Sometimes, a deer hunt reveals more about a person than expected. Such was the case of a Texas deer and hog hunt with my 12-year-old granddaughter, Danielle.
We were in the same deer blind that we unsuccessfully hunted during the morning where we hoped she’d harvest her first deer. Danielle was hunting spike bucks or does as well as the buck we had been asked to cull from the herd because of its malformed antlers—a 2-inch spike on the left side and a normal 5-point rack on the right. Unfortunately, the cull deer appeared in the darkness, then strolled away 15 minutes before shooting light, never to return that morning.
That windy afternoon, we were back in our familiar positions ensconced in comfortable chairs inside the blind and were serenaded with acorns noisily pelting the metal roof—not exactly a welcome sound while deer hunting. In short order, the wind increased in strength with furious gusts. The oaks’ branches reacted as if throwing temper tantrums. Leaves were leaving their roosts, but rather than falling, they were whisked away sideways by the angry wind. I hoped the cold front that was moving through would pass quickly to calm the wind and clamor of the falling acorns.
Once again, my granddaughter held out her hand for me to take in mine and pray for success as we’d done that morning. I repeated the prayer, but ended with the same feeling I’d had then, that God had something else in mind and was not going to answer the prayer in the manner we had prayed. (I later learned that my own daughter had the same feeling when she, too, prayed for Danielle’s success.)
During the next hour, the wind seemed to tire of its rage. About an hour and a half before sunset, the wind turned to a slight breeze, rewarding us with an 8-point buck walking briskly to feed on the corn the deer feeder had slung in all directions. Only a few seconds later, a 5-point hurried in without the usual caution of its species. He seemed intent on getting his share of the food before his bigger buddy ate it all. Though neither of these bucks were our quarry, they chased away the boredom of our long, fruitless wait. Eventually, the two bucks strolled out of sight, leaving us watching a hyperactive squirrel.
The drab clouds began to give us dark shade far too early. With about 20 minutes of legal shooting light left in the day, another buck cautiously came to our outdoor diner 65 yards away. Danielle eased her rifle through the window to view the buck with her nine-power scope while I observed it with my binocular. I could clearly see his right side had antlers, but because of the dim light, I wasn’t sure if the left side had points or if it had the short spike. Finally, just as I was sure there was nothing on the left side, its identification became moot.
“I can’t see the crosshairs on his shoulder. I don’t want to shoot and take a chance of just wounding him,” Danielle said. She desperately wanted to shoot a deer since her 11-year-old brother had already taken two bucks earlier. I knew I could make the shot if I were the hunter, but I understood her inability to be sure at her experience level. I told her to shoot only if she could make the shot. But she persisted that she could not be sure, and was not willing to make the mistake of wounding the animal. As frustrated as I was that she wouldn’t take the shot, I was also in awe of her ethics. It’s a crazy feeling to be frustrated and proud at the same time.
We watched the deer feed for a while until it walked away. At about five minutes until sundown, two hogs fed into view. With their nearly black bodies, I knew she could not see them any better than the deer.
“I can’t see them well enough to shoot,” Danielle said without me even asking. She had done everything correctly, but without success. Or was it truly without success?
Good or bad character cannot be known for sure without being tested under trying conditions. God had something better in mind for her than her taking a deer or hog. Danielle’s good character was not found wanting. Choosing a clean kill over the possibility of wounding one of God’s creatures did not even seem like a difficult decision to her, so wonderful is her character.
Yeah, I’m a proud granddad.
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