Our holiday season came and went as close to normal as possible. We didn’t get to visit with much of our family for as long as usual, but we made the best of the situation. The kids received more gifts than they’ll be able to remember, and the food was amazing, per usual. I thought that during the holiday season that I’d be able to relax, given that I’ve quenched my bloodthirst lately with a good buck. I was wrong. I’m not saying the thought of being in the woods occupied my brain the entire time, but a good portion of it.
As soon as all of the gifts were opened and the twentieth forced feeding was finished, I was planning the next outing in the woods. Part of me felt a little remorseful to my family for all of the time that I’d put in the woods recently, so I decided to do something different for this trip. I was going to take not one, but two kids with me to the camp. Mackenzie is pretty much a seasoned veteran at this point of her young hunting career. Collins, on the other hand, hasn’t spent much time in a deer stand. To her credit, she’s only five and has the attention span of a typical five year old. Long hours in the stand looking at nothing isn’t really her thing just yet. However, I decided that taking them both would be the best way for me to get back into the woods without upsetting the balance at home, so off we went.
We arrived at the camp on the 27th of December around 2:00, hurriedly got dressed, and headed to a box stand. The rut was still going on at the camp, though it had slowed from the week before, and I thought we’d have a shot to see a decent buck that afternoon. The stand we went to is notorious for seeing deer, so I thought it would be a good place to keep Collins’ interest peaked. When we arrived at the stand I noticed it leaning to one side. Apparently, during a recent storm the ground around one of the legs of the stand had washed out. The box stand was essentially sitting on three legs, rather than four. I climbed up the ladder and decided that it was safe enough for the three of us. The girls got settled in the stand and it wasn’t long before we saw our first deer, a yearling doe. They had a blast watching her and even named her. When she left the food plot, the girls decided we should all paint our faces camouflage so the deer wouldn’t see us. Like any father would, I obliged, and we painted our faces camo to avoid detection should there be another deer come to the food plot. A short while later, two more deer came into the plot. A large doe and a button-head buck fed in the plot until they were joined by our first, and only, “rack” buck of the evening. The buck was too small to shoot, but he chased the other deer around and entertained us until dark.
The next morning my alarm went off and I got out of the bed. After a few minutes milling around the house, I realized that I was the only one that got out of bed. I woke both girls up and essentially got the same response from both of them, “Dad, it’s still very, very dark outside.” Needless to say, they both went back to sleep and I slipped out of the house to a stand for a little while. While I really didn’t have anything to worry about by leaving them in the house, my mind wandered the entire time I was in the tree, so I cut my hunt short. I returned to the house around 8:30, very early by my standards, having seen a couple of small bucks and a doe. The girls seemed excited about the evening hunt, so we ate an early lunch and planned to get in the stand around 1:00 that afternoon. Collins made sure that we packed plenty of snacks and the iPad for the evening sit. There was a full moon so I wanted to make sure we got to the stand early in hopes of catching deer feeding midday. We got to the stand shortly after 1:00 and sat there until dark. We did not see a single deer. This is very unusual for the particular stand we were in and for our camp in general. I’m not entirely sure whether or not this is the first time anyone sat in this stand and didn’t see something, but I don’t remember another evening hunt where this happened. Part of me was grateful to not see a deer. I know that sounds silly, but there’s a side of me that wants my kids to endure the suffering side of hunting. I don’t want it to always be easy for them, so this was a nice reminder.
We stayed at the camp another night and once again morning came and they didn’t want to get up. This time, for the first time this season, I gave in too and went back to sleep. We decided to put all our marbles in for the evening hunt. I also wanted to show them perseverance, so we went back to the same stand where we didn’t see anything the day before. This time, however, we did not go at 1:00. We waited until around 3:00 before we got settled into the stand. Five minutes hadn’t gone by when the first two deer arrived in the food plot. A larger, mature doe joined the other two does in the plot soon after. The doe seemed very aware of our presence and looked our way often, sometimes stomping her leg at us. I told Mackenzie that she was going to bust us and we needed to shoot her before she scared all of the deer away. Plus, we needed at least one more deer in the freezer for the year, so this would take the pressure off. Mackenzie got in position to shoot when all of a sudden she turned to me and said she couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t stomach “shooting a girl deer” and lowered her rifle. All of the movement had really peaked the doe’s interest in us, and I feared the hunt would soon be ruined. I grabbed the rifle, aimed quickly, and squeezed the trigger. The doe dropped almost in the spot she was standing. Collins, who had ear protection on and was watching the iPad, never even knew that I had shot.
We continued to sit in the stand the rest of the evening, until dark, while I explained to Mackenzie that it is necessary to kill some does during the season in order to help out the buck population. She humored me by acting like she understood, but I don’t foresee her shooting a doe anytime soon. Collins, on the other hand, was stoked to get to see a dead deer, regardless of whether it had horns or not. We had a great trip and some much needed daddy/daughter time and that’s what matters most. My season is dwindling fast, however, and the itch still remains to kill one of those bucks on camera. Maybe I can talk my wife into just one more trip.