I’ve never known anyone with more passion about the outdoors than my grandfather, Roger Osborne. He has spent most of his entire life outside—hunting, fishing and farming. Ever since I can remember, Popaw has taught me about animals, archery and shooting. He bought me my first bow, BB gun, airsoft pistol and rifle, and taught me how to use them. For several years, he and I have been trying to convince my parents to let me go hunting with him. They had two conditions: a hunter safety course and my 12th birthday. I eagerly waited for summer of 2015 when I would turn 12, but that was also the summer Popaw was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. I wondered if all our plans would fail. Would he be healthy enough for our fall hunting trip? We didn’t know, but we were determined to try!
In August, Popaw and I took a hunter safety education class and purchased my license. I was thrilled to finally have my first hunting license! October finally arrived and with it bow season. Popaw was able to show me his favorite hunting spots on a four-day trip to Rockbridge County, Va. We didn’t have any luck, but we enjoyed our time in the woods by day and old hunting stories at night. Again, we didn’t know if he would be up for blackpowder or rifle season.
Although his health was declining and his pace slower, Popaw was resolved to make another trip. He really wanted to see me get my first deer! We hunted a few days in Rockbridge County with absolutely no luck. In fact, Popaw even said it was the worst hunting that he had seen in the 45 years he had hunted there. Even though we were discouraged, we still had fun spending time together. He said getting a deer is just “icing on the cake” anyway. We decided to cut the trip short, though, hoping to have better luck hunting near his home in Russell County.
On our final day hunting, which was the first day of rifle season, we hunted a ridge above my uncle’s house. After sitting for about one hour, I heard leaves rustling. Since I had three layers over my ears, I didn’t know where the sound was coming from. I twisted around and saw one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen only 12 feet away. He ran about 35 yards away, and I was so excited and scared at the same time. It was like the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster, but a hundred times more intense. I was shaking all over as I gave him a .30-30 bullet through the lungs. Popaw said it was a great shot. The deer jumped three times before nose-diving into a log, breaking off one of his antlers.
When I saw the buck fall, we jumped up from our seats and ran down to him. In our great excitement, I tripped twice and Popaw did once on our way to my 180-pound 6-point buck. I don’t know who was happier, him or me.
Once we came up to the deer, shouting for joy like we were rock stars, Popaw said, “Now the work begins.” We gutted the buck out and dragged him to the top of the ridge, where I waited with the deer while Popaw went to get the truck. When we got back home, it was sooner than the family anticipated. So to delay the surprise, I said we had gotten cold and had to come back early. But Mom said, “I know my son and I know he is lying about the cold.” Then I showed them the buck in the back of the truck, and we took pictures. I called Uncle Eddie, who had accompanied us on both of our previous hunting trips, and he came over to see my trophy. He had been calling me “Buttonhead” as a nickname and had promised to promote me to “Buck” when I killed my first deer. I told him he could change my name now! We skinned the buck out and even found the bullet inside him, which I kept. The next day, Popaw and I gave the broken antler and cape to a taxidermist to be mounted for my Christmas present.
My first hunting season was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget, and I am incredibly grateful to Popaw for giving me the opportunity to do something many kids never get a chance to do. Popaw said it was his favorite deer season ever, even though he didn’t get a deer. The best part for me was making memories with him!
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