A fresh look at young hunters – and young deer
Opening morning of the Northern Zone crossbow season found me sitting in the same spot where I had brought Joey, age 14, on the first two mornings of New York’s Columbus Day weekend youth big game hunt.
Having only three days to hunt with a crossbow before the muzzleloading season, I figured I’d squeeze in a morning hunt before getting on with my work duties.
This spot has been a consistent deer producer over the years and on this windless morning I was confident it might be again. I was equally as confident when I was out there with Joey a few days prior.
But things were quiet on both of those youth hunt mornings, although I would later discover that an 8-point buck had passed by my trail camera less than half an hour before Joey and I did the same that first morning. That’s the luck of the draw.
Now I was sitting with my back against a big pine tree when suddenly a deer just magically appeared, as they so often do. It was to my left and at first glance I thought it was a doe. Being left-handed – left eye dominant, actually – I considered if I should try to move into position for a shot.
Watching the deer, I began to notice pedicles on his head; he was a button buck, or a buck fawn. Soon, his mother appeared on the scene – further away and much more alert – and was eventually followed by another fawn.
I pretty much have a rule against shooting fawns on my property. But after the deer had moved on I began wishing this scenario had played out the previous Saturday or Sunday morning with Joey present instead of a few days later on a solo crossbow hunt.
I thought back to that first morning with Joey. He was excited, inquisitive and most of all, ready for some action. With a deer – any deer – just 15 yards away, how could I have denied him an opportunity to get his first deer? I now know I wouldn’t have.
Still, things worked out in the end. Joey actually got a button buck on an afternoon hunt with his uncle in the farm country. He made a good shot and I am proud of him. The excitement in his voice when he called me the next day was music to my ears.
There’s nothing wrong with having a few rules when it comes to deer management. Those of us who manage property, even small parcels such as my own, have our own goals and ideas. But sometimes we may need to set our own interests aside for the greater good of the sport we love, and especially for the hunters of tomorrow.