Something happened that day that I will never be able to let go of. A front had come through over night and that morning it was below freezing.  I was having a hard time understanding why we were there sitting on the cold ground.  I kept asking my father, “can we go back to camp?” I’m sure he was frustrated with me but in his patient way he said, “try to tough it out, it’s going to be a good morning”. Thoughtfully, he had packed an old army blanket for me and he told me to wrap up in it, so I did. I curled up on a dirt floor beneath the mature cedar tree he had chosen as our blind that morning and just kept thinking, this is crazy…

                Just as he always did, dad tried to find a way to pique my interest. He said, “Robert, I can smell a buck. He is around us somewhere so try to be still and quiet; we may have a chance.” At this point I had witnessed my Dad take several deer and it was always exciting but on this particular morning I just couldn’t muster up anything other than feeling sorry for myself from my toes hurting through the two pairs of socks and tennis shoes I had on.

                What seemed like eternity and about fifteen minutes later, he whispered down to me, “Hey buddy there is a doe that is moving through the brush about 75 yards in front of us, don’t make any sudden movements”. I watched him looking through his binoculars for a minute. Typically I would’ve asked if I could look but not this time, all I could do is think about how cold it was. That’s when it happened.  Without saying a word and all in one motion, he grabbed his old Model 55 Winchester 30-30, cocked the hammer, laid the barrel out over a low hanging limb on the cedar tree we were nestled into and BOOM!  Instinctively he racked another round in the chamber and got back into a shooting position. It all happened so fast and before I knew it, he appeared to be shaking a little and breathing hard. I’ve never seen him like this and as I looked up to see what he had shot at there it was, the biggest bodied deer I had ever laid eyes on!  As the big Texas hill country 9 point was staggering around I could see him getting weaker, finally taking his last step. He fell 100 yards in front of us. As we both watched the buck take his last breath, my dad was trying to catch his and he was speechless for a moment. Then Dad said out loud, “Oh my goodness! I just shot my biggest buck ever!”  

His excitement was surreal to me as he gave me a big bear hug. At the age of 8 years old, I don’t think I had ever seen my dad smile so big until that day. He was so happy and suddenly, I wasn’t even cold anymore. We began to walk towards the deer and it seemed with every step his smile just kept getting bigger. This is great, I was thinking, we can talk out loud and dad is happy about it! There was something different about it this time and I was just taking it all in. I even picked up a limestone rock and chunked it as far as I could. Dad didn’t have a care in the world and in that moment, I realized this was a big deal to him.  He stood over the buck in awe for a second before he laid down his rifle on the buck’s healthy body. As he kneeled and grabbed the chocolate colored rack, a tear was rolling down his cheek.  The memory of that day shared with my dad is one of my greatest memories in life. When dad said, “Ok son, it’s your turn” I couldn’t believe it! That’s when it all began. The love, the passion and the quest. It’s not about the kill, but the hunt and experience of days like this that feeds my soul. Thank God I’m a hunter!