2016 Junior Hunt Weekend ends with…Redemption! Part 1

2016 Junior hunt weekend started off great. It was Saturday morning and my brother and I were taking my 13 year old son Whitetail deer hunting in Dorchester County, MD. My brother and I, like many others, have been involved in Outdoor adventures practically our whole lives. My father was an avid hunter, fishermen, and general Outdoorsman and brought us up with a sense of the Outdoors being part of us and we a part of it. Always looking to give back to her in any way, Mother Earth is as much my creator as my own two parents.

After a short drive to the farm near Cambridge, MD, we settled into our 2-man stand at the end of the field. We strategically placed this stand in a way so we could see any and all movement on the fields; as well as, any movement behind us in the marsh. This farm not only contained great Whitetail hunting but Sika deer as well. And if you haven’t eaten Sika…well, you haven’t eaten! After properly securing ourselves in the stand (Safety is ALWAYS 1st), we began to see some action towards the middle of the field. By way of binoculars, we began to watch a nice 8 point Whitetail buck making his way from west to east. It seemed his destination was a small strip of oaks on the other side of the property. I read the first distance given by our digital range finder….345 yards. Definitely not in range for the Remington 870 with rifled barrel my son was totting, so we had no choice but to watch and hope he changed direction. 345 became 375, then 415 then 450+and then he disappeared into the brush along the hedge row he sought out. Because this was within the first hour or two of Day 1, we were tickled to have seen a potential shooter so soon in the hunt. We figured it could only get better…and it did, kind of.

What we didn’t realize, was that this Whitetail buck has moved himself into an area occupied by a local 6 point Sika stag. The stag saw himself out matched by the larger deer and decided to ‘switch’ spots with the Whitetail. That’s right, ‘switch’ spots. Now, we saw exactly where the 8pt. buck came from but had no idea what route the 6pt. stag may take. As luck would have it, the stag choose a route that would lead him right to us. The Sika stag appeared at about 250+ yards away on a neighboring piece of property and made his way.. right towards our stand. I could barely contain my excitement. I mean, I’ve never shot a Sika before and come to think of it, I’d never seen one either. I could feel my heart pumping and I wasn’t even the one hunting. I was simply there to make sure everything went smoothly. My boy shouldered the firearm and began the process we had worked on so many times. Breathing techniques, mental sharpness, and minimizing distractions are part of the process of being a ‘good’ shooter. My son lives and breathes the Outdoors; particularly Hunting. And he looks to always make himself a better Outdoorsman. He takes his time in the woods seriously and he should, it’s a true blessing from God.  I know a few grown-ups who could learn a thing or two from my boy but back to the subject matter…

The 6pt stag was headed right to our stand…on a string. He was closing the distance fast and soon was inside 100 yards. I told my son that; if and when, he came to stop, he only needed to breath and squeeze the trigger.  Don’t over think it. Just do what we do. It was all coming together. I couldn’t believe my son was going to take a Sika stag, a really nice Sika stag. One that many hunters go a lifetime searching for. And here he was….100 yards….75 yards…50 yards… And at 25 yards and completely broadside, I’m able to get the stag to stop. At this point, the timer in my head starts counting down till I hear the shot and see his trophy fall but…No shot, no fallen trophy. I whisper “Shoot him”. Still nothing…

At that moment something happened that made it all clear to me….my boy, my 13 year old son had forgotten to take off the firearm’s safety. He had been taught to wait until he was ready to shoot before releasing the safety on any firearm and he did what he was taught to do; however, when he finally pushed that safety forward…CLICK…that stag had heard enough. Leaving much faster than he arrived, he was gone. We had gone from a sure thing to a ‘I can’t believe what just happened’ moment. We all make mistakes and as I consoled my son, I re-iterated to him that mistakes we learn from are not actually mistakes, their lessons. And he had learned a lesson that morning that will stick with him forever and I doubt will ever be repeated again. But look on the bright side…we still had a lot of hunting left.  Stayed tuned for 2016 Junior Hunt Weekend ends with…Redemption! part 2


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