I have a 18 year old son who was home for thanksgiving break from college a week ago. My best hunting pardner since age 6 when he took his first deer. I had a birthday during the week he was home, and we made a hunt I don't think I can ever top.
The morning before my birthday, my son asked if I could get off work early and go hunting the afternoon of my birthday. I told him I thought I could. He then told me in all the years we had hunted together, that I had never shot a deer if he was there. I had always let him shoot them. I hadn't thought about it before and it made me grin. I agreed and told him "that's what dads do". He then asked me "why don't you take a rifle and shoot a deer on your birthday? I'll leave mine at home and sit with you." That one surprised me, so I asked if he was sure about that? He grinned back at me and replied "yup, it'd be fun to finally see you shoot one". By choice and over time I have become a very selective trophy hunter. So I decided to shoot a doe. No worries about age or antlers. Just have some fun and peg a doe on my birthday. I put my 223 bolt gun in the pick up along with a box of my reloads that morning and shot it that day, to make sure everything was still as it needed to be, to pop a doe in the goozle.
I left work about 1:30 on my birthday. Went home and picked up my son. After a quick stop at the feed store, we were cornining the shooting lane 15 minutes later.
We sat in the truck and he caught me up on college life while a front came through and we waited for the wind to steady up out of the north. At 3 pm we got out and made the 1/2 mile walk to the stand. When we climbed in the box, there were already two grown does and two small fawns picking up the corn. Both fawns were obviously born late and were tiny. Looking at them, I wondered if they were still sucking. I decided to pass them up and not orphan either little one. About 20 minutes later a nice young 10 point quickly crossed 120 yards away. He was trailing something at a fast walk with obvious purpose. He would be a good one in 3 or 4 years. Still on the lookout for a doe to take and trying not to whisper or laugh too loud. I was having a good time sitting there with my son. I thought I saw slight movement through the woods on the same trail the 10 had crossed on earlier, so I picked up my binoculars. In a moment I recognized a deer my son had named 4 years earlier. A big nocturnal 7 year old 10 point with lots of mass. The only buck I was aware of that would cause me to use my trophy tag on. Recognition was instant and as I admired his antlers through the binocs, unwittingly, I was momentarily vapor locked. He was trailing and on a mission. He was walking at a quick clip and about to be gone when a heard a soft whisper "you better hurry". I would like to think I would have killed him anyway, but the boys heads up did refocus me. As I shouldered the little 223, the 55 gr soft points I had loaded put a knot in my gut just before I put the crosshairs right above the shoulder where the spine dips low and transitions from neck to spine and stoned him. It happened quick. All told maybe four seconds elapsed from the initial sighting to laying on the ground. My son looked at me and he was laughing. He asked me "did that just happen"? The buck was in plain sight and as we waited about 15 minutes I could tell he was bigger than I had thought from the trail cam pics.
After we walked up on the deer and were certain he was down for keeps. We did a quick occular field score and got 171". We both started laughing. My son reminded me It was the first deer he had ever seen me shoot. I reminded him any other day it would have been his.
About that time he noticed a big piece of aluminum foil laying flat on the ground about a step and a half from where the buck had fell. My eyes were still full of the buck and I hadn't seen it. He asked me what it was. I said tin foil, let's pick it up. When he picked it up, it was a flat helium balloon that had fell to the ground. He flipped it over and it read
When we finally quit laughing my son got a serious look on his face and said "that kinda scary, but it was just meant to happen. That buck was meant for you". The buck ended up scoring 174" and has 39 2/8" inches of mass. On the way home the boy looked at me and said "when I was little, I thought you were the smartest, the best fisherman, and the best hunter in the world". I looked back at him and told him "you were right".
The boy is back at college now but that was a hell of a birthday.
Smokey Bear---Lone Star State.