My son recently turned six and for many months leading up to his birthday I debated as to if he was mature enough to receive his first gun. The answer ended up being yes. I then spent several weeks looking at new and used guns, trying to decide which route to go. I knew it would be a 22, I just didn’t know what gun it would be and then it came to me. My first gun was a 22 Remington Model 66, given to me by my grandfather on my fourth birthday, and the gun was still in perfect shape. The model 66 was made available in a black nylon stock and a nickel barrel and that’s what I had. The gun was light weight and still shot perfectly despite being over 40 years old. I made a call to my buddy Zach, who does some gunsmith work on the side, and he came over one evening to help break it down and double check that all the parts were in perfect working order. Well the gun checked out and we were good. My first gun would also be my son’s first gun. It came time for my son’s birthday and time for his big gift. He opened several other gifts and then stood quietly looking around, wandering why there hadn’t been one from good old dad. After about a minute I said are you looking for something and he just looked at me with that “you know I am” look so I trotted off to the bedroom and came back with a large package. His eyes became as big as saucers as he opened the large package. He knew what it was and he was elated with joy. I stood there just watching him look over his new rifle and I started to feel tears well up in my eyes and a joy I could not explain. I knew right then that this was going to be the start of a great hunting partnership. I would soon have a new hunting partner like no other I’d had before.

This got me wandering back some twenty six years ago to a time when I was 14 and in my second year as a deer hunter. The first year had not gone well. My father had done all he could to get me ready and when the weekend finally came, a cold front had come in and it had turned bitter cold. This made for many long sits on the ground and only one doe crossed my path. Back then your license only allowed you to shoot a buck so I had to let her walk. Now I’m 14 and have a year under my belt so I considered myself a veteran hunter.

We headed out for our trip that Friday night and got to our camp just before dark with the weather looking much better. Saturday turned out to be very uneventful and Saturday night brought much disappointment without any deer sightings. I sat in camp that evening with my father and we worked over where to hunt the next morning. He usually kept me near him for safety reasons, never more than a half mile at most. I decided that I wanted to hunt a place we ran across that day and told him my ideas for the following morning. He hesitated a bit and then finally agreed. This would put us over two miles apart and me over a mile from camp. I must admit I was a bit nervous but I really wanted a shot on a buck and felt my new found honey hole would deliver. Morning came and I headed out under clear skies and a cool crisp morning air.

About an hour after sun up I heard that wonderful sound of crunching leaves. I looked up across the ravine and saw two deer headed my way, a doe and a yearling. As I watch them I realized they were coming on a path that would lead them to within 10 feet of me and I’m on the ground. I gathered myself and shut down all my movement. As they approach I heard another sound from behind them and I peaked out the corner of my eye to see what looks to be a buck coming in 200 yards behind the doe and yearling. He was hot and apparently so was the doe some 15 feet in front of me. I remember being scared and shaking and hoping that the other two didn’t bust me as they moved past. Things went my way and they walked on. The buck was now 75 yards out and closing. I only needed a few more yards for my 12 gauge single shot slugster to be in range. He made up the distance quickly and a loud boom sounded as my 12 gauge barked out. He jumped and ran about 15 feet, stopped, then fell. I waiting about 10 minutes, mainly to stop the shaking, but that didn’t work. I finally made it to my feet and walked down the hill to where my prize awaited. There lay a 6 point buck that I now know scored about 75 inches but to me it was the trophy of a lifetime. He was a majestic animal with a large mid western buck body and a good solid rack. I had shot a buck, I couldn’t believe it. Reality soon set in though and I was faced with two problems. One I didn’t know how to field dress a deer and two there was no way I was going to get him up that hill and back the mile or so to camp. I figured that my dad would have heard the shot and would eventually make his way to me. So I laid my head on my deer and stretched out and started shaking again as I realized what I had done.

About 45 minutes passed and I could see what looked to be a man walking towards me but still a good 300 yards away. As he got to within a 100 yards I noticed it was my father and his pace was very quick. I whistled to him and heard a shout of “did you get one” I shouted back that I did and what happened next I’ll never forget. I heard a yell and then another and could see my father dancing on top of the hill. He took off down the hill dancing the whole way and yelling something about my boy and real deer hunter. My father was a very reserved man and I’d never seen anything like that out of him. I began to be concerned he had fallen out of a tree stand that morning and hit his head. Well he covered the distance between him and I in no time flat and came to a halt standing next to me and breathing very heavily. He looked down at the deer and back up at me and then grabbed me and gave me a big hug and a high five and we spent the next 10 minutes looking over the deer and talking of how it all came down and how I’d conquered the trophy buck. He had so much joy on his face and so much outward excitement and I just didn’t really understand why. I was the one that shot the deer not him and besides he had countless deer on the wall that would score well over 150 and several more in the garage. I really didn’t know how to take this from my father. I’d never seen him that excited about anything. The conversation and excitement continued as we drug the deer back to camp and again all the way home. I was more than happy to tell of my great hunt and kill but didn’t really understand why it was so important to him and why he had gotten so excited.

I’m 40 years old now and a lot of time has come and gone. Cancer took my father when I was 28 and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. There is one thing that time has helped me to understand though and it took all these years to get there. I understand what he was thinking that day and where all the excitement was coming from. I was his boy, his son, and his hunting partner. I was all his pride wrapped up into one package. I now have my own boy, son, and hunting partner and it finally makes sense to me. I am starting to feel that same excitement that my father must have felt all those years ago. My son has a few years to go before he is ready to deer hunt but I’ll teach him and wait till that day comes. I only hope that he doesn’t think his father has gone crazy or taken a fall when it’s my time to do the dance of excitement.