By Roby Robichaux, Lafayette, La.
"Dad, will you take me deer hunting?": It was not a question I expected to hear from my 40-year-old daughter, especially from the girl who slept on the floor of the stand the last time I took her deer hunting at the age of 16. The years passed, and although she married a hunter, she had shown no interest in spending time in a deer stand.
My daughter’s 5-year-old son was hunting with his dad during the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving Mom home alone. She wanted to learn about hunting to share it with her son. Her first experience with a high-powered rifle resulted in a cut over the eye caused by getting too close to the scope. So, it was off to the doctor, and thankfully stitches were not required. Naturally, Dad felt awful, but she never got too close again. A new .308 helped ease the pain. She could handle it quite well. As the summer passed, we kept going to the range, shooting targets and silhouettes at which she became quite proficient. Of course, the real test was going to come when there was a buck in the scope.
November came and it was time to hunt. She said goodbye to her husband and son when Thanksgiving week came and they were off to their hunting lease. We packed our camo clothing, boots, guns and ammo, a bag full of snacks and headed west. I was a member of a hunting club in Junction, Texas. A local motel provided a place to shower and rest. About a 30-minute drive got us to the lease early enough to join the other club members then go to our stand long before legal shooting hours.
We spent four days shoulder to shoulder in a 4-by-4-foot stand. She proved to be a real trooper, never complaining about the early mornings and late afternoons and watching the deer come and go and never seeing a shooter. The last morning of our hunt changed about 30 minutes before I was ready to give up. A nice 8-point buck and a doe walked to the feeder pen, the doe jumping in immediately while the more cautious buck stayed outside, surveying the area.
Standing, looking at our blind, he offered a quartering shot. “Where should I shoot?” my daughter asked, since we had only practiced side profiles. “Just behind the shoulder," I responded. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she squeezed the trigger, just as we had practiced, hitting the buck right where she was aiming. I watched him crumple through the binocular before he took off, so I knew she had made a good shot.
The doe stood in the pen, looking bewildered. “Shoot the doe, shoot the doe!" I told her. Cranking a round into the chamber, she shot the doe, which fell immediately. After waiting a half-hour to let the shaking subside, we climbed out of the stand and tracked the buck 50 yards into a small thicket. He had found a place to lie down against a pile of brush.
So, there we were, on her first hunt: My daughter had killed her first buck and doe less than a minute apart. With the customary blooded face, we took pictures to help remember the moment. Dad was especially proud of not only the accurate shooting she displayed, but also the calm manner with which she handled the moment. There was not much time to be nervous since it was only a few minutes between the deer showing up and the two kill shots.
Hunting is a special activity we’ve shared for years. We have been on several more hunts, and she has taken more deer, but none to compare to her first. One of our favorite memories was cooking a steak over mesquite charcoal and sitting around a campfire. There’s nothing quite like a cold, clear West Texas night with a billion stars to keep you company.
The special bond created by hunting together, shoulder to shoulder in those small stands, discussing everything from hunting to raising kids to just spending time together, is a unique experience we’ll treasure for a lifetime. I don’t know how many dads get to enjoy what I have, teaching a young woman and mom the joys of being out in the wild and teaching her that hunting is not just about the kill, but I know I am blessed. Oh, the wonders that nature provides to those who are lucky enough to be there.
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