When the muzzle-loader season started it was all about doing our best to get Atley his first deer. Del and I both had tags, but we were more interested in giving Atley a good experience. We went out a couple of times to shoot his gun (after getting it fixed, for that story click HERE) and he felt comfortable with his gun.
Most of my brothers were on this hunt too, so our camp was big and there were lots of kids to play with whenever we weren't hunting. The boys even had time to build a fort back in the trees. It was great to have all the kids together, brought back memories from when I was a kid.
The first morning Atley and I walked into an area where I figured we might see an elk (Atley had both a deer and a cow elk tag). Things worked out perfectly until we could hear a cow calling in the trees and when I reached for my elk call I realized it wasn't there. I had forgotten them at home. After that elk wandered away without giving us a look, we continued down the trail. Atley used his voice to mimic an elk as best he could (which he was really excited about) and we did our best to move quietly. Finally, we heard some movement up ahead and we moved slowly forward to try and get a look. As is often the case, we were looking more than walking and then it seemed like a cow had appeared out of thin air through the trees in front of us. Atley and I both got shots off before she was gone, and I was confident that we'd be tracking an elk for the rest of the morning. After waiting a while (just in case she hadn't gone far) we moved to where she had been standing to look for blood. We looked everywhere, but there wasn't a drop to be found. I was seriously confused, but figured the excitement must've gotten to us and disrupted our aim.
No big deal. Lots of time still to hunt and I was confident that we'd have more opportunities to fill some tags. That evening, Del joined us and we headed to a different area to try and find some deer. Someone had clearly tipped the deer off, and they were extra spooky. We spotted a group of bucks that out maneuvered us early on and Atley was getting frustrated. Luckily we spotted a pretty decent two point when we started driving back to camp and Atley was able to get a shot. It wasn't an easy shot by any stretch, so I wasn't surprised when he missed, but it sure was exciting.
The next morning Atley was again fortunate to spot a buck from the truck that was well within range and he managed to get a great shot. Somehow he missed again, and I was starting to think that maybe he didn't really want to get a deer. While tracking the first buck to see if it'd show up again, he got another shot at a nicer buck. Again, no contact. Finally I had the bright idea to take a closer look at his gun. The sights were completely loose! Luckily, my brother had brought an extra muzzle-loader just in case so that afternoon Atley would be using a different gun.
Grandpa came along to help us out with some good luck and it wasn't long until we spotted a buck just off the side of the road. With a different gun in hand Atley made good on the shot and downed his first buck! Grandpa and I couldn't have been happier for him and someone else must've been proud too, because right afterwards the sky provided the perfect background.
He was beyond excited with his first success (and won't let us forget who provided dinner every time we have deer) but it wasn't without an understanding of the kill and the feelings of thanks. For anyone who has ever killed their own food, you know with it comes a feeling of reverence for the animal and I think Atley felt that.
With Atley's success we decided to get Del out there to see if she could get a buck too. She's already gotten her first so the smaller bucks that we saw on the last evening of the hunt didn't interest her much. I never would've pegged her as a trophy hunter....
Hope you're as lucky,