I posted earlier this week about the deer Brett got on Virginia's Youth and Apprentice Deer Hunting Day. There was a lot more to the story though than just shooting a deer near Leesburg. . .
Our day started on a Page County mountainside. We'd gotten a late start on the two-hour drive from our Leesburg-area home so didn't get to the hunting property until well after daylight. Then we ran into issues with the lock box on the gate, so by the time we got into the woods I knew seeing a deer was unlikely.
Brett just turned eight over the summer, and I didn't really expect him to shoot a deer that day. Part of me felt like maybe he wasn't ready. We looked around a little, found a big buck rub and set up in a little thicket.
'We're not going to see anything,' I thought. 'He'll get bored; we'll do some hiking and go home.'
Brett had other ideas though:
"I really wanna get a deer Dad," he whispered. "I think I heard something. Did you hear that? I think a deer's coming..."
The property where we were located - and the Page County area in general - is better known for bear than deer, and I had my bear spray close at hand.
As it turned out, I was right that he got bored. It was only after sitting still for about an hour-and-a-half though, much longer than I thought Brett could sit.
Once we decided to move, we hiked straight - and I mean straight as in vertical - up the mountain. Our goal was to access a portion of the property that we'd been shut out of due to the missing lock box. We had a good map, but decided about a third of the way there we'd had enough vertical hiking.
By this time it was after 1 p.m., and Brett was tired. I figured he'd sleep the whole way home, but that concept escaped me when I let him get a Mountain Dew at the general store in Shenandoah.
"Let's go to Luray Caverns!" he said as his fatigue faded and his eyes got wide again.
Luray Caverns is one of Virginia's most popular tourist destinations, and fall is the busy season. The line to get in was longer than either of us cared to stand in, but Brett wanted to try out the ropes course, which I'd highly recommend if you're in the area.
"Surely he'll be tired after this," I thought. Wrong again.
"Can we go back to the mountain?" Brett asked.
That wasn't happening, but I sat there and thought a minute. He wanted to do something with me, and I know from experience with my older boys that that doesn't last forever. Brett had also done well with sitting still when we staked out the buck rub, and he showed more interest in actually shooting a deer than I'd expected.
"If you really want to shoot a deer, let's go back to Leesburg," I said.
My Loudoun County hunting spots have dwindled and shrunk significantly over the last three years, but I still have one go-to spot. I've harvested a number of whitetails there, and it's also where Jake got his buck back in 2011.
Brett was initially reluctant head back to the suburbs after spending the day in the country. I finally convinced him though. By 5:45, we were set up in a thicket overlooking an overgrown dry pond.
"What time do you think we'll see deer?" Brett asked.
"It's usually during the last hour of daylight."
Sunset was around 7, and that's exactly when they started moving . Brett had what looked like a good shot at one of the first two does we saw but elected not to take it.
"You did the right thing," I whispered. "It's never wrong to not shoot."
Two more does appeared. This time, one of them came even closer. It stood broadside to us, in the open at 30 yards. I couldn't believe it didn't spook as Brett got into a position where he felt comfortable taking the shot. I could have been in a dream when he squeezed the trigger. . .