Sometimes it is hard to practice what we preach when it comes to spoiling our grandkids. We tend to have a set of hunting/management rules for ourselves and others that hunt with us and then a completely different, generally more lenient set of rules for grandchildren. This is what we dealt with during Michigan’s Youth Deer Hunt this past weekend.
Having managed properties for bucks of 8 points or better for 10+ years, we have allowed all of our 1 ½ year old bucks pass. We have rules at camp that allows for hunters to shoot any buck for their first one.Other than that we want bucks of 2 ½ years and older with 4 points or more on a side taken. We don’t care if the hunter is 9 or 90, they can choose what they take for their first buck. This past weekend our hunter was 9 years old and he taught us a little about hunting.
Micah, my grandson, was able to hunt this year after the Michigan DNR changed the hunting age restriction this year. Not all 9 year olds are prepared to hunt, but Micah has not only been hunting with us for 7 years, he also shoots several times a week and is a good marksman. He has been going out with me this late summer to check foodplots and trail cameras. He knew that there were several bucks that “fit” our camp rules and was hopeful to harvest one of the good bucks for his first.
Saturday morning (the first day of the 2 day youth season) started out pretty well with sightings of 2 small 6 points and a dozen does and fawns. Micah was on high alert and was proving to be a better hunter than many that we guide each year. He sat quietly and whispered when we needed to talk. When deer movement dropped off we headed back to camp for some breakfast and a break. Within minutes of getting done eating Micah was ready to get back in stand but we stayed in camp a while, was the winds were howling and we figured that the movement would be late.
We got back in the stand at 4:00 pm, overlooking a really nice foodplot of Biologics Winter Bulbs and Sugar Beets. It wasn’t long before two fawns walked in and started feeding. The high winds even had these very young deer on edge, they would flinch and run over and over again for 15–20 minutes until this finally bolted off the plot. A few minutes later a small spike came to the edge of the plot and didn’t feel comfortable entering. So went the afternoon. Three spikes, a six point and a few young does and fawns came and went and none of the better bucks that we were waiting for. Finally just after the sun went down a nice rack showed behind the screen of balsam limbs.
The buck was very nervous about entering as well. He paused and watched the trees swaying in the 25 mph gusts. Finally he moved into the middle of the plot just 50 yards in front of the blind. He stood facing us with his mouth sucking in old green top after the other. Years ago this deer would have been shot long before he started eating, but with things changing in the hunting world and with the video camera watching, we decided to wait for him to turn broadside. After a few minutes of waiting the buck threw up his head and stared at the branches bouncing from a bad gust. He turned broadside and it looked it was going to happen for Micah. But it wasn’t to be, the buck spooked and bounded off of the plot and was gone. I was a little more dejected than Micah and I sat quietly for the remaining few minutes of daylight.
Micah remained positive through Saturday evening and Sunday morning when we watched just one fawn and a small 3 point buck. At lunch Micah said that he would be happy with any buck and didn’t need a “big one”. We talked it over and he agreed that if a mature doe came by it would be a better management deer than one of the 1 ½ year old bucks that we had been seeing. He was excited to get back into the stand and pushed us to get moving earlier for this, the last day of youth season. He wanted his first deer and was willing to sit as long as it took to get it done.
I was a little concerned that we had only seen one mature buck and no mature does on the foodplot, but Micah was confident as we climbed into the stand. He turned to me when we sat down and said, “grandpa, I feel good that tonight is the night”. I realized that my grandson was not a little boy but was already turning into a young man and hunting had a lot to do with it. I also realized that Micah didn’t care if his first trophy was a 10 point buck or a mature doe.
We hadn’t been in the stand more than 40 minutes when skirting behind the plot was the first mature doe that we had seen. Micah said right away, “if she comes in, I will be really happy with her”. I text our cameraman, Brandt, asking him if he saw the doe, he had not seen her. Brandt was in a pop-up blind next to our blind and had a different view of the field. Micah was just starting to get settled down again when the doe stuck her nose threw the brush on the right side of the plot. Immediately Micah’s breathing rate shot up. I kept reminding him to breath deep and calm down. As the doe made her way into the plot Micah slowly got the gun to his shoulder and out through the window of the blind. The doe stood quartering to us for a while and last night’s memory of this same situation scared us. After a little while said “I can shoot her right there”. I told him to hold on her close shoulder and squeeze the trigger when he was ready. I was surprised by the sound of the gun but not by the site of the deer tumbling over backwards. She kicked once or twice and lay still.
Micah’s face showed me something that, as hunters, we all need to be reminded of often. His smile and glow made it clear that it didn’t matter if the deer that he shot was a 170” trophy or a mature doe trophy. The real “trophy” doesn’t really have anything to do with the size of the antlers or with what we take away from the hunt, but more with what we put into the hunt. Micah had shown us what management and hunting was all about.
We should all take a lesson from Micah.
Powered by Facebook Comments