My Son's First Deer Hunt

The author shares his son's first successful deer hunt

My boys and I have been enjoying the outdoors together since before they could walk. Their mom, Cheryl, has often joined us for the outdoor adventures, especially if it's been fishing and camping. But hunting has mostly been just the boys and me.

When they were both smaller I'd pick them up after school to go grouse hunting before supper. I cherish those memories like few others. When my oldest son Devin took the hunter training course and potted his first grouse, he no longer was the little guy tagging along.

In 2006, Devin was about to celebrate his 14th birthday. Before he turned 14, he wanted to do a deer hunt. Both Devin and his brother Austin have been on successful deer hunts with their Grandfather Gord Sr. and myself, but now Devin wanted to carry the gun.

So shortly before the Northwestern Ontario big game hunting season opened that year, Devin and I took my .250/3000 Savage out and he shot with it. We set up regular targets, and a large picture of a deer and had him shoot while standing and kneeling. He shot very well, and seemed ready for a deer hunt.

The Hunt

So on a late October Sunday, we got up early and headed to a spot where I took a nice buck the previous fall. There was a lot of snow on the ground but there wasn't much sign of life. It was very odd, but rewarding, to be the one not carrying the gun. If a deer was going to pop out, it was all on Devin. He was pretty excited, and I had to get him to slow down a few times, as he was walking in fifth gear. Occasionally we sat, carefully watching the forest for movement. Devin gripped the gun and was as alert as you could expect a 13-year-old deer hunter to be.

At about 11 am. we found a spot that was loaded with sign in the snow.

Tracks, fresh poop, you name it. I told him deer were probably not far away, but were not likely to come out at mid-day. We stalked through a kidder trail, carefully watching for any movement, and listening for deer sounds.

By 1:00 pm the sun was high and it was getting warm. We'd put in a good morning and it was time to head home as there was recreational hockey to be played. Devin -- always the keener -- suggested we take one last look at an especially good looking spot before we left. So back up the skidder trail, we went. My wirey young son was a couple of strides ahead of me as he climbed the rough snow covered road. So when he stuck his head over the hill, and stopped on a dime, I could not see what he was looking at. Yet it was soon obvious that something was up as he shouldered the rifle. For the first time all day, he was moving slowly. He adjusted the scope to his eye and slipped off the safety. He slowly squeezed the trigger. When the shot came I saw a deer bound off into the woods about 75 yards away. A deer!

After the shot, the nerves and excitement not evident before the trigger was pulled appeared. Devin turned to me and his mouth was hanging open. I asked him if he was OK and if he could breathe and he had a very typical Devin quote:

"That was like facing Bin Laden," he croaked.

Devin said his heart had been going like a trip hammer as he stared at the deer.

Finishing the Hunt

We took some time and talked about what had happened. He said the deer had been feeding and turned to look at him when we approached. He said he'd taken a deep breath before the shot and knew he'd hit the deer. After the longest 20 minutes of both our lives, we went to look for a sign. It was obvious right away Devin had made a good shot, there was a good trail of blood heading into the woods. After a short amount of tracking, I looked up ahead and could see a brown mound on the trail. "Devin", I said, pointing. "Take a look".

The young hunter, for once, was speechless.

We took a moment to talk about the young buck and showed it some respect before finishing the work ahead.

At 13, Devin was a full-fledged deer hunter.

It was a proud day for both father and son.

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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