I was asked this question recently and it kind of set me back in my chair. The man who asked the question was a fellow hunter and at first I just looked at him. It seemed like a minute, but it was probably a few seconds, and then I started in on him. Not in a bad way, but somewhat to my surprise I got fired up and with passion. I told him what youth hunts mean to me.
I asked him if he remembered his first deer. He said he did and that it was some forty years ago. Do you remember where you were? Do you remember what the deer blind looked like? Do you remember the weather being clear, cold and breezy? Do you remember how far away the deer was when you shot? Do you remember which way it ran and how far it ran? Do you remember walking up to it and thinking how small it was but how excited you were to get your first deer? He told me he remembered it all as if it happened yesterday. I had to agree because I can still see it as if it just happened.
I was around ten and have been hunting with my dad and grandfather since we could walk and now it was time to go it alone. We had a ranch west of Austin on Nameless Road and at the time this was an appropriate name for this little country road. I was sitting in a box blind, a 4 by 4 plywood box with flip-up windows on all sides. It was not very cold that day and it was clear and sunny. I was looking out onto the side of a hill that went off into a draw to my right. When I first saw the deer they were a ways off but coming my way. I got my Browning .243 with a Redfield scope up and rested it on the window ledge for a better look. I knew it was a buck by the way it walked and it was lagging behind the other deer. I put the scope on it to get a better look and then it got real crazy. My heart was pounding, I started shaking, my breathing got harder and I was having a hard time trying to focus the scope — buck fever, big time! When the buck got within a hundred yards, I could wait no longer. He was broadside, standing still just looking around and I tried to settle down. I put the crosshairs behind the shoulder and started squeezing the trigger just like I had been taught and practiced so many times. The gun goes off, I know I made a good shot, but the little buck takes off running. I had not worked on running shots and frankly I was so pumped up that I probably could not have hit the side of the hill at this point so I watched as my buck ran out of site. Now what do I do? I could go back to the cabin and get some help or go find it myself. You know what I did for sure. I got out of the blind and walked (very fast) over to where the buck was standing when I shot and saw no blood. Now what? I knew which way he ran, so I started walking and then found the blood. Boy was I excited! I found him with little trouble and there he lay. I had to move his ears to see the antlers. He was a very small three point, but man was he a trophy to me. I laid my gun down on him and then ran non-stop all the way back to the cabin. I have a twenty-three inch wide thirteen point that is not as exciting as that deer is to this day. My thirteen pointer is special because I was with my dad when I got him.
Then I told this gentleman about some of the youth hunts that I have been a part of, like the time the young black boy was on his first deer hunt. When this doe showed up and I pointed it out to him, he got so excited that he hyperventilated right there in the blind. I had to get him to breathe into his jacket to regain composure. I am not sure I have ever seen a young man and his father that excited. I only mention that he was a black boy because black people can just make expressions that us white folks just can not do. If I could bottle that, I would be a rich man. What about the time out turkey hunting with two search and rescue fighters / EMT’s and their kids when they were set up with a father and son on one side, and a father and daughter next to them behind a mesh camo netting. The daughter was sitting in front of her dad and leaned back onto his chest sleeping in the comfort and security of her daddy. I was sitting back in the brush behind them calling and had a view of them, the decoy out front and a beautiful field of wildflowers and monster oaks in the background. What about the numerous times sitting around the Saturday night campfire when a youth hunter tells us that this is the most time ever spent with their mom or dad? What about the time a father, mother and single child sat in the blind together and witnessed the daughter’s first deer harvest? And then the grandfather that was with his granddaughter when she took her first and second deer on the same day.
I get to relive my childhood over and over again through these wonderful youth and it is a blessing beyond measure.
What about you? What do you do for the next generation of leaders in the country? This is our future and you need to be a part of it. That could be as a land owner, a Huntmaster, a volunteer, a cook team member, a mom or dad with a young person or maybe a sponsor that can help offset the cost of the youth hunts. Whatever it is, I hope you get involved and do it sooner than later. Thank you for reading my story and I look forward to hearing yours.