By Blake Baxley, Region 3 Law Enforcement Officer
Ever since my little boy Braiden was old enough to talk, he has said he wanted to go hunting with me any time he saw me getting ready to go. This past season, he started telling me when he was “grown up” like me, he was going to go hunting. I’ve gone several times this year, and he always tells me to get a “daddy deer” when I go to leave the house and tell him bye.
Braiden is your average 3-year-old boy. He talks a lot and asks a lot of questions. He has helped me all year put out corn on all of our deer stands. Well on Dec. 8, I asked him if he wanted to go hunting with me that afternoon after he got home from school. His face lit up and he said “yes sir, I do!” That afternoon I called my mom and told her to ask Braiden if he still wanted to go hunting or play at her house. That was a definite yes! I got super excited because I was finally getting to take my little man hunting for the first time.
I went home and packed a bag for him and got his hunting clothes out. I packed him a Sunny D drink and bag of Goldfish to snack on. I grabbed his toy gun on the way out the door and headed to my mom’s house to pick him up. I pulled up on the side by side and he was standing at the front door waiting on me. I got him dressed and took a few pictures to remember one of my proudest dad moments yet! We talked the entire way to the stand and then I told him it was time to not talk so loudly, or the deer would hear us. That lasted for about two minutes, then his excitement took back over. We got to our stand, and he said he wanted to climb up by himself and for me to hold his gun for him.
Once we got settled into the stand, the snacks came out. We looked through the binoculars and played with a lizard. He finally settled down after about 20 minutes and wanted to watch tractor videos on my phone. It wasn’t five minutes later, and I saw two deer come out to the corn pile to our right. I told Braiden to look, and he nearly dropped my phone he was so excited to see the deer. He wanted my binoculars to see them. He looked through them the wrong way but assured me he saw them.
I told him I was going to shoot one and went to set the binoculars down when I noticed he was going for his toy gun. He dropped it, and the deer got spooky and started watching us. I told him to cover his ears. I threw the gun up and picked out the biggest doe. I missed.
I haven’t missed a deer in years, and I missed this deer on one of the most important hunts of my life. I was more nervous shooting this deer than any buck I have ever killed. Who knew a 3-year-old could get you so nervous that you miss?
As soon as I shot, I checked to make sure it didn’t scare him and his face was priceless, grinning from ear to ear: “Daddy, did you get her?”
“No buddy, Daddy just missed,” I said.
“That’s OK, we will try again tomorrow,” Braiden said
We got down out of the stand and he wanted his flashlight so he could check for blood with me, even though I already knew I shot over her back. We looked around for a minute then headed back to the side by side. We then went home so he could tell his mama that I missed.
I have waited for that day since my son was born. I couldn’t have cared less if we even saw a deer that day. Just the fact he showed an interest in being outdoors with me meant the absolute world to me. I think I was more excited and nervous than he ever was. We may not have gotten a deer that night, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I think Braiden is hooked already, and I can’t wait to be right by his side hunting as he gets “grown up” like me. I hope this was the first of many to come.
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