By Josh Gowan
There is absolutely nothing better than spending time in the great outdoors with your kids. It is an experience that no child should be without, and it can often be just as rewarding for the adults.
My little hunting partner is 9 years old, and this WILL be the year he kills his first deer! We’ve been out every season for the last four years, and although he has only been big enough to handle the gun himself for the last two (I don’t believe in holding his gun and aiming for him,) it is at a point now where it’s really up to me. He can shoot a baseball at 100 yards, I just have to get him in a position where he has the opportunity. Now granted, the spike leaning up against the bottom few rungs of our ladder stand last year was a pretty good opportunity, but it was a simple case of sensory overload, and we’ve both recovered from that (he recovered in about 20 minutes, it took me until New Years…)
The set of challenges that comes with killing a deer using a 9 year old is not easily overcome, especially when you vagabond-hunt here and there on any friendly, sympathetic person’s land that lets us! The challenges I face outside of getting him in position, really just boils down to restraint; trying to get him to restrain from making noise, and restraining myself in the manners with which I try to restrain him!
When you’re a 9 year old boy, there are certain things that are primal urges, instincts even, that are very difficult to suppress. For instance, walking past a cut cornstalk without kicking it is nearly impossible, and any sapling shorter than him obviously needs pushed down. A stick lying on the ground must be picked up and examined for possible use, and any “droppings” require immediate inspection, followed by a postulation of which animal dropped them. His whisper can be heard from 200 yards away, and the amount of snacks it takes to sustain him for four hours in a tree stand could fill up a claw-foot bathtub.
Being that we “vagabond-hunt”, often seeing our stand or spot for the first time in the dark the morning of the hunt, I’ve found it best to take everything so that we’re always prepared. When I was young, I was dropped off in the woods an hour before daylight, and picked up an hour afterwards, and I have distinct memories of teetering on the edge of both starvation and hypothermia throughout the day, with the constant pondering of which debilitation would be my demise possibly the only thing keeping my mind active and me alive. With those memories lodged in my mind, we carry enough equipment to the stand to lightly stock a military outpost, both in gear and food.
On one particular instance, while carrying a 40-pound backpack, a rain suit, and his rifle at a very quick pace due to a late afternoon position change, one of the cornstalks grabbed my foot and sent me flying. I hit the ground hard, and his eyes were the size of golf balls.
Not only did I manage (more practice in restraint) to withhold the symphony of vulgarities on the tip of my tongue, I also turned the situation into another lesson for my young apprentice. While laying on the ground and looking up at him, I whispered, “Now you see that, that is how you fall. I didn’t land on the backpack and I kept the rifle from sticking into the ground.” I’m all about passing down wisdom…
In all seriousness, we had a great trip, and I can’t thank my friend Kenny Douglas enough for taking us. We didn’t connect on a deer, but our first trip to Kentucky was a blast. Not to mention, it’s free for kids under 10 to hunt in Kentucky, and very cheap for 11-15 year olds. If only Tennessee, Arkansas, and Illinois would adopt the same pricing, we’d hunt them all! I am going to try to get him over to Tennessee for another chance before Missouri’s youth season comes in, one way or the other, we’re getting his first deer this year!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com
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