My piece of advice for hunters with a family:
Guaranteed way to hunt more = Bring your kids
This trip was originally planned to be a duck hunting trip, but due to weather and some scheduling conflicts it turned into a deer hunting trip. For those of you that don’t know, duck hunting can be a high energy experience where you can make noise and move around and generally you can still shoot quite a few ducks. Deer hunting on the other hand is about being quiet, not moving and experiencing approximately 3 to 4 hours of pure boredom capped off by 10 minutes of an intense adrenaline rush. The latter is not the ideal situation for a 5 year old, so my expectation for the weekend was lower than low, in fact I planned on my son wanting me to drive him back home to Texas after 5 minutes of deer hunting. In the end, he blew me away with his attitude, patience, ability to push through his emotions of being homesick and willingness to experience something with his dad that he probably found to be boring. The experience taught me a few things about my own patience and how sometimes I should be more open to things I find boring, but that my son really wants me to do. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but here are a few things we both experienced this weekend.
No Deer, but plenty of pebbles to throw
Normally when I go hunting I wake up around 430 AM, drink some coffee, throw on my camouflage, fire up the four wheeler and head to my tree stand. Judging by how tired Parker looked when my alarm went off, I tapped snooze and we slept in until just after 7 AM. Parker woke up like he normally does, like he just drank 6 cups of coffee and shotgunned a Red Bull. As soon as he had his camo on he was ready to hunt, I didn’t even have time to drink a cup of coffee.
We got to our stand and started to “hunt”. I use the term “hunt” loosely for a few reasons. First, we made more noise eating snacks and kicking the side of the stand on accident that no deer would be dumb enough to approach us within a mile. Second, I hate hunting from a box blind, you lose the intimacy of nature sitting in a wooden box. I prefer to sit in a ladder stand on a tree or climb a tree with my climbing tree stand. After about two hours of Parker telling me that there are no deer in this forest and it was boring I decided that we should go explore within our hunting area to keep him engaged.
There is a creek about 200 yards from where we were hunting that I knew would entertain a 5 year old for awhile. It has an old bridge over it that has been destroyed by numerous flash floods and the creek bed is a mixture of sand and gravel. This creek bed is every kid’s dream, more pebbles to throw in water than you could throw in two lifetimes.
We played down on this creek for about 30 minutes. Parker kicked sand, threw rocks and jumped in puddles like kids should do. He didn’t ask to play on my phone or ipad, he just enjoyed his surroundings. I hope that this experience planted the seed in his brain that the outdoors can be more fun than any gadget you hold in your hands. I am just as guilty as my son when it comes to technology. There are times where I find myself just looking at junk on my phone when I could be packing the truck with the family and headed to the nearest state park or just taking a simple walk through our neighborhood. I’m hoping this weekend with Parker and this blog helps encourage me to get outdoors more as a family. After awhile all this “hunting” and playing on the creek zapped us of energy so we headed back to camp to binge eat on PB&J sandwiches and zebra cakes. Parker has never had a zebra cake to my knowledge and I am pretty sure there is no going back now. Out of the entire box I think I had one out of the fives packs of zebra cakes.
Tears and Deer
For the afternoon hunt Parker really wanted to climb a tree. I’m confident enough in my ability to climb a ladder stand that I knew we could get up there safe and sound. Now if my wife saw us do this should would probably cringe. These ladder stands are strapped to a tree and are about 20 feet up in the air. Being 6’3” this really isn’t that high for me, but for Parker, who is maybe 3’6”, I am sure this was the tallest object he has ever climbed. Once we got settled in I could tell Parker was excited. Being in a ladder stand you have a 360 degree view of the woods, you can feel the wind, you can hear all the sounds of the forest and you can even feel the excitement leave your body as a cold winter rainstorm soaks you to the bone.
Thankfully when I bought some of Parker’s camouflage at Bass Pro I made sure that it was rainproof, so he was going to be good if it rained a little. I on the other hand decided to leave my gear in the truck since my pack was loaded down with snacks, drinks and binoculars. The rain turned into a moment that I will always remember. As a dad I know that I am number two when it comes to nurturing my kids when they need it. I am dad, I am supposed to be the tough one, the disciplinarian, the last person you turn to when you are hurt. Mom is always the first person a kid turns to when they get hurt or are scared. Not sure exactly why this is, maybe it’s just a rule of nature, but Mom wasn’t in the ladder stand with us. Getting out of the ladder stand to seek shelter wasn’t an option, we were in the middle of the woods. So what do you do in this situation? You lay down in your dad’s lap while he contorts his body into a cramp inducing position while creating a makeshift shelter with his body. Parker wasn’t completely covered, but at least his upper body and head were out of the rain. Three minutes didn’t pass by before I heard the softest snoring I have ever heard. The little guy passed out right there in my lap, 20 feet up a tree, in the rain while deer hunting. Situations like this where I can show my kid’s that I am there for them is really important to me. I don’t want them to think that they can’t turn to me when they need help.
My experience as a being the nurturing parent he needed was short lived, Parker woke up about 30 minutes later and immediately started crying for Mom. Panic set in because there was no way to give him what he wanted most and it was what is known in the hunting world as “prime time”. I was able to calm him down after about 10 minutes with some words of encouragement and a promise of a FaceTime call that we would make to Mom when we got back to camp. Thank God for technology.
Minutes later a doe stepped out from the trees into an opening about 30 yards from us. My heart started racing because I knew a whitetail buck could be right behind her, Parker couldn’t see the deer even after numerous attempts of me pointing directly at her. After I manually turned his head in the doe’s direction he was able to see her. Parker finally saw his first deer in the woods while hunting and I was excited. I kept thinking, this is it, he is going to get the hunting bug and we are going to be hunting buddies for life. Instead, he asked if it was time to get down now.
We ended up sitting in the ladder stand for about another hour, until shooting time was over watching this doe. She made her way towards us eating browse along the way and Parker never spooked her. He moved slowly, talked quietly and waited patiently for the hunt to be over. In my eyes, he was a hunter. Being a hunter isn’t only about shooting an animal, it’s about getting close with nature and blending in with your surroundings so deer just think you are part of the forest. I could honestly sit there and just watch deer do what they do rather than shoot them, but sometimes my freezer needs to be re-stocked.
Sunday didn’t leave us much time to hunt, so I wanted to show Parker some other aspects of hunting like scouting and setting up trail cameras. This gave him the opportunity to drive my four wheeler and to walk through the woods without having to be quiet. It was more of a nature walk than a scouting trip. We ended up cruising across the property and through the creek we were playing in the day before. This part of the property wasn’t hunted very hard this season and I wanted to see what bucks were still around this close to the end of the season.
Not far from where we parked the four wheeler we came across our first rub. I asked Parker why he thought a buck would rub his antlers on a tree like that and he said “because they are itchy”. I didn’t feel the need to explain whitetail buck behavior to a five year old so I just nodded and said “exactly”.
We set up our camera and headed back to camp. As the trip drew to a close I was already planning our next hunting trip. Turkey season is right around the corner and I think Parker will get a kick out of it. The weather will be warmer and we will get to walk around a lot more while looking for turkeys. We might even do a little shed hunting while we are at it. If you don’t know what shed hunting is, basically deer shed their antlers every year and I like to walk aimlessly through the woods looking for them, like most other hunters do.
I don’t know exactly which direction I want to take with this blog yet. I don’t want to just talk about hunting and how to do it. For starters, I’m not an expert at hunting and if you want to know how to hunt there are a million blogs and podcasts about it. I do want to have a way to chronicle my time hunting in the woods, my time spent outdoors with my family and how I manage to do that while helping support a family with my career. At the least maybe one day my kids will read this and relive some of these moments. I hope this blog also encourages me to help create these experiences for my kids because they aren’t going to magically happen on their own. So, my goal is to take my family camping at least four different times this year to a few different state or national parks/forests and to my property in Mississippi. It will be an adventure to say the least, but I hope in the end it is something that we as a family look back on in years to come and smile.
– The Family Outdoorsman