Hunting > Whitetails

Irreplaceable Moments

Hunting provides an ailing father moments of joy with his two young sons.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nine years ago. My two boys, Michael and David, were 8 and 7 years old, respectively, at that time. The thought of not being able to hunt because of the disease was devastating. Moreover, the idea of not sharing in my sons’ first deer kills was even more depressing. Therefore, it became a priority for me to be there with my sons for that special day while I was still able to do so.

Not long thereafter, Michael and David completed their hunter education courses and we began searching for places to hunt. Being employed by a company that relocated me every few years complicated things, but year after year we would focus on junior hunts, state-regulated hunts or other public lands. Private land was hard to come by in our circumstance, but we used it when it was available.

We’d practice marksmanship with archery tackle and firearms all summer long. The boys would read issues of American Hunter from cover to cover and keep them for reference. Then in August we would plan future hunts, hang stands and hunt hard all season. Despite all of our efforts, we had no deer to show for them. The boys and I were becoming discouraged. The years were going by and my illness was progressing.

Then one year my employer required me to relocate to my home state of Connecticut. Being home allowed me to rely on old friends and new acquaintances for help, since I was only comfortable telling close friends and family about my illness. They were of great assistance. For instance, I spoke with Charles, a dear friend of many years, and he told me I could hunt his property. And I told Ken, my taxidermist, about my mission, and he introduced me to Pat, who introduced me to Paul, and so on until I had several areas to hunt with my boys. Everyone was very supportive. It was testimony to the fact that hunters are indeed good people. I felt this might actually be the year in which I would be able to share the joy of my sons’ first deer kills.
Opening day 2008 arrived, and Charles took David to a stand on one side of his property while I took Michael to the other. About mid-morning I made my way to Michael’s blind overlooking a sorghum field that gently rolled downhill to a conifer forest. He had seen a doe head into the forest but couldn’t get a good shot. I suggested he set up near a power line overlooking a well-used trail. I still-hunted around the field to move something his way. After about a half-hour I heard Michael shoot. Finally, I thought, one of my plans worked!

It was then that I saw a buck running toward me. It got to about 40 yards from where I stood and it collapsed. As Michael approached me, the only words that came out of his mouth were, “Dad, I think I got a buck!” I pointed to the animal. It was a very symmetrical 6-pointer (see photo). As we admired the deer, Michael looked up at me. “Thanks, Dad, I got my first deer,” he said. We hugged and cried for some time, not saying anything. Then we took care of the deer and took it back to camp.

A week later David and I were on a state lottery hunt in an area where our new friends, Pat and Paul, had taken many deer. We hunted hard but had no luck. Slightly discouraged but determined, we returned home and made plans to go back with Charles to the area where Michael had taken his buck.

Arriving at Charles’ property, David set up in a treestand overlooking the same field where Michael had been hunting two weeks previously. Unfortunately, he didn’t see any deer. That afternoon we had David post on the side of a hill frequented by deer. There was fresh sign and we were encouraged, but again David hunted until dark without firing a shot.

The next morning—the last day of the season—David planned to hunt in the same area as the previous afternoon, and I would hunt about 200 yards away. It had snowed the night before, which changed the woods in appearance and feel, and improved our attitudes. We wished one another good luck and went to our stands. I sat in my stand and prayed that on this—our last chance until next year—David would shoot his deer. I wasn’t even hunting when I heard the shot. The doe was quartering toward him when David fired.

“Dad, Dad, are you there? I got a doe!” David said over the radio. He was so excited that he forgot to take his finger off the button on his radio to allow me to respond. I walked down to David and we admired his deer. “Thanks, Dad,” he said. We hugged and shed silent tears, realizing nothing could ever replace that moment. 

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