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Walter Scott: Passing on the skills of a good hunter

There are several important things to teach a young person about hunting. I am proud to say, my grandson, at 8 years old, is well on his way to being a skilled hunter. His dad has taught him well and it makes me proud of them both. When my sons were Zane's age, we spent hours practicing, learning about safety, and gaining respect for nature. Damon has now passed this information on to his sons, so the tradition continues.

Saturday was Iowa's first day of gun season. We usually have a group of hunters get together for the express purpose of thinning out the doe population but is actually a good excuse to get together, eat too much food, and tell lies to each other. This year, the annual hunt fell apart. Doran's knee is in bad enough shape, he cannot walk the hills. Dick tore the rotator cuff in his shoulder and is hurting so bad, shooting a gun is out of the question. Scott had to work and the list goes on. Opening day was down to Zane, Damon, and me. We would have to make it work.

On our first hunt of the new season, Zane and I stood at the corner of the hayfield while Damon walked through the paintball woods. This is a typical drive except we usually have four people walking the woods and hunters have three exits blocked. Zane and I blocked what we hoped would be the exit most chosen by the deer if Damon was able to persuade any of them to leave the timber. Zane stood ready, shotgun on safety and pointed away from us. The cold north wind blew in our faces as we waited for something to happen. I was wondering how long an eight year old could stand still while slowly freezing when he turned slightly and whispered, "Are you getting cold, Grandpa?" I assured him I would be all right and asked if he was cold. He said his hands were, but was just checking to make sure I was OK. I thanked him for his concern and told him to put his left glove back on and his right hand in his pocket. He had been standing facing the wind with no gloves holding his shotgun across his chest to be instantly ready.

A deer started making its way down the hill in front of us. I bent slightly forward and whispered, "Deer at two o'clock!" I hoped he had learned to tell time on a regular clock and not just digitally. However he tells time, he instantly spotted the deer as it moved among the cedar trees about fifty yards in front of us. He raised his gun and drew down on the area between two trees where the deer would soon cross. I raised my gun to provide back up, just in case he missed. A young buck stopped in the clearing and stared at us for what seemed like an eternity while I waited for Zane to fire. It was probably more like two seconds from the time the deer presented himself until Zane shot. The deer dropped where he stood.

Zane just about fell down when I slapped him on the back in congratulations. I know I was at least as excited as he was. The hardest part was not being able to go see the deer. Our hunting rule is, the blockers always stay in position until the drivers are out of the woods. Accidents happen when people are someplace unexpected and another hunter shoots at a deer thinking nobody would be in that area.

Damon finally appeared at the top of the hill. We waved, signaling we saw him, and he yelled down, "Are you guys asleep?" Two huge bucks and a doe ran out into the hayfield past us and neither Zane nor I had even noticed. Feeling quite proud of himself, Zane yelled back, "If we had been asleep, I would not have one down." A dad can ignore a mouthy kid when the father has it coming. Damon and I were beaming when we walked up on Zane's buck. It was not big but it was a great deer since it was his first. All three of us were extremely proud when we got it back to the house to show it off. The next generation is learning the skills necessary to be a successful hunter.