Henry’s First Deer: A Lesson on Patience & Family
By Mickey Adcox, DSC Oklahoma Vice President
Henry had been excited about getting his first deer ever since his brother Isaac got his buck last year. I had been planning to plant some wheat along the edge of some timber on our ranch for several years but had never gotten around to it. I wanted to be able to run our replacement heifers on it through the winter and knew it would give us a good spot to set a deer blind for the kids. So, with a really good set of heifers kept back this year and Henry and Abbie both wanting to deer hnt, I finally got the wheat put in and a blind set on the edge of the field facing the timber.
Henry and I made several long sets early and saw a lot of does each night. We hunted a few cold mornings with little movement, but the lack of sightings and colder temps had Henry already flagging on me a little, so I decided not to try the mornings anymore.
By the weekend of Thanksgiving, we had not hunted for several days because of ball schedules and visiting family for the holiday. I wanted to hunt Friday afternoon, but Henry wasn’t too interested, so Abbie and I went. We had a lot of does again and a yearling buck for over an hour.
Right at last light I looked to the end of the field and noticed another deer had come out of the timber. As he raised his head, my heart skipped. He was incredibly tall and heavy. This was an old, very nice buck. I told Abbie I was going to have to slip out of the blind to get a shot past some trees and to stay still and quiet until I shot.
As I got clear of the cover the deer was broadside at what I thought was about 225 yards. I was standing braced against a tree and felt solid. At the shot the does all barked and ran, but the buck just walked to the tree line and casually jumped the fence. Abbie and I walked to where he was and as we got closer, I realized my mistake. In the low light and uphill he had been 350 yards away, not 225. In telling Henry about the deer, he was upset he hadn’t gone and was determined not to stay at the house anymore.
Christina and I had decided to take the kids to Stillwater on that Saturday to be on campus for the Bedlam Game and to try and get some tickets for the game. We had a great time but failed to get tickets, so we decided to get home quickly to be able to watch the game there. We pulled into the driveway about 10 minutes after sundown, and I immediately grabbed binoculars to check the wheat field. The big boy was there, 75 yards in front of our blind!
I excitedly told Henry, “Grab your orange and your rifle!” It took us less than two minutes to head out the back door and drop off in the canyon behind the house. We bent over low and jogged to the pond dam, then belly crawled up to the top of the dam. We were now laying prone, about 200 yards from the deer, with about 5 minutes of shooting light left.
I hadn’t bothered to dig my binoculars out of my gear bag and was using my rifle scope to locate the big buck among the 10-12 deer in the edge of the field. It took a second to find him and of course he was the furthest out and standing in the edge of the timber, shadowed in the already failing light. Henry found him quickly but hesitated to shoot.
I dialed the scope on his 243 up to 12x, but he was still unsure. He finally whispered that he just couldn’t see his crosshairs. The distance was farther than we had practiced and with the low light it was just too big a risk. He asked if I was going to shoot him because I had told him I could see him very clear in my scope on the 300 and wished he could shoot my rifle. I could tell he was scared I was fixing to shoot his big deer out from under him. I assured him I wasn’t going to shoot.
Now that we had seen this deer two evenings in a row, we just needed to make sure we were in the blind tomorrow afternoon and ready. As we quietly eased back from the pond dam and walked back up the canyon in the darkness, Henry was talking fast and excitedly about the deer and tomorrow’s hunt. I smiled in the dim light and prayed the buck would come back tomorrow for him.
The next day was a big Sunday for us as Isaac was being baptized that morning. We had a great morning celebrating Isaac’s baptism and had a social with our Sunday School class afterwards. When we got home that afternoon, Henry and I had just enough time to get geared up and get in the blind before the does were typically coming out into the wheat.
Abbie set up a big argument to go, and as much as I love taking her and want to keep her excited about hunting, I told her not tonight. The previous times she and Henry had gone together there was a lot of giggling and movement in the blind, and I didn’t want to take any chances tonight. Plus, our blind is small and if there needed to be any moving around or adjusting for a shot, three people is pretty crowded. She was not happy with me at all, and as I was getting my binocular harness on, Henry came and asked if she could come. I couldn’t believe it, the little sneak went and asked him after I told her no. So, off the three of us went.
We were only in the blind about 45 minutes when the first does showed up. Abbie was already half asleep in the floor of the blind, and Henry was reading a book. They watched the does for a few minutes, but then went back to what they had been doing. The excitement of watching does had worn off in previous night’s hunts. At about 4:30, I was having flash backs to Isaac last year as Henry said, “I don’t think the buck is coming, we should just go back to the house.” I laughed to myself and said, “That is just what your brother said 15 minutes before he shot his deer.”
I told them both we were going to stay until dark, so get it in your mind to sit for another hour and a half, and I promise it will be worth it. By this time there were 10 does in front of us, and I just felt like it was going to be an active night. They were all running around playing and even fighting each other, not just peacefully eating. There was just a lot going on and we still had a lot of time.
Then a yearling buck came out, and I told them that this was a good sign. Soon after this all the does started watching the tree line closely. They would eat a while then all jerk their heads up towards the timber. I told Henry to be ready, I felt sure they were watching or hearing a buck coming through the trees. Just as I said it, he jumped the fence into our field. He was 200 yards away, but I felt sure he would come to the does in front of us.
Henry noticed it wasn’t the same deer from last night. I told him, “No, it’s the not the tall buck we have been seeing but this is a very nice deer, and we are going to shoot him when he gives us a chance.” He was ready, but to both our surprise he milled around for a few minutes, then turned and hopped back over the fence into the trees. I thought Henry was going to burst. His jaw dropped and he looked at me, then back at the spot the deer had been, then back at me, as if to say, “Dad, what the heck!”
I didn’t like it either, but told him to relax, as I tried to do the same, and that he would probably be back or the big one would show up. Over the next 45 minutes this deer came into the field and left again two more times. Henry’s heart rate bumped up several points every time. Finally, I told him that if he came back to his spot, we needed to take the shot as he didn’t appear to be getting any closer. He agreed and was confident he could make the shot.
He stayed away long enough this time that I feared he had left the area, but just after sundown he came out of the timber about 400 yards away and made his way back to the spot that he had been feeding the previous times. While this was going on, two yearling fork horns had started pushing around and mock fighting right in front of the blind about 80 yards out. As the big buck stared at them for a few minutes, I told Henry to be ready.
It was obvious the big deer didn’t like juniors acting tough around the does. Sure enough, he started walking and jogging over to run them off. Now he was just 110 yards away and Henry was ready. I got my binoculars on him and told Henry I would tell him when he could shoot. He was slightly angling towards us, and I told Henry to adjust his aim to where the shoulder and neck meet instead of the middle of the shoulder.
As the deer came to a stop, I whispered to Henry he could shoot whenever he was ready. The words were barely out when I heard BANG! As the deer dropped in his tracks the next sound was Abbie, right at my shoulder saying, “Wow, he went straight down, great job Henry!” I had Henry quickly reload and get back on the deer, but it was obvious he was done. After a few minutes we got out of the blind and started over to him. Henry was starting to shake, and he and Abbie were excitedly chatting back and forth. I decided to video him walking up to his first deer to try and capture his excitement for him and myself to remember. When he turned and noticed, he stopped and I asked ‘Henry, what did you do?” I was thinking he would smile really big and say “I just got my first deer!” or something similar. But instead, he looked very serious and said, “I said a little prayer right before I shot.”
It had definitely worked. He had hit him exactly where he intended, and the deer had never moved. He put me to shame with my first deer and it appears he got an older brother to Isaac’s first buck from last year. His deer is a beautiful 8 point with heavy bases and a 20-inch spread. What an incredible first deer and what a wonderfully fun hunt to share with my son and daughter!