You can say that Joe got this deer in two places: the squirrel woods and the living room. Hunting bushytails taught him how to stay quiet and hidden, move slowly, and watch and listen for game. It also gave us an opportunity to look for deer sign and figure out where we should hunt on the youth day.

Additionally, in the months before the hunt, we’d take advantage of any spare moments to get him comfortable with the slug gun (New Jersey is a shotgun-only state). He’d work the action, sight on various objects, and dry-fire while kneeling, squatting, and standing. The gun was sighted in, but he really gained confidence in it by handling it at home on Sunday afternoons.

So when youth day came, he was ready. We got to our brush blind in the dark, and a few hours later, the buck came up a ridge along his scrape line. Joe shot it in the lungs when it paused about 40 yards away. After a short and efficient tracking job, the deer was his.

It was an emotional moment for me. You only get your first deer once, and I consider myself lucky and fortunate to have witnessed his experience. I slapped his back hard a few times when we came up on that buck lying in the early morning sunlight, because I really couldn’t say anything for a few moments. His smile in the photo tells you all you need to know about his reaction.

Incidentally, we were hunting public land–the southern section of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, land that was originally earmarked to be flooded by a giant Army Corps of Engineers dam project (and the plan has never been officially killed). I’ve been hunting this land since I was a kid, and it was gratifying to see my son get a buck from my old grounds.

BuckTracker Details
Date: Nov. 17
Location: Warren County, NJ
Points: 3
Weapon: Ithaca DeerSlayer II 12 gauge with Lightfield slugs
Distance: 40 yards
Method: Ground blind