Monday, January 10, 2011

Hunting Mr. Spikey

Jack and I settled into our blind at around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was cool (by south Texas standards, anyhow) and a gentle wind was blowing into our faces. We situated ourselves, and after a couple practice mounts with the .270, we decided it'd be much easier (and infinitely quieter) for Jack to hold the gun resting on the blind's window sill.

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.

About ten minutes later, a group of ten or 15 does came out onto the ranch road and began feeding. Jack's eyes got as big as saucers, and I could see he was breathing a bit heavier. I figured he'd cave at any moment and decide to pop a doe -- but, unlike my own tendencies at that age, he never did.

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.

The next morning found us back in the tower blind, filled with optimism. Family obligations dictated that we only had a few hours on stand, but we were both in great spirits and confident our deer would show himself.

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."

Jack considered. "Ok, you're right. I'll take the one on the right." At that moment, all eight deer disappeared in the blink of an eye, for reasons unknown. Utter despair crossed my son's face. I couldn't hide it on mine, either.

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.
"Let's go get her!" Jack gushed. "Not yet -- we need to wait about 30 minutes," and I launched into a five-minute dissertation on the importance of not pressuring a wounded animal. At the end of the lecture, we were stepping out of the stand -- I couldn't stand it either, and I knew she was hit well.

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.


  1. You are to be commended. I was so excited and nervous when my son shot his first cow elk that I had to have my hunting buddy stand over his shot, coaching him along while sat fifty feet behind holding my breath. He drilled her from 374 yds which was one of the most proud moments of my life. This tale gave me the opportunity to relive that moment. Thx!

  2. Excellent! Congrats to Jack! I decided to wait one more year with my eldest, but reading this makes me regret that just a little...

  3. Nice work! I love taking my nieces and nephews out fly fishing and hunting, and their enthusiasm never ceases to amaze me. Mr. Spikey will be Sir Forked Horn next year.