I am a West Virginian through and through, born and raised here in the Mountain State. Other than serving in the U.S. Navy from 1970-1974, I have lived here my entire life.
I started hunting when I was between 10 and 12 years old. I started out on squirrels, rabbits and quail—you name it. In the early ’60s there wasn’t much of a deer season, though, so if you wanted to hunt deer back then you had to go to the eastern mountains of West Virginia.
After my four-year hitch in the Navy, I got married, and my wife and I moved to a farm in rural West Virginia where we raised our four sons. Whitetail deer were now beginning to expand their range, and with the help of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and restocking programs, deer were becoming plentiful in our neck of the woods. Our sons showed great interest in learning to hunt at an early age, which thrilled me. They were all good shots and took their first squirrels before age 10 and quickly moved on to deer hunting.
Fast forward 20 years or so, and our sons were all married and having children of their own. My oldest grandson, Jamin, who is now 9, came to me in the summer of 2013 and said, “Paw Paw, I’d like to try and kill my first deer this fall.”
Needless to say, I was ecstatic, and I proceeded to purchase a bolt-action .243 Winchester for him to shoot, with which he became extremely proficient.
That fall, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources instituted a three-day doe hunt on private land, which occurred in mid to late October and lasted from Thursday to Saturday. My oldest son was to bring Jamin out to hunt on Friday after school.
We have a large field overlooking our pond beside our house, and deer regularly come out to feed in the field. I had already scouted the field before they arrived and had seen six deer feeding. It was unusually cool that October afternoon, so when my son and grandson arrived they were bundled up pretty well. I looked at them and said, “Guys, this won’t take long at all.”
We slipped out the back door and eased along an old fence row using the fence as cover so we wouldn’t spook the deer. We then filled in a gap in the fence row and waited for the deer to feed up the hill toward us. My grandson showed great patience while we waited for the biggest doe to feed into range.
We had him set up on the shooting stick and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the doe turned broadside. I told him to put the crosshairs on her chest and slowly squeeze the trigger. When the gun went off she took one step and dropped in her tracks. He made a perfect shot. I don’t know who was more excited, him, his dad or me!
After I showed him how to field-dress his first deer, Jamin said something to me I will remember the rest of my life: “Paw Paw, I think I would like to donate my deer to help a needy family.” The WV DNR has a program called Hunters Helping the Hungry, to which my sons and I have donated in the past. Needless to say, we took Jamin’s first deer and donated her to Hunters Helping the Hungry.
This was a pretty special hunt for a 9-year-old, and a very special hunt for one proud Paw Paw, too.
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