As the years of chasing the elusive whitetail deer here in the state of Michigan go by, the seasons begin to blur together.
Time spent in the tree or in the ground blind starts to feel the same.
Of course, there are also the years where you get the big one, or miss the big one, or maybe get lost trying to find your blind.
There are those uncertain times that do stand out. This past season, I had what will most likely be a season I will never forget, and it had nothing to do with me actually harvesting a deer.
What made this past season so special was who I was with. As I get older, I have come to realize that much of what we love about hunting is the folks we are with when we hit the field. For me, deer camp is more important than the deer hunt.
The hunt this past year focused on two really important people in my life — my son and my father. My dad is the one who got me into hunting. He let me tag along on grouse hunts, dragged me on his fishing excursions and let me sit with him during opening day of deer season. He showed me by example how to pay attention to the woods. I learned where to look for tracks, how to read the lay of the land, where the deer may travel, or where the grouse may fly.
I can remember my first deer, and of course he helped me find it. Most of my “firsts” in the outdoors were not only with him, but because of him.
Of course, my now 13-year-old son is also very important to me, and is just coming into his own when it comes to hunting. This past year, he took his first deer, a nice little eight-point buck.
What sticks out about this hunt to me a year later isn’t the sheer excitement my son and I shared as we watched the deer come in. It wasn’t the great shot my son took, or how we quickly recovered the deer before it was too dark to see. Part of why this hunt is so important to me is that my dad was also hunting on the same property and that I was able to call him and have him participate in the recovery of the buck — a moment that was so very special.
I didn’t know how important that hunt would be until months later. My dad suffered a major stroke in early January, about three months after my son got his first buck. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that hunt was the last time I hunted with my dad before this life-altering event took place. It was my son’s first deer, and the last hunt with my dad.
That’s a season that I will always remember.
Looking forward, my dad is doing better than expected. He can physically do most things and will even try to do a little hunting this year. He has a very hard time communicating and we are not sure how this will all work, or if it will work at all.
This season will be different, but what last season has taught me is this: Don’t take anything for granted!
Cherish every trip to the woods. Spend the time and make an effort with the people you care about. There are a limited amount of sunrises — don’t waste even one.