Guest Post by Brian Turner
New London, PA
As I write this it’s 8:45 on Sunday evening, the day before Round 2 Antlerless tags are available. For whatever reason the second causes me to pause and ponder what lies ahead in the season to come. The first round is simply saying “yes, I will be hunting this year and I’m hoping to harvest at minimum at least one doe. Round 2 is more of a “this is how I hope my season plays out”, it’s more of an “I plan to spend some significant time in the woods to get the most out of this year”. It’s a commitment to the season and not one that I take lightly.
My wife of 16 years and I are blessed with 6 children so there is a lot of bidding for our attention. Any time away from the house needs to be intentional. There is a constant balancing act that goes on in my mind when I’m in the woods. Even though 90% of the time I have one of my children with me I also have the weight of knowing that my wife is home alone with the other five children still doing what needs to be done to keep the home fires burning. This awareness also convicts me even further to make the most out of our time. Whether I’m in the stand with my 14 year old son teaching him more of the finite lessons of hunting or I’m in the ground blind with my 4 year old daughter who is pacing around in circles and keeps asking me in a “whisper” if “I see a deer yet?”. I try to look at every trip to the woods as an opportunity to observe, and not just the deer. I get to observe my children as they take in the experience in on a one on one scenario. It’s a time to bond and an opportunity to grow closer with the children through a shared experience.
If you were to view the interaction from a third parties perspective you might think we are sitting there quietly bored out of our minds desperately hoping for a glimpse of a deer, any deer! In reality it’s the subtle things that make the trip memorable. Sometimes it will be a simple noise we hear off in the back ground that catches both our attentions. Our posture quickly straightens up and we look at each other with our eyes wide open saying “did you hear that?”, without actually using any words. All the sudden our sleepy morning comes alive quickening our heart rate to the point where I’m concerned that it’s going to jump out of my chest. Only to realize that it’s not a 10 point buck coming out of the thicket to stand broad side at 15 yards but an ornery overfed squirrel. Or it could be the quiet observation of watching 3 red fox pups playfully chasing each other around the hill side or even the slow waddle of the twitchy ground hog as it scurries back to the safety of its hole along the fence row. The dynamic of hunting with your children changes your perspective of everything.
This outlook is a far contrast from my first season five years ago. I did all the scouting I could, set up cameras and spent every free moment in the woods. I watched all the big name tv hunters, read all the right magazine and books. It was a strictly selfish venture; I was going to harvest a deer regardless of what else suffered in my absence. I would occasionally take one of the kids here and there just so I could justify heading into the woods but I was so focused on deer I was missing the opportunities to create lasting memories. My first year hunting I went the entire year without harvesting a deer. I had a few close encounters but never took the shoot. At the end of that year I did away with the cameras along with the antlered deer obsession. I started to focus on the experience more than the outcome. Don’t get me wrong I still anticipate the possibility of harvesting a deer every time I enter the woods but for different reasons.
My second season started with a renewed vision and I was determined to make the most of every opportunity with the kids. The first deer I ever shot at was a doe only 15 yards from my blind and my oldest daughter was there with me. We were over the moon when the arrow hit and she took off running. So much so that we rushed it, got out of the blind to early and ended up bumping her. We backed out for the night and I took off work the next day. I spent the entire day trying to find her but sadly the blood dried up heading towards the fence line of the neighboring property. She was never to found. So within 24 hours I went from being on cloud nine to that gut wrenching, up all night unable to sleep torture of losing your first deer. It was devastating but looking back it ended up being a learning experience that I got to share with my daughter. I learned that day of the responsibility we have to teach our children how to live life when we succeed and more importantly when we fail. So later that season when a rutting 8 point buck came in at full steam with his head down and walked 25 yards from me he become my first ever deer harvested. I was beyond grateful and completely humbled. That is what I got to share with my kids that day, a moment in time I will never forget.
That was four years ago but every time I enter the woods whether it’s with one of the kids or I’m hunting solo that day I expect to capture a moment that I can store away and cherish. Sometimes it’s something as simple as walking to the blind across the freshly cut corn field and having to hold my 4 year olds hand because she is having a tough time managing the irregular shaped stalks. Or sitting in the stand with my son watching him watch the hustle and bustle of the farm and not caring about the deer walking 10 yards behind us. One day I thought it would be a good idea to take the two younger boys out to sit in the blind, which ended up being more of a let’s play with our toys on the dirt floor and see how loud of a noise we can make as we brush our jackets against the Velcro window screens. Then there was that unforgettable evening when my oldest son took aim at his first doe and after making a perfect shot we watched her take 10 steps, lie down and pass peacefully.
Over the past couple of years and more than ever heading into this year I am looking forward to those types of moments. Sure it will be great to fill the freezer again this year, we do have a lot of mouths to feed and yes if another November Buck comes running my way he will be included in our memories. As I sit here and triple check that I’ve filled everything out correctly, placed every stamp on it’s appropriate spot, I wrote my check out and signed it then stuff it in the familiar pink envelope. I now view these as more than applications to harvest deer. They are a reminder for me to take a moment, to slow down, to take it all in and to cherish those memories whether I can mount them on the wall or not.