By Ben Smith:
It never fails. Around this time every year I become an emotionally unstable individual. It’s not for no good reason, but nevertheless, I’m somewhat of a train wreck. Most could agree that coming off of the holiday season can make one crazy, but the holidays ending is only the tip of the iceberg. Deer season is winding down, or in my case, pretty much over. I say “pretty much” because I continue to hold out hope that I’ll get one more opportunity before the season officially ends. By this time last season, I was already finished for sure so that doesn’t give me much hope for this year. That said, I refuse to put away my gear until the MDWFP tells me that I have to.
Baseball season has already started. We have officially completed a week of practice since returning from the holiday break. That alone is enough to make me a little crazy. The anticipation of the upcoming season is the equivalent of an elementary age child waiting for a school field trip to get here. Entering a new season never gets old. However, my body is getting older. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been this sore after a week of practice. I had trouble brushing my teeth a couple of days last week due to the soreness in my arm. I’d swap my toothbrush over to the left hand if I could, but it’s pretty much useless aside from giving my body a balanced look.
Each evening when I arrive home from work, I jump on social media for a minute to see what all is being killed. Apparently, the rut has arrived in South Mississippi, which makes matters worse for me. The internet is my number one nemesis in regard to stifling my “deerpression” at the end of the season. I know that all it will do is make me want to get back in the woods, even though I can’t, but I look anyway. There have been some mighty fine bucks fall victim to their natural desires in the last couple of weeks. And the good news for those living south of Highway 84 is that you’ve got an entire month left to chase ‘em. That is, unless you coach baseball. Then, you’ll just have to suffer like me and watch from the sidelines, or internet.
In the midst of my own self-loathing the other day, I thought about how great of a season that I’ve had. I haven’t had many seasons where I put this much bone on the ground. The only problem that I have with the season is that I did it too fast. Never before have I killed my target bucks before Christmas. Usually, as soon as the Christmas obligations are met, I head to the woods for a while. Not this year. I didn’t have much of a desire to go back. That’s a good thing, and a bad thing at the same time. So, how did I remedy this? I became a guide for a few days.
My oldest daughter, Mackenzie, has killed a deer three seasons in a row. I feel like that’s a nice accomplishment for an eleven year old. With her streak in jeopardy, she wanted to get in the woods after Christmas. We had one little problem. The stands that she felt comfortable hunting from were all on large food plots. Those same food plots took a major hit during the arctic blast and looked as dead as Keith Richards. We sat for hours only to watch tweedy birds fly around. The only deer we saw was well after dark when we were heading out.
In the true spirit of competition, as siblings often experience, my middle daughter, Collins, wanted to try her hand at hunting. She’s only seven, and has never killed anything, much less a deer. Knowing there’s a first time for everything, “Daddy’s Guide Service” loaded up the gear the next day to give Collins her chance. For those that don’t know, Collins isn’t much of a “sit quietly and wait” type of kid. She likes to be able to move around and talk. This is why she’s been more suited for riding around in the boat and fishing, rather than hunting. She was, however, adamant about going and killing a deer to prove to her older sister that she could do it, so who was I to hold her back? We took a long four wheeler ride full of selfies and whatever those hand gestures are that young folks do in pictures now before we arrived close to our destination. After getting situated in a box stand, it wasn’t thirty minutes until she was “bored out of her mind.” We didn’t see a single deer, and a part of me is grateful because I had no idea how she would handle it if she actually pulled the trigger on one.
A few days later, Mackenzie, wanted to give it one last crack. The food plot had greened back up with warmer weather and a little rain, and I felt confident that we’d see deer. It wasn’t long before we had a doe in the plot. We watched her for at least half an hour before Mackenzie decided that she wanted to shoot. This particular plot is pretty big, and the shot was going to be further than any she’d ever taken. I could tell that she was nervous, and her shot proved it also. The doe, spared by nerves, didn’t hang around for a follow-up shot and bolted for the woods. Mackenzie was obviously disappointed, but I think she was more worried that I’d be angry. In a rare moment of humbleness, I let her know that I’d missed tons of deer through the years and it’s a good learning experience. I wasn’t angry at all. I hated that she missed the chance to keep her streak alive.
All in all, our deer season has been a success. We’ve got meat in the freezer and a buck at the taxidermist. By ending my season early, I got to spend more time with the kids in the woods, and at home. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The other day I read something about hunting traditions in families. Traditions only stay traditions if they are passed down. Maybe we’ve started a new one. Maybe my “after Christmas” hunting will be done through “Daddy’s Guide Service.”