The time has come to quit worrying about where and how many chukars are out there. I’ll soon be out there chasing turkeys with my grandson and looking for sheds with Barb and the dogs. I won’t have a lot to talk about for a few months as far as chukars go, so I’ll have to resort to posting a memorable story or two. This is about my dad.
Dad didn’t get much hunting in while mom and he were responsible for raising me and my seven brothers and sisters. Obviously, he had to work a bunch to support us. The only hunts he ever got on before his retirement were short deer hunts down in the Owyhee’s on either sex hunts and he shot two yearlings which tickled him to death. His rifle was the 30.06 he had from the days he served in the Air Force.
Twenty years ago, dad asked me if I’d take him on a deer hunt. He was 81 years old and I figured with my brother Tom’s help, we could make it happen. So early one morning Tom brought dad to the house and we proceeded to drive to one of my favorite hunting areas. I had taken several youth’s hunting in this area over the past and always had success.
As we got near the end of the road I realized this trip was going to be a little more difficult than I thought. The two track road was steep and dad thought we should stop and walk because he thought we might roll the truck. I’d been up this trail many times but dad had never even been in a four wheel drive truck and had concerns. This hunt was about dad, so I backed to a level spot and parked. As I got out of the truck dad asked if we could wait a little longer because it was too dark and he wanted to see the trail and not be falling on rocks.
I realized right then that taking your dad hunting is more difficult than taking a thirteen year old. You can help a young man with his confidence, but your dad knows better than you so just listen.
The plan was for Tom to cover country and move some animals while I walked dad up the mountains and looked for a buck to shoot. Tom left to get on the ridges above us and 30 minutes later dad and I started up the hill. Knowing dad hadn’t hiked the hills much and most of this country was fairly steep, I made sure to take it slow. I was amazed how well he did on the mountain. In the first half mile we walked the two track road to it’s end and dad pulled an apple out of his pocket and took a bite. About that time I saw a four point standing looking at us.
“Dad, there’s a buck” I whispered. “Where?” he said rather loudly. He got to see the buck hopping over to the next canyon. I had to remind myself that he is my dad and I can’t tell him to keep his voice down, even though I had heard it several times over the years from him. Further up the hill we headed. We got about three hundred yards up the hill when dad realized he had dropped his apple. I could tell it was important not to let the apple waste, so I told him to take a break while I went down to retrieve his apple. Meanwhile, Tom was doing his job and I was seeing plenty of deer movement. We had walkie talkies so we were communicating back and forth. He told me there were four does and a buck just up the ridge from us.
I didn’t say a word to dad but started him back up the ridge in a calm matter. I finally saw the deer and calmly asked dad to squat down and pointed out the deer. He was very cool about it this time and brought the rifle up to his shoulder. About thirty seconds later he exclaims “how the hell do you see through this thing”. I hadn’t thought about it, but dad had always shot open sights and had never even used a scope. As I mentioned earlier, a thirteen year old would have been easier to teach than my own dad. As the deer slowly walked off, I tried to tutor him through scope lessons. A thirteen year old would have enthusiastically listened but dad kept looking at me like “what do you think I am, stupid or something”. So I communicated to Tom that dad and I would be spending a half an hour practicing with the scope.
Off we started around the ridge and came upon a doe and a yearling, where I had dad practice with eye relief on the deer with an unchambered rifle. He had it figured out but needed to put the rifle on something steady to make it work. On we go. Pretty soon we come on a three point buck with five does. Of course the buck is right in the middle of the does. Dad finds a fairly stable bush to rest on and gets the deer in the sights. “Dad, don’t shoot that buck until he clears the other deer”. “Why?” “This is bucks only and you don’t want to hit one of those does”. “That’s a a stupid rule” he says. I was glad I hadn’t chambered a round yet. The buck finally cleared, but dad was never steady enough to get the shot before they moved out of sight.
Tom radioed me wondering what was going on and I quietly told him this wasn’t going to happen. We needed something about three feet high for dad to rest the rifle on and a buck to stand still for about five minutes for dad to get a shot. He told me of a big rock around the hill and a buck standing down below. With a lot of doubt I headed that way. I found the rock and the buck but also saw two does standing in the same area. I had dad lean over the rock and practice scoping the does. After I was confident that he was solid I told him about the buck and to chamber a round.
He very calmly chambered the shell and aimed at the buck. I covered my ears and waited for the shot. Suddenly dad looked back at me with discuss. “Where the hell is the safety on this gun?” I told him not to move and reached over him and took the safety off. Seconds later at the report of the rifle the buck lunged forward and died with a perfect shot to the heart. I could hear Tom yelling from high up the ridge. I patted dad on the back and when he turned around I tried to give him a high five.
To my surprise he ducked as I swung my open hand towards him. I tried a second time to give him five with the same result. I realized that he had no idea what giving five was. I extended my hand and he shook it like men do. It was a proud moment for the three of us. Tom joined us in walking down to dad’s trophy. We took some pictures and celebrated with a beer before taking care of the animal and heading home. A day I’ll never forget.
Dad lived for 7 more years and we had several conversations about that day.
Miss you, dad.