Lucas, 10, and Liam, 9, show enthusiasm in the early hours of opening day of youth deer season Saturday.
He was so excited he said his "blood was shaking all over" when he came in from his first youth deer season weekend. Even though my son didn't harvest a deer this weekend, he was smiling from ear to ear and could barely keep his feet on the ground as he told me his story about seeing a deer in the woods.
We live in town, so we felt very fortunate to be invited to a farm in Wayne County where my husband and I could take our son on his first deer hunting experience. Although our hosts were almost apologetic that he didn't get a deer over the weekend, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the experience.
Over the course of two days my 9-year-old sat in the woods and focused on a task for much longer than I've seen him focus on any sports activity. He's a soccer, baseball and basketball player and he loves to play all of them. But he had a determination about deer hunting that I haven't seen in him before.
I bundled him in so many clothes the scene was comparable to the one in "A Christmas Story" when the poor kid couldn't put his arms down. But he didn't complain. We woke him around 4 a.m. both mornings because of the hour long drive to the country and the time required to gear up and get out into the woods by sunrise. Both mornings he woke with a smile and sleepily got himself ready for the drive -- no complaints.
At the farm, he had the opportunity to hunt from an elevated stand one day and a ground blind the next, with his dad right next to him, giving him instructions on what to do and how to stay safe. He only came in from the woods when his dad said they needed to. He told his dad, "We're here to hunt."
Of course there were a couple of times, late morning, when our young man's tiredness finally showed and my husband could tell it was time to head in from the woods for hot cocoa, some food and rest. So that's what they did. That was the recipe for success: enough rest, hot cocoa, snacks, patience and no pressure. We were all just there to enjoy the experience.
When they came in from the hunt Sunday evening, I could tell from the spring in my boy's step that this hunt was different. He didn't get a deer, but he saw one very close and that was enough for him to feel successful on his first hunt. He and his dad shared the story with me and our hosts over hot chicken and noodles. They laughed, sometimes interrupted each other in excitement and reveled in their first deer hunt together.
We'll take him deer hunting again and we all hope next time -- or sometime -- he'll harvest a deer. We're big fans of venison. But for now we're savoring the sweet taste of passing along the tradition of deer hunting to our son and the treasured memories we have thanks to our kind hosts and the youth deer season.