Deer Hunts With My Dad

Reader Contributed | June 2, 2024

JD Richards with his first deer, an afternoon hunt that would help shed light on his life’s journey as a hunter. JD thanks his dad for taking the time to introduce him to the sport. He’s now passing his passion for hunting along to others.

By JD Richards

As Father’s Day approaches, I look back at many of the first memories I have had with my dad in the outdoors that have shaped who I am as an adult.

As hunters, many of our first outdoor memories have been with our dads. Dad was with us the first time we saw that doe step out into a fog-filled food plot and felt that overwhelming feeling of intenseness staring down a red dot on a .243. He was with us the first time as we heard that echoing roll of thunder bouncing off oak trees from a tom starting his day. Maybe he was holding that freshly honed Case knife, slicing the back of your shirt-tail off because you missed that cowhorn spike at 50 yards, reciting the widely renowned quote, “That’s why it’s called hunting, not killing.”

These are memories that many hunters have had instilled in their minds, like rings inside of an old pine tree showing growth.

It was a cool Thanksgiving afternoon in Monticello as we made our way up the “Middle Road” of our hunting lease in an old Bronco II. After parking and loading our guns, we began the long walk to the box stand with our stomachs aching from all of my grandmother’s famous Thanksgiving dressing. I trailed right behind my dad the whole way, stepping a little less carefully than he did. Of course, he would let me know every 50 yards that I would be mistaken for an elephant if I didn’t have my orange vest on.

When we finally arrived at the food plot, he stopped to show me the deer tracks and where they had mowed down the clover to the stem. All I could think was, “Tonight is the night.”

My mind raced for hours, thinking about the possibilities that could unfold. The sun began to set, and my dad bumped me and whispered, “Get ready. This is prime time.” Whenever he said these words, I believed he was some deer psychic and somehow knew what the deer were thinking. Sure enough, a 120-lb. doe came out of the woodline accompanied by three more eager does ready to fill their bellies with fresh clover.

As my dad set my .243 on the edge of the box stand and backed the hammer, he whispered, “Put the red dot behind her shoulder and pull the trigger.”

With squinted eyes and my first adrenaline rush of deer fever, I hammered the trigger, and smoke filled the air. With no time for the smoke to settle or the echo of the blast to stop bouncing off the hardwoods, I was ready to find her. As we gathered my countless Little Debbie wrappers and Bug Juice bottles, we finally started down the stand to find her. She dropped 50 yards from where she was standing in the food plot.

I remember putting my hands on that deer for the first time and was elated by the fact that I just achieved my goal. This moment with my dad lit a fire I had never felt before. I remember very vividly thinking to my 6-year-old self, “Dad is never going hunting without me again.”

As I got older, my passion for hunting grew into an obsession. The highlight of every month was looking for that monthly GON magazine in the mailbox to see what kind of deer was on the front cover. I began to pester my dad to leave camp and come pick me up from school to catch the afternoon hunt. It was safe to say I was passionate about the outdoors. I would go with him every chance I could so he could teach me everything he knew.

After many trips up the “Middle Road” in the Bronco and countless hours sitting in a double ladder stand with him, I figured it was time to show my dad I could do it myself.

When I finally turned 13, I took the hunter-safety course and passed with flying colors. After passing my test, I recall dad walking me to the same stand we hunted together so many times, although this time I would climb alone.

Once I was all settled in, he made his way, disappearing into the oak-filled woods where he probably sat on the ground just out of gun range, worried to death about me. Being all alone was an eerie feeling, but I was excited. He grew more confident in me and eventually started letting me walk to the stand by myself. I would text him once I made it to the stand safe.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but walking in two separate directions would mark the end of sharing those memories together and following his every move in the woods. Instead of him knocking spider webs down for me on the paths and backing the hammer when it was time to shoot, he now was the first person that I called after a successful or unsuccessful hunt. Even though we do not share the same stand anymore, I cherish every moment we have had together in the woods. I am very blessed to have grown up around this fantastic sport of hunting with my father and to have acquired my knowledge from his teachings. I hate to admit it, but I still have a lot to learn, and he has probably forgotten as much as I know. Not only has him introducing me to this sport kept me out of a heap of trouble, but it has also taught me some valuable lessons.

At 24 years old, I now know the value behind harvesting my first deer and all that it has taught me. I encourage others to take their kid hunting or to be a mentor to someone who may not have a father figure. Not only does hunting teach us discipline, but it teaches us to slow down and connect with others in God’s beautiful creation. So next time you take a kid, co-worker, best friend or spouse hunting for the first time, put your phone on airplane mode and enjoy the moment. They will never forget that first time.

JD with deer No. 4 and his first buck.

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