Twenty Minutes Changes Everything
The shot rang out on the range. His eyes looked up at me as if I’d stolen the last Birthday Cake Oreo. It was one of those looks a father gets when his kid is both shocked and dumbfounded. He didn't expect the loud boom of the gun, but after I yelled, "HIT,” he accepted the outcome with open arms. For a dad, I’m not sure who is more excited about a child’s first deer hunt? As I type this, it's clear this was his show, and I was just along for the ride.
This was the first time my oldest had shot his T/C Venture Compact. I selected the Compact for him because the fit is excellent, and the 22-250 is one of my favorite calibers for deer. The only optic I had for the gun was an old Bushnell Elite Tactical that didn’t have a rifle match. It’s your standard 3X12 optic, but he loves it because of the cool CERAKOTE finish.
I could tell he was a bit nervous before pulling the trigger, so we took 10 dry-fired shots to get him comfortable with the trigger. I've had him working on his trigger pull far before this, but this was on the range, and I wanted him to be comfortable.
As he pressed the trigger, I was saying a few prayers that he would just hit the target. I glassed the target at 50 yards when he connected, just left of center. He continued the range session with his 22-250 by putting four more shots in the 10 ring at 100 yards.
We've had countless discussions on his readiness to hunt deer and what it means to kill a living animal. He understood, and he was ready. Hell, I was prepared to have him in a blind with me. After we finished shooting the T/C, I asked him one last time if he was positive he'd be ready for the youth opener. His eyes beamed while he assured me this was his year to shoot a deer. That was enough for me—the boy was ready.
Hunting back in Oklahoma is no easy task. The long truck ride back to the happy hunting grounds takes roughly 22 hours round trip. The plan was to escape for the youth weekend and turn around and head back home. Well, the trip down was great, but on the way out, a flat tire seemed to spell doom for the journey. Instead of getting bent out-of-shape about the delay, we turned it into a lesson on changing tires. I'm sure he couldn't tell I was a nervous wreck, thinking this hunt wasn’t going as planned.
Once the boy and I got to the hunting spot, we set up the blind in a tucked-away corner in the middle of a big mesquite patch. This particular spot is surrounded by food, so catching a deer slip through on the way to grub was the idea. Ten minutes went by, and three doe showed. So, I was thinking this was working out better than expected. I'd thought about every detail of the trip.
I’d meticulously planned, in my head, to have a squadron of does come through, followed by a group of young bucks, then a couple solid bucks, ending with a giant deer presenting a perfect broadside shot. You know, standard stuff during the early stages of the pre-rut.
Right on cue, the does came in, but what happened next floored me, and I wasn't ready. Out of nowhere, a great buck came out into the open. My son was as cool as he could be while I panicked. I rushed him to the gun as the buck stood 60-yards away broadside. Shoot him. YOU ARE GOING TO SHOOT THIS DEER! He froze. "Dad, I want my ear muffs." If it were anyone else, my eyes would have rolled back in my head. I complied and placed the muffs on his ears. He calmly got back down on the gun, took the safety off, and pressed the trigger.
The deer didn’t move an inch. He fell right where he stood, a perfect shot. He made it look so easy I began to question why I got so worked up before the shot. He literally took what we practiced at the range and applied it in the field.
From that point, the rest of the trip was about education. The first lesson was that 20-minute hunts are NOT the norm. However, he was awfully proud to know I'd never done that before, harvesting a deer within 20 minutes. That's a big deal to him.
You see, my son doesn’t always exude confidence and bravado. He's quiet, smart, funny, and all serious business. He's compassionate and strives to make his mark by caring for others. Rarely does he boast about his accomplishments. His demeanor changed that day. I spoke to him about how proud I was that he had provided food for our family. He walked a little taller, knowing that he was a provider.
In his mind, he continued to do what he does best, care for people. I pray he never loses that. He also wasn’t shy about telling folks he bagged his first buck in 20 minutes. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.