We were DETERMINED to get out of the house this holiday, so I made plans to go see my good buddy, the part-time farmer in Oklahoma. In preparation, we quarantined ourselves for the two weeks prior to the trip and they did the same. The Saturday before Christmas, my son and I loaded up and headed north.
We really didn't have much of a plan. The goal for the trip was to take my son hunting. My buddy had 90 acres, but sold 13 acres on the other side of the creek. He was having problems with trespassers over there and it wasn't directly accessible because of the creek. So, he decided to make that someone else's problem. His neighbor to the west lives in California and pays my buddy to watch over his property. That gives him almost half a section of land to hunt on.
This time of year is "antlerless" season. That means you're allowed to take a doe or a buck with antlers less than three inches long. Neither my son nor I had ever been deer hunting, so we had a crash course on Sunday. Preparation on our part was taking the required hunter safety course and picking up some camo. My buddy's son lent me his bolt-action Ruger 308.
My son borrowed my buddy's single-shot, break-barrel 243. I didn't get the details, but it's the same rifle that each of his sons used to get their first deer. It's a nice little gun.
We spent Sunday afternoon practicing with the rifles. They set up a target at 100 yards and we each got three or four shots. With ammo being scarce, we didn't want to waste any shots. It turns out that we didn't need to. Both rifles were sighted in and our shots were consistent. Not perfect, but we were both hitting the targets from the very first shot.
While my buddy isn't much of a hunter any more, his oldest son is an avid hunter. He agreed to be our guide for our first hunt. Legal hunting hours are from 30-minutes before sunrise to 30-minutes after sunset. We decided to take our first shot that afternoon and made our way to the blinds.
Our guide has two tree stands, three ground blinds, and two deer stands, spread across the two properties. That first evening we didn't see anything. We just sat in silence and enjoyed the sunset.
On Monday morning, my son and I made our way down to one of the blinds. We didn't want to alert the deer, so we made plans to be in the blind about an hour before sunrise. Somehow, we made it through the forest without using a flashlight. I guess my eyes aren't as bad as I thought!
As the sun came up, we spotted three does coming across the field to the east (shown above). When they were about 120 yards away, my son took a shot. And missed. Ten minutes later we saw two more in the field to the west, but he felt they were too far away and I didn't get a shot lined up before they turned around and went back the way they came.
We decided to call it quits for the morning and spent the middle of the day tromping around the property. This part of Oklahoma was once part of an inland sea and a lot of the evidence can be found right here on my buddy's property. Most of the fossils we found are crinoids, sessile suspension feeders in the same phylum as starfish. Most of what we found were stalk segments, but we did find a couple of whole clams.
The end of the day found us back in the blind for another go. Just like the evening before, we didn't see anything.
Tuesday morning, we made our way back to the same blind. I didn't think we'd see the group from the east come through again after Monday's missed shot, but there was always a chance the pair we saw to the west would come through. Sure enough, they did! With them being about 200 yards away, my son felt they were too far for him to make an accurate shot. By the time I got ready, they were gone. But I kept watching that direction and a straggler came through, following the first pair. I took the shot and we saw it run. My son was sure that I missed.
Being thorough, I decided that we should go make sure. While we were looking around, my son suddenly yelled, "Dad! You got it!" What did he see? A single drop of blood on the dry grass. I was shocked that he actually saw it. With some evidence in hand, we started tracking. We followed a trail of blood and found the deer lying in the grass at the tree line. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of that shot. It was 180 yards right through the chest.
I gave my buddy a call and he came down to guide me through field dressing the deer. Then we went to get the tractor so we didn't have to carry the deer back to the house. I don't want to upset anyone with pics of a dead deer, so instead, I'll share some pics of the tractor. It's a Kubota L2400 with a front-end loader and tiller on the back.
But get this: it's also 4wd with portal axles!
It's not what he used for farming, but it's his small tractor for general farm-related duties. He has a box blade and brush hog for it, so it's really the do-it-all machine for getting stuff done. That day, we used the front-end loader to carry my deer. We put it into cold storage until our guide could get home that evening and show us how to process it properly.
I was really disappointed that my son didn't get his first deer, so we tried again that evening. No luck. We had one more day to try again.
Wednesday morning found us up early and in a blind much closer to the path where we had seen deer the day before. The weather was a bit odd. The high temperature was just after sunrise and fell rapidly as we sat in the blind. As I donned a coat, then some gloves, I was really hoping we would see some deer. It didn't happen. Neither of us were ready to give up, so we decided to walk one of the trails.
We exited the blind (blue box) and starting walking up the trail right behind the blind. We didn't make it 10 yards before my son spotted a deer (red spot) about 50 yards away (red X). He raised his rifle and took the shot. Success!
We spent the rest of the morning retrieving the tractor, fetching the deer, then processing the deer. I thought I would end up doing most of the work, but my son grabbed the knives and did 90% of the work himself, from field dressing to butchering. I was surprised and extremely proud.
This was a much-needed break for me. Although we didn't get to do all the things we wanted to do (the plane was down for repairs), we did have a successful hunt and we both got our first deer. Best of all, we got a chance to spend time with my friend whom I hadn't seen since my mom's funeral. We had a great time just hanging out for a few days.
My son and I traveled home on Christmas Eve, but my wife and daughter were off visiting my in-laws, so my son and I spent Christmas without them for the first time. I'm looking forward to having everyone home for the rest of my vacation. We just have to wait for everyone's COVID tests to come back first. We should all be under the same roof again tomorrow. I can't wait!