First deer hunt



Keeping safety first, a grandmother takes delight in helping a grandson as he participates in their family’s fall hunting tradition. Thinkstock

I started hunting at the age of 8. My father and brother took me squirrel hunting with our dog, a Shepard mix. I was hooked. Every chance we got, we went hunting. I knew it would be a part of my life forever and I would pass it down to my children and grandchildren.

I have two children, a son and a daughter. I introduced them both to hunting at a young age, going for pheasant with our Labrador retriever mix. It was more than hunting for food; it was a time to teach them responsibility and family bonding.

We began, with firearm safety then target shooting with a .410 and then skeet in the back field. They both took their hunter safety courses and passed with flying colors. We went pheasant, rabbit and squirrel hunting and finally for deer. Both of my children have harvested many deer in their lives. I had their first deer heads preserved and they hang on my wall to this day. My children are both grown and this fall I was given the great pleasure of introducing my first grandson to deer hunting.


At 5 a.m. on a very cold December morning, my grandson gets up and dresses, surprisingly wide awake and smiling. He has hot chocolate and a protein bar for breakfast and then packs his bag for the hunt. I smile as I see him put his flashlight, snacks, water and a book, in his bag. This is something his father always did because he said it helped to pass the time, while waiting for a deer to come by. We decide he will sit with me this first hunt, and I pack my bag with a blanket and a seat warming cushion for him.

This fall I was given the great pleasure of introducing my first grandson to deer hunting.

His grandfather helps him put on his layers of coats and his orange vest, the same one his father used before him. On his head goes an orange knit cap, then his blaze orange hunter’s hat with the furry ear flaps, and a scarf goes around his neck. He helps him put on his backpack, filled with his essentials for the hunt and his long, warm gloves.

It is dark when we head to the stand; he uses his flashlight to lead the way. We have practiced getting into the stand many times, in preparation for this day. I am so proud of him, as he takes the lead and it warms my heart to see how mature he has become for such a young age. Images of his father’s first deer hunt flood my brain and tears begin to well in my eyes. I am so lucky to be able to share this experience with him.

When we reach the stand, I tie my gun to the rope and help him up to the first rung of the ladder. He goes first and I follow, staying close to protect him from slipping on the rungs of the frosty ladder.

After we settle in, he gets out his book and tries to read. I laugh to myself as I watch this, knowing he is too excited to actually be reading. The time passes and we quietly talk about what he should look for when the light comes. I show him the deer grunt and bleat calls and explain when he will use them. He is very eager to know everything, and he can hardly contain his excitement.

The day slowly begins to lighten. At first, he is silent and overflowing with anticipation, following all the instructions, and then as the sun begins to sift through the trees, he begins to shiver. I get out the blanket I brought with me, and wrap it around his tiny body. I put down his fuzzy ear flaps and wrap the scarf loosely around his face. Surprisingly, he lasts a full two hours before hinting he has had enough and wants to go home. I then give him the task of using the deer calls.

He does very well with the calls, and I know that he will be a great hunter some day. He had the patience to sit quietly for two hours, which is a task in itself for an 8-year-old boy, and he didn’t complain about the bitter cold. I relish this time with him, taking pictures of his little red nose peeking out above the scarf.

After we get back to the house, I listen to him recount his experience to his father and grandfather. My heart swells with pride and my face glows with the joy that I was the one in that stand with him for his first deer hunt.

KATHI WHRITENOUR is a freelance writer from Maryland.


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