My son and nephew are the best of pals…always have been. They are 6 weeks apart and have been friends their entire lives. They live an hour and half a way from one another. My son is a city boy and my nephew is a country fella but they make it work. C (my son) is talkative and hyper and excitable but charming and funny when he wants to be. D (my nephew is laid back and calm. His dry sense of humor and perfect sense of timing make me laugh. Together they are like a little comedy duo.
For all of their little lives my son and nephew have been hunting. They pack up in the fall and head to the ‘hunting club’ with my dad. He expanded his cabin and added bunk beds when they started going regularly. He’s taught them the ropes of the ‘club’ and of the woods. When the girls get to make their yearly visit the boys treat us to grilled chicken wings made from a hand-welded grill in the center of camp. They know their way around the camp which is neat to see. My dad has hunted pretty much with this same club all the years I’ve been aware of. It’s a serious camp and there are certain ways of doing things. To be part of this camp you adhere to the rules. My dad’s taught them well. I grew up knowing these men and getting to visit the camp in the off season. Now my son is growing up knowing them and their grandsons. It’s pretty cool.
Before anyone gets up in arms about hunting let me tell you that my dad and son don’t hunt for sport. They hunt for food. If they kill it, they eat it. That’s the deal. Fried squirrel 3 Thanksgiving’s ago is proof of that.
Back to this weekend. Just the 3 of them headed to the woods this weekend. Opening day is Saturday, October 18th but my nephew read that under 16 could hunt this weekend. Last year they hunted and when Dustin saw a deer he fired but didn’t have a bullet in the gun. Another time they were both asleep when a deer came by. They’ve taken gun safety courses together and even took a DNR class with my dad. They read the magazines and talk the talk but, to date, they haven’t walked the walk. They tend to be talkative and rambunctious when they are together so I never imagined that they had the patience or the ability to stay quiet long enough to actually hunt.
This weekend, like all the others, they took over the RHINO (my dad’s all-terrain vehicle). No telling how many miles they put on that poor vehicle. From what I understand they blazed trails that hadn’t been blazed before. They learned to seed a field which was a whole lot like dancing I thought as my son and nephew illustrated their moves. My dad told them to do it evenly and to get their own rhythm. My son’s rhthym involved a whole lotta hip action. I don’t forsee that field growing very evenly. Their adventures even toppled over their poor grandpa as they were exploring. I guess a white lawn chair and a bungee cord in the back of an all-terrain vehicle with a 15 year old driver isn’t too steady. “Momma-we told grandpa that wasn’t a good idea but he said it’d be alright. When he fell out of that chair D and I were afraid to even look back there. We just sat there a minute. D finally said, ‘you alright back there’ and grandpa said he was. D said ‘well your drink a’int’ ‘cause Momma-his drink went everywhere! We let him drive after that.”
Eventually they quit driving and started walking. According to them they were walking thru the woods shaking horns to attract deer. (How do shaking horns make sounds? I didn’t want to appear stupid so I didn’t ask.) Midway thru the woods my fella poked my nephew and pointed out a deer. He mimed how he slowly put down the antlers. The both raised their guns and fired. “Man I didn’t even feel the gun recoil,” they both said. C said he was ready to fire again but the buck went down. They tracked their prey as it ran a few feet away.
At this point I wish I could have been a witness. My son tells a hysterical version of them standing over looking at the young buck. “Before we got there I think we were both thinking the other one got it,” C admitted. “I was saying I did and he was saying he did.” D jumped in,”…but then we got up to it and I thought it was a doe so I said “nope man, that’s all yours’,” he was laughing. C jumped in, “…and I said NOPE-it’s all yours!” I asked why and they explained that there were rules to what you could hunt this time of year. When they thought their catch was something out of season and would come with a hefty fine they were content to let the other take the glory/fall. “But then it twitched,” and my nephew explained how he jumped away and babbled, “it’s moving, it’s moving, it’s moving”. C was laughing at him. He wasn’t taking any chances and made my son get the head end of the deer and together they carried it through the woods and back to the RHINO. I asked how they got it onto the bed of the rhino and they illustrated how they pushed and tossed until they got it up there. “It was heavy!” my nephew said. “And it was sorta weird ‘cause it’s head was facing the wrong way by the time we got it up there. That adrenaline is something,” picturing the 2 of them a) realizing that they had gotten him b) concocting a way to get it on the trailer and c) actually getting in there makes me laugh.
I asked about the reaction they got when they got back to camp. Since ‘both my dad’s boys were girls’ he’d never gotten to experience the pride of seeing his offspring carry on the hunting tradition. I figured he had to be over the moon at seeing his ‘boys’ carry on the sport. “You know Grandpa, he don’t show a lot of emotion,” drawled my nephew when I asked if my dad was excited. My son picked up the next sentence, “His voice never changed—it stayed even,” he slide his hand horizontal to the ground. “We pulled up and said ‘Want to help us skin a deer?’ and he said ‘good job boys’ but his voice was even. It didn’t even go up.”
However, when I asked my dad about the events he seemed tickled. He explained that the entrance wounds were inches apart and that they shared an exit wound. The boys had to shoot at exactly the same time for that to happen. How fitting; the very best of pals sharing this rite of passage. I think it’s so awesome that they did it together, they had to figure out how to get it back to the camp and then they got to learn how to…well…finish the job. He explained that the boys were excited and that my nephew was so thrilled that he was trembling. Being boys they were much more graphic about that experience than I would have liked. My son is 15 and my nephew is almost 15 so they tried to be real cool as they talked about it but they couldn’t quite mask the excitement as they took me moment-by-moment thru the experience.
It was the perfect way for this story to end..or to begin…and one that they will always remember.