When I was a kid, hunting was a guy-thing. The dad’s disappeared into the woods for a week each fall, while the mom’s bantered about whether the game they really sought was wild or poker. When I learned to hunt, in the late 1980’s, there were few women afield, but I went because it was something to enjoy outdoors, at first with friends and later with my family, especially as my son, Parker, got older.
Parker, 26, shot his first white-tailed buck 11 years ago in the mountains near our home in Red Lodge, Montana. Since then, we’ve hunted together a number of times, though mostly upland birds. He harvested his second buck just last week. I was there again, along with his stepfather, Jack.
We hiked into the timber in the pre-dawn moonlight. Lunar shadows mocked our every step.
A light snow muffled our progress as we climbed up several steep slopes toward a ridge where deer often traveled. The temperature hovered at a crispy 8 degrees (F), but my feet felt warm and my steps quiet in my Lowa Tibet GTX’s.
We carefully crept along watching for movement. As the sun crested the horizon, we found a fresh deer bed, melted down to the dead leaves. “That’s a nice deer,” said Jack surveying the size of the bed.
A little further, we stepped over a scrape, where a buck had pawed the ground to mark his turf. Then we dove to the ground beside it. A deer grazed placidly about 200 yards above us. Its rack and head were hidden behind a tree, but its large, strong body was unmistakably male.
The buck was unaware of us, so we crawled cautiously toward it, closing the gap another 40 yards. Parker was ready.
Jack made a subtle bleating call. The buck lifted his head. Parker shot. Unharmed, the buck stepped into an opening among the trees, perhaps pausing to see the source of the echoing crack. Bang! He never figured it out.
Parker eyes revealed his emotions. Happiness, relief, pride, and love for me and Jack were wrapped up in his gleaming expression. Jack slapped Parker on the back, and I gave him a congratulatory hug.
“Too much adrenaline on that first shot,” said Parker.
“But a perfect one on the second,” I added. What joy to share that moment with my son!
When I look back over time, many of my family’s most treasured moments have happened in the woods together looking for game and later reliving the adventure over delicious venison dinners.I’m so glad that hunting is no longer just a guy-thing and is now a family affair.
Photo Credit: Lisa Ballard