At ten years old, it was Jack's first time in a deer blind, but somewhat to my surprise, he was calm and at ease. Nevertheless, it certainly wasn't his first time afield with his dad. As I sat there, I reflected on the past few months of introducing (some would say indoctrinating) my son into the love of the outdoors and the fun of shooting. He had taken to it better than I ever could have hoped, and this evening we were spending time afield, much like I had with my own dad in a Platte River duck blind some 30 years earlier.
Our hunt was a doe hunt, and that suited Jack just fine -- once he came to terms with the fact that we probably wouldn't mount his trophy. I was also told that if a trashy-loking old spike came through, we were welcome to remove him from the gene pool as well.
As we settled into the stand that evening, I told Jack about the spike. "I want to shoot Mr. Spikey!" he excitedly whispered. Apparently, I had a blossoming trophy hunter on my hands.
We never did see Mr. Spikey that evening, but it didn't really matter. We spent the evening watching deer -- including some respectable shooters -- and engaging in conversations both serious and silly. Back at deer camp, Jack ate dinner with the other kids, but then abruptly told me he was going to bed. I worried he might be getting sick. "Nope, I'm great. I just want to make sure I get enough sleep tonight so I'll be wide awake for when Mr. Spikey comes."
Now I knew what I'd be praying about that evening. And I knew I wasn't going to be the only one.
About an hour after sunrise, a group of eight does walked into a clearing about 70 yards in front of us. "I'm holding out for Mr. Spikey," Jack insisted. The does continued to mill about in front of us for the next 45 minutes or so. Time was running short. "Jack, I don't want to make your decision for you, but I don't think Mr. Spikey is going to show this morning. If you're going to take a deer today, you're probably smart to take one of those does."
We hung our heads in defeat, but decided to wait it out for another 30 minutes. At the witching hour, two does, one considerably larger than the other, appeared where the other eight had fled. We both knew there'd be no waiting for Mr. Spikey.
Jack raised the gun, and I disengaged the safety. We both peered out the window at the larger doe, and time stood still. "Ok, I've got her," Jack managed. "Ok, take her," I said, as calmly as possible. A split second later, the gun erupted, and I could easily see that Jack had scored a vital hit. I watched the unlucky doe sprint 30 yards and fall.
What followed was pure, unadulterated elation. Father and son, sharing a once-in-a-lifetime moment that we'll both cherish forever. We hugged, high-fived, and wiped the tears from our eyes. And we each exhaled for the first time all morning.
I let Jack track the considerable blood trail, and he found his deer right where she went down. It was indeed a perfect shot, and it made a considerably proud papa grin even wider.
It wasn't a Boone & Crockett record book buck, and it wasn't even Mr. Spikey. It was much, much more than any of that.