- Learning to shoot well, whisper in the stand, control our scent and be there at the right lucky time…made it all happen.
- Face camo adds to the youth hunting fun, making that first shot good sure makes it unforgettable.
- The crossbow allows a friendly introduction into accurate shooting potential at the very young age of 11 for my son.
- An unbelievable experience, for dads and moms too!
By Jeff Liebler
Kingston, my 11-year old son, has always been in love with the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, campfires and more. So this summer, I made a deal with Kingston – if he completed his Florida Hunter Safety Course, put in some serious practice dialing in his crossbow – from the ground and in the treestand, we could hunt deer together and he could try for his first-ever deer. I was excited that he was excited from the get-go! Together with his cousin (Hunter), we needed to rebuild the old tree platform at his grandmother’s house where we hunt. It was a big chore, but Kingston was all in.
Last year, when he was just 10, we hunted the same stand together and he became familiar with watching for deer and using the range finder for yardage. He was my lucky charm, he helped me take a beautiful 11-point archery buck from that stand. It was fun, sharing with him in whisper-tone things about scent awareness and sound control.
This year, he completed his hunter coursework and after practice shooting his crossbow dozens of times, checking trail cams, replenishing food sources, and hours of tree stand bonding, Kingston made it happen.
Here’s how it went:
On Saturday, Oct. 3rd, two days after the harvest moon, we decided to try our luck in the light rain. We’ve actually spotted more deer together on rainy days than we do on dry days. We knew that day we had a chance for good luck if we could ride out the afternoon precipitation. We threw on some light camo gear and scent blocker, then snuck into the stand at 3:20PM. The black-bellied whistling ducks were sounding off above us, and eastern gray squirrels scurried around the tree trunks below us. We were crunching down on our treestand favorites, red apples, and cracker jacks. A quiet first hour, then another quiet hour, and I was becoming doubtful. Then suddenly, just before six o’clock, a doe and her yearling came by to sniff out some corn but didn’t hang out long. This was a fortunate opportunity to study their reaction to our scent and position. With optimism, we adjusted and used their presence to prepare for a shooter buck to come by. The woods went silent for a bit, the light rain kept on, and we finally ran out of things to whisper about as we approached “buck time,” usually about 6:30-sunset this time of year.
We were right this time, and just two minutes past seven o’clock, the usually nocturnal antlered king of the swamp used the damp woods floor to silently creep into our whole corn and apple buffet feeder area. The northwest wind was on our side as the brute showed us his target zone long enough for Kingston to set his crossbow for a good shot. I picked up my phone to record the action as I watched Kingston’s elbows tremble. I mumbled, “30-yard shot, breathe, exhale, hold, then take your shot.” He squeezed the trigger.
THUMP! Then a massive kick from the buck as Kingston sent the most perfect bolt home. We watched the burly buck hit the turf only 40 yards from us, and we cheered with each other.
We celebrated his life and shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of harvesting his first deer together. Ecstatic would be an understatement at this point, so we took extra precaution and waited a bit while we gathered our gear to safely climb down from the tree stand. When we aren’t in the woods together, Kingston and I enjoy watching Buck Commander and other hunting videos on YouTube. I took out my phone again for a video of our own. I was able to record Kingston walking up (from behind, like he learned in his hunter safety course) on his first harvested deer, a beautiful buck. The excitement on Kingston’s face as he wrapped his hands around the chocolate-colored antlers and burst out with, “It’s the 7-point!” It’s a moment I will never forget. After talking about shot placement and recording our official Florida harvest report, we snapped a quick interview to talk about how it all came together. He was so excited! Then the work and after-celebration began. Kingston’s cousins, who have also been hunting since they were kids, came by for moral support and heckling too, with his first buck, and they helped us field dress and quarter the deer and into the cooler. The rituals and shenanigans were flowing. Some of those stories are better left at deer camp with the guys if you know what I mean.
Days after a successful hunt, the work is still ongoing, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like work at all. On Sunday, “Mama”, as Kingston calls his mom, cut up and vacuum-sealed a little under 10-pounds of backstrap butterfly steaks and tenderloins from this Florida stud buck. Yesterday I surprised Kingston by signing him out of school early so we could go back and walk the footsteps of that first-deer memory at the tree stand one more time. Then we stopped to drop off some critical cargo, the deer head, and rack, to JC Taxidermy in Lithia. Kingston was overjoyed to now be “one of the boys” with his cousins and have his very own trophy on the wall coming soon. To complete the hunt and harvest, we drove to Riverview to stop at Al’s Wild Meat Processing, where they will be packing up roasts, maple venison sausage, and ground meat, that we will eat and share over the next year. Now that my little guy took down his big guy buck, I’m hoping to look for similar good fortune with my compound bow, as I set my sights on adding to the freezer with more local organic deer meat.
As you know, hunting and sharing the outdoors is a true gift from our Creator.
We thank God for hunting, fishing, and wild animals every day during dinner grace. I’m happy to have a next-generation hunter as the numbers of hunting support enthusiasts are in decline. Indeed, I have high hopes that there will never be a food shortage in our family.
Family Hunting Background:
I am fortunate enough to have my Uncle Dave, Forrest Fisher, NYS Hall of Fame Outdoorsman (and many more titles) teach me everything I know about archery hunting, starting with ethical hunting. “There’s no better way to do it than the right way – we follow the rules,” he would say every year as we walked the woods together, then we would discuss how to stay quiet, movement control, safety, how to stay warm, and more. Numerous years hunting with him have taught me about patience, silence, scent block, and how/when to let an arrow fly. Thanks to my favorite Aunt Rosalie Barus, for providing years of lodging, meals, and hugs of encouragement while I came up to visit East Aurora, NY. It’s where I could slow down and learn to hunt with arrows. I always picture her great smile in the mornings before hunting, when she would say, “Go get ’em Jeff-waa! I can’t wait to see your text that brown is down!” Graciously, I want to thank my good buddy Michael Garrido for sharing his hunting knowledge with me for the last 10 years and providing hunting opportunities to experience and ultimately pass down the tradition. I’m blessed to share our hunting enthusiasm and appreciation for harvests. Cheers to many more, Mike!
Huge thank you to Kingston’s Granny Lois Johnson, for providing our hunting spot and her encouragement each year for a successful hunt. Granny always reminded Kingston, “I love venison, get me some.” Kingston said he knows his late Papa was with him on this hunt, and I told him I was sure Kingston made him proud! Venison steaks headed your way soon, “Granny”! Lastly, to my amazing wife, Tiffany, who does so much to help make it possible for us to spend time in the woods together? Her excitement and “you got this” texts, while we hunt are always encouraging and makes this proud dad moment event sweeter (I needed to turn off the beeper). Her venison chili is out of this world, too!
It takes friends, family, the right equipment, and shared passion to carry out successful hunts, especially with youngsters. Learn more about the Florida hunting rules at MyFWC.com/Deer, including the new deer harvest reporting requirement. I’ll leave you with some product knowledge of the gear we used.
Our Gear: CenterPoint Archery, crossbow – 20” bolt with 100gr G5 Outdoors, fixed broadhead; Quaker Boy, doe bleat; Thermacell Hunting, Sawyer permethrin spray for deer ticks/bugs; Fyland UV tracker flashlight; Vortex Optics, Diamondback HD binoculars; HALO Optics, XL600-8 range finder; Wildgame Innovations, trail cam; Under Armor Hunt boots; Hunting-Made-Easy truck hitch game hoist; Wildlife Research Center, Scent Blocker; Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools, swing blade skinning knife.