My Son’s First Archery Hunt

When you explain to your son that you will go the field above, in the dark, wait for daylight, then help stir the bushes for deer, falling asleep brings on special virtue. Joe Forma Photo

  • One Way to Meet Mr. Big Deer!
  • About the “Tink-Tink” Learning Curve
  • Moments of Joy, Moments of Magic 
When you explain to your son that you will go the field above, in the dark, wait for daylight, then help stir the bushes for deer, falling asleep brings on special virtue.  Joe Forma Photo
When you explain to your son that you will go the field above, in the dark, wait for daylight, then help stir the bushes for deer, falling asleep brings on special virtue. Joe Forma Photo

By Joe McAdams

My son Shawn grew up in an outdoors family.  We hunt, fish, trap shoot and love the outdoors.  When he was 14 years old, he already had 2 years of small game hunting and was proficient with his .22 rifle.  In New York, kids need to turn 12 before it is legal for them touch a firearm, even a bb-gun, but Shawn had been getting “hands-on” exposure to guns and sportsmen as he worked as a “trap kid.”  He then shot trap for 2 years at our local gun club and was now old enough to hunt big game with a bow.

We carefully searched out a bow that would fit Shawn and allow him to use it for a few seasons.  The salesman assured us that although it was a “junior” bow, it was more than capable of putting down a deer.  We practiced all summer with his new bow, attending as many 3D archery events as we could.  The last 3D shoot of the summer was a 30-target event.  The final target was a standing black bear at the far end of a pond – it was a 50-yard shot over water.  I asked him if he wanted to try the shot and without hesitation, he drew back and let the arrow fly.  It found its mark in the bear.  He was ready.

On opening weekend, Shawn and I made our way to our favorite hunting spot.  We were in before daylight and I set him up in his ground blind, then made my way to my tree stand.  We kept in contact over walkie-talkies and waited patiently.  Shawn is a VERY patient hunter, willing to sit quietly for a long time – something he learned while squirrel hunting.  I was the first to break silence and suggested we make our way out for an early lunch.  After I descended from my tree stand, I heard Shawn over the walkie-talkie “dad, dad!  There’s a buck heading your way and he’s coming up behind you.”

I spun around and sure enough – there he was, a beautiful 6-point buck!  There was no time to get back into the tree stand, so I took my shot from the ground.  The hit was solid and into his lungs.  We tracked and located the buck and high-fived each other celebrating the success.  I promised to help Shawn get his deer the next weekend.  It had been a great and unforgettable day.

Shawn was up earlier than usual for hunting this Saturday.  I knew he was particularly excited about our hunting trip this weekend – since this was going to be his hunt and he knew I was going to help him get his deer.

A ground blind is one safe way to help introduce kids to the elements of the hunting woods.  Forrest Fisher Photo
A ground blind is one safe way to help introduce kids to the elements of the hunting woods. Forrest Fisher Photo

Once again, we were in the woods before daylight and I made sure he was all set in his ground blind.  This time, I didn’t get into my stand.  I told Shawn I would make my way to the top of the ridge in hope of pushing something his way.  Slowly and quietly I made my way to the top.  I found a comfortable spot to sit in the goldenrod field until daybreak and waited.

I was awakened by the sound of Shawn calling me in my earphones.  “Dad, dad.  Are you there?  You’re supposed to push for me.”  After assuring him I only dozed off for a minute and was up to the task, I stood up stretching and came face to face with a massive 12-point buck.  He was less than 20 yards away and turned suddenly and with a mighty leap, headed down the ridge – right towards Shawn!  I immediately called to Shawn on the walkie-talkie and told him “oh my God – there’s a huge buck heading your way!”  I saw Shawn starting to peer over the top of the blind and knew that the buck would make him out if I didn’t think of something quick.  I dropped my bow and started whistling and shouting at the buck – waving my arms frantically.  The buck stopped dead in his tracks and turned towards me.  He was 30-35 yards from Shawn facing broadside.  It was perfect!  This was an easy shot for Shawn.

I watched as Shawn rose to a stand and drew back his bow – all the while the buck was still watching me waving my arms and shouting.  Shawn seemed to take forever – and then the buck bolted and headed down a ravine.  I ran down from the ridge as fast as I could – straight to Shawn to find out what happened.  When I got there, he was sitting on the ground and he had tear streaks on his cheeks.  I asked “what happened and why are you sitting on the ground?”

He looked up and said “my knees got all wobbly” with a few more tears.  He told me that when he drew back his arrow he was so excited that he overdrew the arrowhead into the riser and knocked it off the arrow-rest.  He tried hard to rock the arrow back onto the arrow-rest by moving around, but only succeeded in knocking the arrow off the bow completely.  When the buck heard the ‘tink-tink’ of the arrow dropping off the bow, he turned and quickly made his way to safety down a ravine.

Today, 17 years later, my son and I look forward to every moment that we can spend together in the woods hunting or on the water, fishing, because we know in the business of today’s world, those moments are priceless.  Joe McAdams Photo.
Today, 17 years later, my son and I look forward to every moment that we can spend together in the woods hunting or on the water, fishing, because we know in the business of today’s world, those moments are priceless. Joe McAdams Photo.

Shawn refused to give up the hunt for the day – and was unusually quiet over the walkie-talkie.  We didn’t take any breaks and stayed until dusk.  By the time we were packed up and on the way home, Shawn had quickly recovered from the experience.  Our entire ride home was buzzing with excitement about that monster buck and our return to hunt the next weekend.

The destiny of the weeks and years that followed have been an ultimate gift for the both of us.  With every hunt we never stop looking for the luck of the unchangeable big buck – he will remain in our memory for all time.  We understand what good fortune means from those countless years ago, in 1999, when we first went hunting big game together with archery gear.

A friend to hunting and archery, Fred Bear once said, “I come home with an honestly earned feeling that something good has taken place.  It makes no difference whether I got anything, it has to do with how the day was spent.”

Priceless moments are never forgotten.