Corey and I used to spend the fall and early winter months in the woods of
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.”
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 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.