By John Martino
I was sitting high up in a stately oak, its branches extended out like the arms of a coddling mother. In the darkness, a gentle breeze rustled the leaves not yet ready to make their descent to the forest floor.
Months earlier I had placed two stands side-by-side. Sitting next to me was my 13-year-old nephew, Cole. He was excited, exuberant and still contained a bit of that youthful restlessness. Together, we watched the day dawn in the whitetail woods.
Each noise was met with a renewed curiosity. His boyhood imagination had conjured up the notion that deer would arrive at this exact location at a precise time, otherwise why would Uncle John have us sitting at this particular spot on opening morning? If only it were that simple.
As he would find out, deer have no schedules or timetables. They come and go as they please. I hoped in his growing years he would learn that patiently waiting for the unknown is sometimes a blessing, rather than a curse.
Leaves crunched in the distance as I watched my nephew stare intently to his left.
“Deer,” he whispered, slowly turning his head to see if I was watching.
Four does soon paraded by single file, cautiously looking, listening and checking the air for any cause of alarm. Several years back Cole was successful in taking his first whitetail, a fat doe. This year we had mutually agreed he would try for his first buck.
After the deer had moved past us, Cole again noticed movement through the forest growth. This time antlers could be seen as a buck made its way through the thick woods. Closer inspection revealed a small fork-horn.
“Let’s see if we can get a bigger one,” I whispered to Cole, as he tightened his grip on the .44 caliber rifle cradled in his lap.
A short time later another deer appeared. This buck appeared to be a little better.
“Get ready,” I whispered.
My nephew’s body language suddenly changed and the whole mood now became intense.
“Take him when you feel confident,” I coached.
As the deer cautiously inched closer, I hoped, no prayed, that he would collect his first antlered buck. Patience is a virtue, especially in the hunting world, and Cole exhibited a good amount as he waited for the best opportunity. The buck continued to close the distance and only when it stopped, standing statuesquely still, did Cole shoulder his rifle.
“Take him,” I hissed in his ear, a little louder than a whisper.
The guns report shattered the morning’s silence and Cole had succeeded in collecting his first buck with one well-placed shot. It was a tall-racked four-pointer with a few small stickers.
The excitement conveyed in his eyes is something I will never forget. His breath came in short gasps and his limbs quivered uncontrollably.
“I can’t stop shaking,” he said embarrassingly.
“That’s what it’s all about,” I replied, as we squeezed each other’s hand for what seemed like minutes.
The pure excitement of helping and watching a youngster take their first deer, whether buck or doe, is something only a hunter would know. Even though this will more than likely be the first of many bucks he will take during the course of his lifetime, none will be more special. Hopefully those antlers will hang proudly in his home as any buck he will ever collect.
As the woods grew still we continued to sit in silence. I wanted to give him time to think about everything that had just happened. It also gave me time to reflect on those bygone days when I was a boy of the same age.
“My, how things have sure changed,” I thought. Thankfully, at least for me, the same exhilarating heart pounding still returns when a large buck suddenly appears. However, I am concerned this may no longer be the case for a large sector of the hunting public. In our ever widening thirst for knowledge and passion for technology, is deer hunting becoming solely based on pure science?
Let’s face it. Many of us know how to locate core areas, decipher a rub line, make mock scrapes, score a deer on the hoof to within 10 inches and rattle in bucks to within spitting distance. Our knowledge is unprecedented and our gear unsurpassed.
But in the process are we losing something of intrinsic value? Are we slowly losing the wonderment only the land beyond concrete and asphalt can offer? After all, why learn to age a track when your trail cam picture has the date, time and moon phase stamped on it?
To me, deer hunting is a game that cannot be totally won, only played, and it’s how it’s played that will determine your ultimate satisfaction. If we shot a deer each time out, much of the mystery and romance would be eliminated and the activity would be reduced to another mundane job.
In the traditional activity of hunting, especially deer, we must have the wonderment and mystery of the unknown to capture our hearts and keep us coming back for more.
Area sportsmen continue their success as many have collected good Indiana whitetails over the second week of the regular firearms deer hunting season. Here are the names of hunters who have attached their tag to deer sporting field-dressed weights of 150 pounds and above. This information is provided through the help of our area’s state approved check-in stations which are Bryant’s Outdoor Store, Burlington Meats, Simpson’s Deer Processing and U.S. 31 Bait and Tackle.
James Holloway — 155-pound, four-point buck; Cameron Fouch — 165-pound, 10-point buck; Daniel Bales — 182-pound, 11-point buck; Chris Cripe — 150-pound, eight-point buck; Greg Daily — 206-pound, eight-point buck; Jeff Vanover — 160-pound, nine-point buck; Kenny Reel — 150-pound, eight-point buck; Rodney Ellis — 180-pound, eight-point buck; Kip Wilson — 150-pound, 10-point buck; Conner Mann — 150-pound, 10-point buck; William Shephard — 175-pound, six-point buck; Steve Fague — 160-pound, nine-point buck; Larry Reef — 170-pound, 14-point buck; Brandon Deardorff — 150-pound, eight-point buck; John Burke — 160-pound, 11-point buck; Gary Hinkle — 160-pound, 10-point buck; Robert Justice — 175-pound, 12-point buck; David Bale — 180-pound, 11-point buck; Matt Good — 185-pound, 10-point buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.