My first hunting trip was quite an adventure. I was in sixth grade. My dad and I got up extra early for the two-hour drive to the mountains. I was thrilled to be excused from school to go hunting.
The drive was long, but soon enough we pulled up to his secret hunting spot and exited our little Dodge truck to suit up and get our gear.
As I was retying my boots, my dad pulled out a small bottle with a spray nozzle. “What is that?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Doe urine,” he said with a small smile.
I gagged. “Yuck!”
He laughed. “It’ll mask our scent more.”
He sprayed the bottoms of his shoes, and I grudgingly followed his example, careful not to get any on my hands. It smelled really bad, but I knew he was right.
We slung our rifles onto our backs and set out to my dad’s lucky spot. We hiked up a steep hill. It wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t be happier. I’d wanted to hunt with my dad for years. Now I had my chance.
Finally, we reached a small, rocky plateau, and my dad gestured for me to stop. There was a huge jumble of rocks close by, and we decided to set up. I eased my rifle off my shoulder and laid it across my lap, careful of the muzzle. We waited.
We sat for a while and didn’t see anything. Suddenly, my dad got my attention. When I turned to face him, he pointed in front of us. Across a small valley, on the opposite hillside, I saw a dark blob in a clearing. “That’s a wolf,” he said quietly. “That is a wolf.” I raised my binoculars and took a closer look. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. My dad saw it, too. “Wait, no,” he amended, “I think that’s actually a… yep, that’s a llama.”
I buried my face in my hands to hold in my laughter.
Eventually, we decided to move to a different spot not too far away. As we were walking by the path we had come up on, we really did see something cool. About 140 yards away was a group of five doe. We decided to try and get close enough for me to take a shot.
As we got closer, the deer must have winded us, because they spooked. Before I could even get my rifle up, they had taken off into a dense patch of brush. My dad glanced at his watch and the waning daylight. “Let’s make our way back to the truck,” he said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
As we hiked down the trail, we passed by a break in the thick brush lining the path. My dad glanced off to the side and then tapped my arm. I had completely missed seeing the tan body of a deer, its head down grazing. I grinned. Maybe I’d bag a deer after all.
We approached silently, and my dad helped me set up my rifle on an old wooden fence post. I stared down the scope at the deer, lining up for a lung-heart-lung shot. But then the deer raised its head.
Adrenaline flooded my system as I counted four-point antlers. This was a buck. A big buck! I began shaking with buck fever, so badly that I knew it would affect the accuracy of my shot. I heard my dad tell me to breathe. I shook my head. “I can’t.”
I turned to face him. “I’m shaking so bad, I’m scared I’ll miss. You take the shot.”
After what he told me resembled an old Abbott and Costello routine (I don’t even know who they are) he finally agreed. I stepped aside and he realigned the shot. I covered my ears as a deafening
We made our way to the downed deer. He showed me how to gut the animal and had me help separate the parts. It smelled almost as bad as the urine spray, but I was still thrilled. Once it was dressed, we dragged it to the dirt road. By that time, the sun had set and we were using headlamps. My dad went to get our truck. A few minutes later, he pulled up.
We opened the back and hooked the deer to the small winch that was on the truck. As we finally got the heavy carcass into the truck, my dad noticed smoke pouring out of the front of the truck. We ran to the front and I saw that the whole left headlight was aflame. Melted plastic dripped to the ground and black smoke billowed out.
I was terrified. My dad quickly got the fire extinguisher out of the passenger door and started spraying. I asked if there was anything I could do. “Pray,” was all he said.
Thankfully, he got the fire out and no one got hurt. Unfortunately, the headlight no longer worked, so we ended up staying the night.
The next morning, as he was digging through our snack bag, my dad found a package of Oreos and tossed it to me. “For breakfast?” I asked.
“Why not?” he replied.
The whole drive home, my dad and I talked about our experience and listened to his old classic rock music. And he retold old hunting stories that I’d heard a hundred times, and enjoyed a hundred times.
Sure, it may not have been what I expected my first hunting trip to be like, but I am still thankful for the experience. Now I have my own stories to tell. Even now, if my dad needs a little cheering up, all I have to do is say, “Look, dad! It’s a wolf! Wait. Nope, just a llama.”
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