11 year old Tucker Bruce and his first buck taken in Gwinnett County on October 24, 2009.
Among the many joys of hunting is introducing new hunters to the sport. With major competition for the interests of youngsters from media and video outlets, fewer kids are getting outdoors and particularly into hunting.
This past deer season was one of my worst in terms of seeing and bagging trophy bucks. But it was one of the best in terms enjoying hunts with other people and introducing new hunters to the grand activity that I so enjoy.
I began taking my oldest son hunting when he was four. He bagged his first deer on Ossabaw Island when he was eleven and the following season he took a deer with his bow. Now in his twenties and away at college, I have been taking my youngest son, Tucker, into the woods.
Last season we sat in a ground blind overlooking a newly cut area in Walton county and spotted two does. He took about a 100 yard shot and when I said, “you got it”, he was more surprised than I was.
This year our goal was to get him a buck. I had hunted a patch of woods near Loganville and had seen several small bucks around some acorn-dropping white oaks.
In late October we headed for those oaks with two stands, climbing sticks, two rifles, and other assorted gear. By the time I got all that up the tree, it was already daylight, then he informs me that he has to ‘poop’. We eventually get settled, but only after much ado.
Mike Bowman, of Loganville, with his first deer ever,
a doe, taken on Nov 21, 2009 in Wilkes co. while
hunting with the author, Eric Bruce.
I was not optimistic about our chances but sat quietly looking nonetheless. Mid-morning I spot a deer heading our way and nudge Tucker out of a snooze. The small buck walks to within 15 yards of our stand as I whisper instructions such as ‘don’t bump the branch’, ‘don’t make any noise’, and ‘find him in your scope’. He fires the .243 and the buck jumps and a second shot puts him down.
We get down and go over to see his prize and he strokes the hide saying over and over, ‘this is so cool’, and it was. Four days after his eleventh birthday, he has bagged a buck, something few of his friends can say. The fun of video games cannot compare to the real life experience in the outdoors.
The father of one of Tucker’s friends was just getting into hunting and had yet to take his first deer. So I invited him and his son to go with us and arranged a hunt at a friend’s farm in Wilkes county.
I let him borrow a rifle and led him to the box stand overlooking a field in the darkness before dawn. After an uneventful morning, I got down and walked around. That’s when I heard shots from his direction.
On approaching the stand, he informed that several deer ran from our direction and one stopped in front of him and he shot. However, he didn’t think that he hit because of the way it reacted.
I insisted that we look for it anyway, and no sign of a hit was found. About when we were ready to conclude a miss, I spotted a white belly further in the woods. “There’s your deer, Mike”, I informed him. Celebration followed as we walked to the downed deer and offered congratulations.
A wide grin spread across his face and he admired his new trophy, a mature doe. I provided instructions on field dressing and he also performed that task for the first time. Pictures were taken and a new hunter was born.
My oldest son had not taken a deer in several years since most of his time in the fall was spent in college. When he came home for Thanksgiving, he wanted to go. I had to work that day so I gave him detailed instructions and directions of where to go.
My daughter, also in college, accompanied him and they ascended trees about ten yards apart to wait on a whitetail. As the morning passed, my daughter was snoozing when a buck walked up. She awoke about the time he took the shot and bagged the 3 pointer. He later reported that she was of little help in field dressing or dragging it out, but they shared a memorable moment in the outdoors.
Both of my sons bagged bucks this season which was enough to make me as proud as if I had taken a ten point trophy. Ironically, they got their bucks on the same property, and I had previously seen the buck that my oldest son shot on two occasions.
Then after Christmas, my oldest and I went out for an afternoon hunt on some new property that I had only hunted once. I directed him to a horse pasture and I went to another one. As dusk was settling, I heard a shot from his direction. Moments later, I also spotted some deer myself and a well-placed shot resulted in a big doe and fresh venison. I walked up to see what my son had taken and he too had bagged a doe.
This was the third time since 2001 we had both bagged deer on the same hunt. It was a unique and special moment as we dragged the deer to the truck, took photos, and basked in the enjoyment of another successful deer hunt.
Despite the lack of seeing any whopper bucks, it had a been a satisfying season. Both sons had taken bucks, a new hunter got his first deer, and we got a double on does late in the season. You can’t judge a season on the size of antlers alone. The enjoyment of the comraderie of fellow hunters and family members makes the time afield even better.
Time outdoors is well spent and beneficial and its made more memorable when you can share it with someone. Introducing another hunter to our grand sport is also a fantastic way to spend an autumn weekend. Don’t get so focused on trophy bucks that you miss fellowship of friends and family. Last season’s success and fellowship created lasting memories for me.