Anyone who is a parent will understand that your kids have a way of surprising you. Sometimes those surprises are of the variety that a parent doesn’t want to experience, but sometimes those surprises are exactly what any parent would be more than happy to experience.
The latter was the case with my 13-year-old son, Dallin, as the sun was setting on his first deer hunting adventure.
Dallin drew his first deer tag this year, a junior deer tag for Area 23. I was a little jealous at first because I didn’t draw any Nevada tags this year, and what’s more, I have drawn a deer tag in that unit only once in all the years I have applied for tags. After a few days spent mumbling under my breath, I finally realized that by not having a tag, I could focus all of my attention on Dallin, where it should be.
For those of you who might not be aware, Nevada’s junior tags give young hunters the opportunity to hunt during all three seasons — archery, muzzleloader or any legal firearm — until they fill their tag. This not only gives the kids a chance to get a foothold in the hunting world, but it also allows them a unique opportunity to learn what it’s like to hunt with all three legal types of sporting arms. Dallin opted to start with a muzzleloader.
Our initial plan was to hunt near fields where mule deer often gather for an evening feast. I figured Dallin would have a good chance of filling his tag as the deer headed back into the hills when the sun came up in the morning. We had scouted out a promising location and made sure we were in place before the morning sun began to lighten the eastern sky.
Then we waited and waited. Then we scanned the country around us with binoculars and waited some more. Nothing showed. The plan was a bust.
Plan B involved a rigorous hike into a small valley located just below a high peak. With a matching pair of springs located at each end of the valley, I figured this would be a good place to find a buck or two. Dallin endured the climb and winds that blew so hard that our eyes watered, but all we saw were a few does and fawns. Strike two.
On our way down the mountain we jumped a forked-horn buck well within range of the muzzleloader Dallin was carrying, but he never got a clear shot, and the deer disappeared into the trees. As you might imagine, Dallin was getting discouraged.
Shortly after reaching the truck, a man who was scouting for elk pulled up and asked if one of us had a deer tag. I explained that Dallin did, so the man told us where he had seen a small group of deer and a four-point buck just minutes before. About 40 minutes of legal shooting time was left, so off we went.
Within minutes we found the deer. The big buck had moved off, but a two-point was in the bunch, and Dallin went to work. After getting within shooting range, he began searching for a shooting position that would give him a clear shot with no chance of accidentally shooting a second deer. I tried to coach him but could tell I was getting on his nerves. So I backed off and gave him room.
I watched as Dallin moved back and forth trying to find that open shot. First, he would look through the binoculars, and then he would raise the gun and look down his sights. I kept waiting to see the gun to buck against Dallin’s shoulder as he took the shot, but just as I was expecting the shot, Dallin lowered the rifle and again raised his binoculars.
The deer all seemed to be dancing with Dallin. Each time he made ready to shoot, a doe or fawn would move in front or behind the buck, making a clear shot impossible. After about 30 minutes, the deer decided they had enough and moved out.
During this lengthy episode, the deer never presented an open shot, though there were some small openings through which some people might have tried to thread one. Dallin was frustrated. He had worked hard and been at it since before the sun came up with no apparent success, but he didn’t give in to that pride that would have driven others to take a poor shot.
As he told the story from his perspective, I gained a new respect for my son. He had made a mature decision in the field — a decision others with more years under their belts might not have made.
When in the outdoors, those kinds of surprises are exactly what a parent wants to experience.
• OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE CLOSURE — Juan Palma of the Bureau of Land Management will address the agency’s off-highway vehicle closure before the State Board of Wildlife Commissioners on Friday in the Commission Chambers at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway. Those interested might wish to attend.
An agenda is available at www.ndow.org.
Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His column is published Thursday. He can be reached at email@example.com.C. DOUGLAS NIELSENMORE