November 12, 2009

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I found may way back to the woods over the past few weeks, spurring a return to the editorial well too.

The youth deer season was very interesting in our home. My daughters reminded me that sometimes I trudge forward like I have blinders on. I returned from the gun shop with a tag for 10-year-old Abigayle. I later returned from the gun shop with a tag for eight-year-old Katie and a third trip landed me with one for six-year-old Hannah.

This marked the first year more than one Feeney youth took part in the two-day kids season. I took Abi Saturday morning and evening. I was proud of the veteran hunter, as she passed on a few bucks that didn’t meet her standards established last season with a mature buck.

Katie earned her stripes Saturday afternoon with an eight-point buck. I’m not sure what she was more pleased about, getting her first deer, or the knowledge she wouldn’t have to get up early again the rest of deer season.

That opened up a slot for Hannah. She proved she was ready for the challenge by besting all four girls (yes Mom too) in a sharp-shooting demonstration before the hunting season. Sighting in the girls’ gun from 75 yards allowed all of the kids to leave the mark on the target. They were all inside the circle, but Hannah’s shot was spot-on bullseye. I’m writing this as if you haven’t already heard, but I think she may have shown the target to every individual in the county to display her proud moment.

I took both Abi and Hannah Sunday evening to the mobile blind proudly labeled “the condo stand.” The fully enclosed blind was built on a raised platform on the base of an old grain wagon.

The first hour or two were uneventful, leaving Hannah snoring on the floor while Abi was busy reading a book. We went to work when a 130-class eight-pointer crashed through the draw chasing a doe. Abi and I watched the buck tromp around for 15 minutes.

After that bit of excitement, Abi got down to get a drink. When I looked over at her, I happened to peer out the front window and noticed a much nicer buck roughly 100-yards from us, sneaking through a low-water crossing in search of a date.

By the time she was up and ready, the big 10-pointer had passed through and was chasing his girlfriend down the ditch. I told Abi to stay ready as the high-speed chase could easily make a U-turn and return. Sure enough the ditch drag race returned. And the buck stopped broadside of us in the ditch roughly 75-yards away. The light was leaving us, and the cover was fairly thick. Shooting a red-dot scope, is nice and easy for a kid, but it doesn’t offer any magnification, nor allow any extra light in, two more negatives weighing against a 10-year-old’s shot.

Abi did the wise thing, she showed restraint. Instead of taking a wild shot, she continued to work to try and line up a good shot. When she finally got on the deer, he decided to come closer, exiting the ditch. As he headed straight at us, he stopped his exit to work a rub on a tree on the edge of the ditch. All we could see was that big rack running up and down, as the rest of his body was below him on the slope of the ditch.

I heard Abi whisper “enough already,” as the deer wasted what little precious light we had left. Finally he bolted out of the draw as the doe wandered back into the picture. Now he was trotting broadside of us, but at pace difficult to follow. I was sounding the grunt call louder and louder as Abi was imploring me to make him stop. Finally I dropped the tube and shouted something close to a grunt that got the big guy to halt, but only momentarily.

I saw Abi’s shoulders slump when he made it to the grass line and disappeared. I’m all too familiar with the emotions that she was dealing with. I was proud to see her perk right back up as she told me how great a hunt that had been. Anyone who has hunted knows that feeling of disappointment, but she shrugged it off and said that buck wouldn’t be as lucky next time.

As we packed up the gear, Hannah finally came out of her hibernation. She awoke to ask he sister if she had got anything. I wasn’t sure she was fully alert as she half heartedly listened to Abi retell her encounter as we packed up our gear, but she took in enough of the pertinent facts to tell her older sister “Well you should have woke me up, I would have shot him.”

Maybe they’ll get another chance this weekend.

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