By Scott Bestul
My dad shot his first archery buck yesterday. He is 78 years old. Dad started bowhunting back in the 1940’s, not long after the Badger State hosted the nation’s first whitetail bowhunting season of the modern era. I have the bow he used on those hunts—a wooden “self” bow with a leather grip—hanging in my office.
It would be tempting to think that a guy who takes over five decades to kill a buck is a poor hunter. That assumption would be wrong. Dad grew up in the Great Depression, a time when hunting was divided, simply, into one of two categories; a means of gathering meat, or a luxury you indulged. Pops fell into the latter camp. He loved deer hunting, but it was an activity that took backseat to the priorities of working, worshipping, caring for family, fixing things that were broken, and helping other people.
Categories Three and Five are where I came in. Dad introduced me to the outdoors hoping I’d love it as much as he did. My mother blames him for infecting me with the Camo-Flannel Virus. Dad gun hunted deer (successfully, I should add) every year with me, but the bowhunting bug I found on my own. When dad retired several years back, I willfully passed my dementia back to him. Ever since, he has had a simple, enviable goal; to kill a buck—any buck—with his bow.
I’m one of those men who long ago realized he can do almost nothing to return the many favors done for him by his father. He is simply a better man than I am in every respect that counts. But I can hang a decent tree stand, and on Tuesday afternoon, September 23, 2008, I put dad in the right one. We trailed, found, celebrated, dragged and butchered this buck together. I’m hoping we’ll repeat the performance for many seasons to come.