that might feast on a gut pile.
Naturally, you need the right gear for a December deer hunt in Iowa. Isaac and Dad had to shop for camo-and-orange insulated bibs to go with his new gloves and felt-lined boots.
What does this grandpa savor about Isaac’s first deer?
Let’s count a few of the memories:
A proud son – now a father – recalling HIS first deer;
A pink sunrise peeking through the woods while the full moon sinks slowly in the west;
Squirrels shuffling noisily in the leaves, sounding just like a deer;
Red-headed woodpeckers scolding and chattering in the deer woods;
A little 6-point buck feeding within yards of my blind, oblivious to the nearby hunter/photographer;
Pileated woodpeckers kuk-kuk-kuking in the distance;
Wild turkeys scurrying along the trail;
Bald eagles soaring on the wind above the river bluff;
Warming up after the hunt with hot chocolate and Grandma’s monster cookies;
Younger brothers and sister taking their turn in the deer blind, absorbing the sights and sounds of the woods – and eager for their first hunts.