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To remember times with my dad seems so long ago now
that I have not seen him or heard his voice in over nine years. I
remember seeing him in the beginning of November 2001. He came up
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Cincinnati for my brother’s karate tournament. He called me and
told me he would be in town and would love to hunt with me in the
morning. I remember picking him up and hunting with him that cold
November morning. We both never saw a deer that day. To remember
this day brings a smile to my face
That same night would be the only time my wife would
ever meet my dad, Louis. He called after he finished watching my
brother, Richards’s tournament. He asked if Nicole and I would like
to come over to my grandmother’s house for a visit. I told him it
was late and didn’t think we could make it. Nicole tells me “we are
going.” I call him back and tell him we will be there shortly. We
all visit and have a great time because the holiday season is in
full bloom. After visiting, dad and I step outside just before
leaving and he tells me words I will never forget; “Boy you have a
wonderful woman in there and I would hold onto her if I were you.”
To remember those words makes me appreciate and love Nicole even
more everyday I wake up and she is by my side. That would be the
last time I ever saw my dad or heard his voice thanks to Nicole
insisting we go visit him.
It seems like forever ago, but I remember it like it
was yesterday. December 1st 2001. My wife, Nicole,
girlfriend at the time and I had just arrived home from a friends
Christmas party. With joys of the Christmas season and spirit in
our hearts, we heard our answering machine beeping during
conversation and remembering the night’s events. As I went to check
the machine the phone rings. I answer in a jolly voice and I hear
the crackling voice of my crying mother. She tells me to sit down,
and I say “no.” I ask her what is wrong and with a short pause that
seemed forever, she whispered and cried the words “Your dad is
dead, I am so sorry Michael.” I immediately fall to the floor
crying. Nicole comes out of the bathroom asking: “What happened?” I
mumble like a 3 year old child who just had his favorite blanket
stolen “My dad died.” I collect myself and drive to my mother’s to
be with her and my brother’s. I later learn he died while hunting.
We were told he had harvested a deer and after dragging it from the
woods he had a heart attack at age 43. To remember this day still
brings tears to my eyes even while writing it nine years after.
After all the years of hunting only two deer have
been taken on December 1st. One was a doe I will never
forget. As I walked thru the woods for hours not seeing a deer and
making my way back to the house, I see one. The doe stands up
facing me. I stare at her and her staring at me. Neither one of us
wanting to be the first to move. I wait and she takes off across
the four-wheeler trail. I let one fly from the Mossberg 12ga and it
hits her. I hear the all familiar sound of a downed deer, only this
one in a small creek you can jump across. I stand motionless and
wait for her expiration.
While walking towards the deer’s last location, I
spot her in the creek. I walk toward her and grab the back leg to
drag her from the creek. Her head rises up and the bleat coming
from her startles me. I fall backward, laughing as she stops.
Without reason I look up and say “Thanks dad.” To remember this
makes me think he’s still watching.
Since that day in 2004 I have yet to take a deer on
December 1st until this year. Huh! This year has been
one of the roughest seasons, I think I have encountered in my 20
years of hunting. First, I miss a huge 180 class buck on the second
day of the season at 35 yards. That would have been my largest deer
to date. Second, I miss a doe in a blind at 10 yards. Third, my
string snaps while drawing back on a doe at 15 yards 3 weeks later.
Lastly, no archery shops in the State of Ohio have a string for my
Mathews XLR8 in stock. While waiting for my new string to come in,
shotgun season has arrived.
The first two days are spent with my brother
Christopher and we didn’t see a deer. On December 1st, I
decide to take dad’s Remington 870 Wingmaster to the field. This
ol’ gun has seen better days and with only a bead as a sight makes
for an interesting hunting partner. This was the gun he was using
the day he passed. It was one of those story book perfect hunting
days. It was cold, snowy with a light wind and a pure white glaze
on the ground, trees and brush. After about two hours of walking, I
find a tree and decide to take a break. While standing behind this
very large tree, I start to think about everything I could remember
about my dad. I guess it was one of those times, I was reflecting
on all the great times we had shared. I was also reflecting on how
it had been 7 years since I had shot a buck, not that I hadn’t had
opportunities at small ones. I made a promise to myself at that
very moment. I promised I would shoot the very next deer I saw no
matter how big or small. I figured since I was using dad’s gun and
hunting on his day of eternal rest, why not.
It could not have been 5 minutes later and I hear
that all familiar sound of a deer coming my direction. The only
problem was the deer was behind me and to my right. As my gun leans
against the tree, I grab it, turn and sit with my back against the
tree all in one motion. Then I see the broken rack 2 ½ year old
coming. The deer walks a straight line in front of me broadside and
stops 50 yards in front of me. I hear that 20ga smooth bore
modified barrel bark and the deer doesn’t move. I rack another
round and she barks again. This time I can see the high lung shot
and the trail the deer is leaving for me. The buck didn’t run 50
yards, stops and falls over. To remember this moment makes me
wonder why more people don’t hunt.
As I wait I start remembering what this day meant to
me and what this day means to my three brothers. Remembering all of
this makes me start crying before I even get to my harvested deer.
As I walk toward my deer, I see the small 6 pointed rack on its
left side sticking up. As I grab the left side and pull the deer’s
head off the ground I see the broken right side. The broken right
side of the rack makes me remember the broken heart I had this very
day 9 years ago. I keep looking at the broken rack and realize it
has heeled as will I and my brothers.
Knowing my brothers and I have somewhat healed since
December 1st 2001, I know all of us remember Dad.
Remembering Dad brings back the memories of hunting, fishing,
camping and boating. Remembering these things about dad also makes
me realize we are all bringing our children up in a generation
filled with computers and technology. At a young thirty-two about
to turn thirty-three computers were new and expensive when I was
growing up. As hunters we need to give our children memories in the
field instead of behind a computer desk. Do you remember your last
hunt with your dad? Mine was just this year!