Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Corey and I used to spend the fall and early winter months in the woods of Tennessee, hunting, exploring, building hide-outs, and playing hide-and-go-seek – Rambo style! I have always loved being in the woods and I did my best to pass that fondness along.

We spent a lot of time together up until he turned fourteen, and then girls and friends, like they always do, pulled him in another direction. However, up through that period in his life we did enjoy the smell of the forest, the crunch of the leaves, and the silence of a snow falling through bare limbs.

Dressed in our camouflage, we took turns running ahead down a trail and hiding from each other. I had a little more experience, of course, so I often scared the little fellow of ten or twelve by falling on him from a tree limb, or jumping up in front of him out of leaves I had used to cover myself. I think he learned a lot about tracking, scouting, and concealment, but regardless it was loads of fun for us both.

Corey started accompanying me on deer hunts when he was about ten years old. He had performed well in his “hunter’s safety permit” class, even downing more clays with a shotgun than I did! So, he was ready to go hunting!

I was a bit concerned about how he would react to killing such a large and beautiful animal. That concern originated from a squirrel I killed once while we were in the woods when Corey was about seven. As I struggled to pull the fur-suit off the still warm body of the squirrel, Corey asked what I was doing. I tried to explain it so he could understand, so I said, “I’m pulling off his pajamas.”

Corey watched closely with a concerned look on his face. I could tell he was trying to deal with the scene as his eyes recorded every move. He finally reconciled the experience and said, “Jesus will put his pajamas back on someday, right?

That almost broke my heart and I questioned whether or not I had let him watch at too young an age. Yeah, Jesus will put’em back together one day.”

That seemed to satisfy him and he never again questioned the act of killing and skinning game, but I was still apprehensive about how he would handle a deer in the same situation.

We spent a great deal of time in the woods scouting for deer, and just sitting under a tree listening to the forest sounds. Corey was a quick study and soon learned to find “signs” of deer – droppings, a rub on a small sapling, a leaf that was half eaten hanging from a limb, the browse of greenbrier nibbled down from the tender ends, tracks in the dirt or snow, the oval leaf bed of a buck on the east side of a hill, and even the exciting scarp find along well used trails. He, like me, loved scouting better than the actual hunt.

To enhance his experience I took him along on early fall bow hunts. I dressed him in the same camo and painted his face just like me. We would arrive before dawn and pick our way through a thicket and set up a camo netting ring around two stools just on the edge of the thicket near a well traveled path.

It was great to be there with him, whispering things about deer hunting or little jokes to keep him entertained. I often had to call him down from talking too much or too loud, and for moving around too much, but he never seemed to tire of just being there.

On one particular cold morning a large doe came out of the thicket just about twenty yards from our stand. Corey sat directly behind me and had a clear view over my right shoulder and down my arrow. We watched, hardly breathing, as the doe walked cautiously down the path and directly ahead of us. My arms were beginning to shake from holding full-draw so long, but finally the doe stopped and I took the opportunity to release the arrow at a full-broadside shot.

The arrow left the bow’s felt rest and was sailing true when the doe suddenly squatted to pee – just like a female dog! I had never witnessed that before and I was shocked!

The arrow narrowly missed the doe, sailing just over its drooped back and into the ground beyond.

Corey thought that was hilarious and fell off his stool and rolled on the ground in uncontrollable laughter, which frightened the poor deer far into the woods.

The humor of the shot hit me and we both rolled for several minutes in the leaves, retelling the story over and over.

Corey even made up a little ditty on the way home to rub it in, “Dad sees deer, dad aims, dad shoots, deer squats, dad misses!” He retold the story many times that day.

It is times like these that are called “bonding days”. I miss them.


BRUNO said...

Loved this one, of course! Even took ME back to my childhood, when I was the "Corey" in the story! And as I got into my early teens, most of my scouting was by myself, too. I always carried a rifle, or shotgun on my "hunting" escapades, but truth be known, I done more sittin', scoutin', and snoozin', than I did actual shootin', as in the true meaning of HUNTING...!

Buck said...

It is times like these that are called “bonding days”.

Yes. And those sorts of days are in incredibly short supply in these parts. But I can live vicariously through you, Mushy. Thanks.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

I would have given anything at that age to have had that sort of experience. My dad's idea of bonding was havin' me lug his golf clubs in 100 degree heat. I wanted to be fishing or hunting, but he didn't care about any of that, and we didn't do anything that didn't primarily interest him.

I love to read this stuff and daydream about it all... What it would have been like. Love readin' it, and love those pictures.

david mcmahon said...

Loved the story of the doe squatting.

My Dad was not a hunter but some of his friends used to hunt in the Indian jungles - you would have enjoyed those tales.

pat houseworth said...

Baseball has always been my bond with Me, Sam, and Hal...between coaching, umpiring, and playing the game, all 3 of us stay involved and it's a conversation starter, no matter the the 3 of us, it's still America's and the Houseworth's Past Time.

Mushy said...

Bruno - Nothing like a snooze under a big Hemlock, all bundled up, with a cold breeze blowing across your face!

Buck - My life is an open book and can be shared with anyone.

Jeff - Bonding is to be appreciated at any age doing most anything...'course you do have to enjoy the "anything!"

David - Never crossed my mind that deer squatted like most all mammals! Yes, I would have enjoyed them.

Pat - Baseball has always been too slow for me...even when I played the game, but people can bond over any common interest.

Debbie said...

I've never been hunting, but my daddy taught me to shoot early in my life. I was never afraid of a gun, and I could shoot as good as any of the guys in any target practice.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Chris said...

Worthy of being published in Tennessee Sportsman!

I never got to hunt as a kid although my grandfather did teach me and my sister to shoot on his tobacco farm in NC. When he passed, I was given the .22 Springfield that we used:)

My 19 y/o and I have gone turkey hunting and deer hunting with my father in law this year. We've promised my 8 y/o that he can go hunting with us when he's 10. Until then, he's having to practice with his bow and rifle at the TWRA range.

Mushy said...

Chris - That's be best move you will ever make...neither of you will ever forget it.

Scott from Oregon said...

I ne3ver had the heart to kill an animal much...

The few I did kill as I small kid put me off the idea of it.

But I loved shooting guns and bows and crossbows, and, since I started so early in life (and had a target in my room I could shoot bb's and pellets into) I got pretty gosh darn good.

My friends father always tried to talk me into hunting with him (so I could actually hit something) but I never went.

I think it is those eyes...

Shrinky said...

It's rare for anyone to hunt over here - we have also banned fox-hunting on the mainland, but fishing is a popular sport.

Corey's been turly blessed to have a dad who cared enough to spend the time and love to lay down such a rich store of special times spent with his father - and I have no doubt he too will pass that on to his children, in turn.

atomicvelvetsigh said...

hi just voted for you at BOTB.. i got attracted to your b&w photos of the woods.. i guess im not into hunting but this is an interesting post..

Suldog said...

Good Lord, I absolutely love his "play-by-play" of the missed shot. Hilarious!

John-Michael said...

I've heard many hunting and woods craft stories in USMC and civi life. Yours is the first that I fully enjoyed and appreciated.

My compliments to your portraying a full-spectrum Dad and man.

Lin said...

Mushy, that was an awesome account. I felt like I was right behind Corey, ready to fall over laughing right about the same time he lost it. Folks can pay big bucks and hope for that kind of day but they don't always realize that it also has to come from within the heart, too.