Two DeerThe day started with David and I heading out to the crossroads/T-junction on the back part of the farm. There's an old dead tree that we like to sit against. It affords us good cover and a good area of view. The tree is starting to rot, so as leaned against it, it would periodically disintegrate and cruft would fall down the back of my shirt and down into the my underwear — a slight indignity to be suffered for the right to spend this quality time with my beautiful son! We were there only briefly when I noticed a "slight abnormality" across the field. I grabbed the Swarovskis (great optics, by the way, I highly recommend them), and glassed the area of the "abnormality." What I saw was a small buck, right inside the woods, 200 yards away, working a scrape and racking his antlers through a low hanging tree branch above the scrape. I informed David of what I saw and he wanted to look. I told him to keep his eyes on his area as it was fairly chilly, and the rut was going — a good combination for deer movement.

After a few minutes I got out my Canon 3CCD pro/am video camera to get the hunt on film. I set up the tripod and told David that we needed to do an interview. I trained the camera on him, had him look away, hit the record button, waited five seconds and then gave him the signal to turn to the camera and tell the story of what were were doing here. For a kid who's never at a loss for words, he sure didn't know what to say! But he's done enough of these that he was able to fumble through it.
After the interview, I was turning the camera off, when David said, "Dad, deer! In the crossroads gap." Sure enough, a deer had materialized and was standing right in the gap facing us. I turned the camera towards her, and turned it on while David got into position. He had the .30-06 pointed in her direction. She started to come closer and closer — but was facing us and David has been trained to wait for a broadside shot, so he waited. I glanced over at him while he was waiting and noticed he wasn't looking at the deer through his scope. I told him to get the deer in the scope and put the crosshairs on the kill zone, which he did. Then another deer appeared behind her. It turned out to be a yearling buck, and he wasn't just "behind her", he was trailing her. You see, the rut started early this year and this doe was almost ready to breed, or at least close enough to get this young buck's attention.

She came closer and closer, but then something alerted her. I'm not sure she saw us, but she definitely didn't like what she sensed. She got nervous and turned sideways. She was now broadside! I had the camera carefully trained on her and sitting on a tripod (sitting on a tripod is important, as it's nearly impossible to hold a camera still when a gun goes off!) and I waited patiently for David to shoot. Nothing, no shot. Nothing at all! 

I asked David what was wrong. He whispered, "I can't see her through the leaves." There were a few leaves in the way and he couldn't find a gap to shoot through. Actually, there were only a few leaves in the way that he could have easily shot through, but I was I proud of him for waiting for a "sure shot" rather than take a chance on wounding the animal. I believe that shows a lot of character on his part. He definitely respects the animals we hunt and doesn't want to take a shot unless he's sure he can make a clean, quick kill!
She then wandered off down the finger heading south and was quickly out of sight. Our chance was gone! I was so excited to have the chance to harvest a deer before 8 am the first morning, but it was not meant to be.
 30 06 Bullets
We kept waiting for other deer to come back. We saw two others come by in the crossroads gap, but they went right by in the direction of the first two. So David and I decided to do a stalk to see if he could get on the deer that just went by. We stalked over into the gap, hugging the right (south) side of the weeds/woods line as cover. We saw one deer out in the field, but not the other one. David carefully trained his gun on the deer to take aim. "Dad, that looks like a yearling buck, can you see a set of small antlers on it?". I glassed it and agreed it was a small buck. That meant that on my property, it was a protected deer (we don't shoot bucks unless they are at least 3 1/2 years old and have at least 140 inches of antlers. Again, David made a wise decision. Even though he wanted to take a deer, he honored the rules.

We saw a few more deer, even had two more yearling bucks walk up on us, but then it started to get really warm and the wind started blowing hard — a terrible combination for deer hunting. As a rule, I usually stay out all day for the youth hunt, but I decided to break with tradition today and asked David if he wanted to go into town for pizza. I didn't have to ask twice. 

Then, that night, David and I sat in the box blind on the bottoms. This is usually a good spot to sit if you want to see deer. Behind the stand is a freshly harvested cornfield that deer and other animals like to pick through to shore up their winter fat. In front of us was a sparse food plot of corn, to our left and right, clover and alfalfa! The creek is on the other side of the corn field (behind us) providing a great place for the deer to bed down. Usually near dark you can see the deer begin to file out of the woods by the creek. To our right was a finger that leads to the "Big Woods" about 200 yards away, an area rich with acorns and cover for the deer. To our left was the 10 acre wood lot (about 300 yards away), also rich with cover and acorns. We were positioned in the middle of the food and the center of one of the two main travel corridors on my farm.

We sat there for about two hours and saw absolutely nothing. Finally, near dark, an owl landed on top of a small evergreen about 80 yards in front of us. David was fascinated by this owl and wanted to borrow my binoculars. He was determined to see the owl turn its head 360 degrees. As it got closer and closer to "magic time" (that few minutes of dusk right before dark), I told him he needed to start paying less attention to the owl and more attention to watching for deer. He asked if he could watch the owl for just another minute and then all of sudden said, "Dad, there's a deer!" Yes, just like that. As they so often do, a deer appeared out of nowhere. 

David waited patiently for the deer to move into position. After a minute, the deer went behind the evergreen with the owl on it and disappeared. After a minute or so, as it came out from behind the tree, David took careful aim. Bam! A .30-06 going off in a wooden box blind is quite loud. The deer seemed to drop, but then ran into the corn food plot just up the hill and disappeared.
We waited for a minute and then went up the hill to look for the deer. As we approached the corn food plot, I saw movement. I looked through my binoculars and saw the deer moving around. I told David to get his gun and get ready for a follow-up shot. It took him a few seconds to find the deer in his scope. He took careful aim and "click." Nothing. He tried again. "Click". Nothing. "Dad, my gun isn't going off." I grabbed his semi-automatic .30.06, ejected the shell and made sure another shell slammed into the chamber. He took aim and then the deer started to move. He shot and missed. The deer went behind another evergreen. When it came out again, he shot and missed again. We waited for a minute thinking we'd find the deer down in the finger it had just run into. We searched for a few minutes, but upon not finding it, decided to back out and wait until morning to come back and track the deer. It was simply too dark to see anything by then. 

On the way out of the woods I told David we should have checked the first area we saw the deer when he shot, instead of looking up the hill for the deer. It could have been two different deer we were seeing. But by then, it was very dark, so we decided to just come back in the morning and look. 

JerkyWe got back just as it was breaking day and waited for light by the box blind. As it got lighter, I decided to start up the hill and look for signs that David hit the deer. I went directly to the approximate place where I figured he shot the deer, and, lo and behold, there lay the deer. He had dropped it in its tracks with one shot! Apparently the deer had moved just as he shot, and he didn't hit it exactly where he was aiming, but he did hit it in a good spot. I won't say where exactly he hit the deer, but I did call him "Lee Harvey" the rest of the day — and made him look up why I was calling him "Lee Harvey," just to mix in a little history lesson with the hunt. Apparently, there was another deer behind the first one (in the corn). When the first deer moved just as David shot and then the other deer jumped, directly behind the one that was shot, it gave the illusion that the first deer ran into the corn.
But, still, we had shot at the second deer thinking it was the first deer, and though I was fairly certain he hadn't shot it, we had to make an effort to recover the deer. I have a strict code of ethics that I apply to myself and all hunters on the farm. You make every effort to recover all game, no matter how time-consuming it is.
So I used the opportunity to teach David some tracking skills. I went into the ditch and told him to slowly walk down the south side of the ditch (which ran from east to west) taking two steps at a time, then scanning the area in a complete 360 from an upright position, then squatting down and repeating the 360' scan. That may seem redundant, but it really gives a completely different view of the area, and I've found deer that I missed when scanning from an upright position.

We did this until we worked our way completely down the ditch, then repeated it out into the corn field to the north of the ditch. Here is where the real lessons started. I took the outer edge and told him to work his way into the corn plot (which is very weedy and thick), about 15 yards to my left. I told him that we were going to do the exact same thing we did in the ditch — two steps, 360' scan, squat and 360' scan, then take two more steps and repeat. But he had to pay close attention to where he was in the plot in relation to me. I wanted him to stay within 15 yards of me the whole way up the hill. He did a good job of following instructions. Once we got to the top of the hill and out of the food plot, I told him not to move.
The next step was for me to pivot off his mark and move 15 yards to his left (north of him). Once I was there, I told him to move 15 yards to my right (as I was now facing downhill). I found a tree to mark myself off of (since we didn't have the edge of the food plot as a reference point any more). I put my orange hat on the ground to mark my spot and walked over to him. I found him a tree to use as his "aim point/reference point" in working his way down the hill. I told him the goal was to walk toward that tree and make sure that he stayed within 15 yards of me, all while doing the "360', squat, 2-step." It was slow and tedious, but we did this for over 90 minutes looking not just for the deer he'd shot at, but any sign that he'd hit the deer (blood, hair, bone, etc.). We found nothing, so I'm confident he missed the deer.
But while we were looking the plot I took the time to teach him some important lessons. I went through and told him why were being so meticulous in looking for the deer and how this would help him become a better baseball player, basketball player, and how it would help him become a better trader. I told him that the meticulous attention to detail that he was paying would spill over into other areas of his life. We discussed how the keys to success are in paying attention to the little details. We discussed how his favorite athletes would perform great acrobatic feats and make it look so easy to do the "big things". I explained that getting the big things to work out in your favor was actually pretty easy. All he has to do to get the big things to go his way, is to take care of the little things, the fundamentals. Pay attention to details and develop habits of excellence in all areas of his life.

He asked me how this meticulous search for the deer would help with his trading and sports. I told him that excellence is not something any of us are born with. Excellence is something that we all develop, and we develop it through habits — by developing good habits in one, then two, then three (and so on) areas of our lives. We eventually develop good habits in all areas of our life and come to expect excellence from ourselves. 
Excellence in tracking a deer leads to excellence at baseball, which leads to excellence in basketball which leads to excellence in trading. By paying attention to the little details and always drilling yourself at the fundamentals.
As we kept searching, he asked me, "Dad, aren't I only supposed to shoot one deer in the youth hunt?" I told him that was correct. He asked, "Well, what happens if we find the second deer?".
"Well, we'll have to call Jim (the local game warden) and tell him that you accidentally shot two deer." He wondered if he'd get in trouble. I told him he might, but that I would tell Jim that I had you shot at the second deer, and that if I had been hunting by myself, I would have made the same mistake. Further, that I would ask Jim if he must write a ticket for this infraction, if he would please write the ticket to me, since I was the one telling you what to do and you were merely following my instructions.
David wondered if Jim would write me or him a ticket. I told him that I didn't know for sure, but I think Jim knows us well enough by now that if I tell him it was an accident and that you were following my instructions, he'll likely not write you a ticket, and and if he has write a ticket (which I told David that I doubted he would), he would write it to me. David agreed that it wouldn't be much fun, but it was the right thing to do. Needless to say, I was proud of my son that day! He's growing up to be a fine young man! 


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