Hunter’s Journal: Young Son’s First Deer
By Blake Brantley
I have been an avid hunter for as long as I can recall. I grew up hunting deer, ducks and dove all around south Georgia with my father. Some of my fondest memories with my dad are of our trips to Lake Seminole to hunt ducks with Jack Wingate.
I killed my first deer with my father on the stand with me when I was 11, and I wanted to have the same experience with my son. He has been hunting and fishing with me for several years now but just got behind the trigger last season when he was 10 years old. He missed a doe last year with his Remington Model 7, and it really bummed him out.
So when the 2018 season rolled around, he was ready to try again after practicing on the range this summer. However, he informed me before the season started that he wanted his first deer to be a buck, and he didn’t want to settle. I was so proud that he was growing up a little and wanted to try to wait for a good deer.
After a few trips of not getting a chance to shoot, a nice spike presented an opportunity the last Friday of November. Although my son debated about taking the shot for a moment, temptation got the best of us both when the deer turned broadside at 50 yards. Unfortunately, buck fever had set in, and my son shot right over the back of the deer. I have not seen Will that upset in a long time, and it broke my heart.
Fast forward to Dec. 26. We finally had a break from the rain. It was cool but not too cold, and the solunar forecast was excellent. We were invited to hunt on a friend’s farm in Lee County and jumped at the chance. We saw several deer on the way to the stand, which really got our hopes up. As we pulled up to the stand at 4 p.m., a 5-point and a doe were at the feeder, which was kind of odd, according to the landowner. We were wondering if the deer had already moved for the day.
After about an hour of nothing but squirrels, we noticed movement in the bottom we were overlooking. We believed it was the doe and 5-point that had been at the feeder but could not see them clearly to confirm. I decided to try my doe and fawn call in an effort to get the deer to give us a clear view.
I told my son to be on red alert, as I knew the squirrels would make it hard to detect any other approaching deer coming through the woods.
After about 10 minutes, my son looked at me and whispered, “Dad, there is a huge buck right there.” I was able to maintain my composure and peek out the stand window to confirm. Sure enough, there was a beautiful mature buck moving rapidly toward our location at a trot, as if on a string. I didn’t have to instruct my son on anything, and he got his gun settled and the deer in the scope all by himself. The buck closed to 20 yards before he gave Will a good broadside shot. The deer stood there for what seemed like an eternity, looking behind our stand in a desperate effort to find the source of the calls. The only thing I said was “put it right behind his shoulder and squeeze the trigger.”
A second later, Will’s Remington Model 783 (chambered in .243) roared, and the buck jumped and mule kicked like you always want to see. We watched with delight as the deer ran off with a bright red spot behind his shoulder that was getting bigger with every step. A few seconds later, we heard a crash and then nothing.
After restraining my son from getting down immediately to chase the animal, I snuck over to the impact site, and sure enough, there was blood everywhere. The 87-grain Hornady had done its job. We waited about another 20 minutes and followed an easy-to-find blood trail to the buck. The quest for Will’s first deer was finally over. He smiled like never before, and he could not have been more excited.
As I proudly watched Will admire his buck, I thought about all of the wonderful times I had hunting with my father over the years. I hope this will be the first of many times we marvel over a deer together, and that he will continue to be an avid outdoorsman.
Looking back a few days later, the whole experience seemed like a blur. However, it was a long road and took several years before that magical, late December afternoon. It is a memory I will cherish forever, and I am certain my son will, too.