A Morning to Remember
Today my 13-year-old son, Michael, sits in a tree stand one draw over, eagerly awaiting dawn to bring light to his first bowhunt. In these hills and valleys my son will have the opportunity, as did I, to learn of the hunt and nature's ways.
Michael has hunted small game. Yet in hunting deer Michael is a young man pursuing an adult sport. I am reminded of this fact often. But I know Michael is ready. I began teaching him hunter safety and shooting skills when he was in first grade through backyard work with a BB gun. Later, carrying that BB gun, he accompanied me on small game hunts, shooting an occasional tin can and practicing the hunters' most important rule: always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
By fourth grade I bought Michael his first shotgun, a single-shot 20-gauge. Hunting under my careful supervision, he brought home doves, quail, squirrels and finally the question: "Dad, when can I go turkey hunting with you?"
I hesitated. Turkey hunting is a tough sport, requiring loads of patience and the ability to sit still. But I decided to let Michael try, and he succeeded, tagging three turkeys before he turned 13.
His successes, coupled with an interest in Indian lore, led Michael to bowhunting. With lawn-mowing money, Michael bought a bow, and with disciplined practice he developed and honed archery skills. By September he was ready, consistently grouping arrows out to 15 yards. Anticipation for October and the hunt ran high - for both of us.
These thoughts were with me as I waited for first light. They're warm thoughts, thoughts of things done right. But my mind also ponders the hunt. My efforts to kill a deer are serious.
I can now make out the stark shadows of trees. Dawn is arriving, but fog and an overcast sky mute the light. I strain to listen, hoping to hear the clatter of hooves against gravel as deer cross the creek - but another sound breaks the silence.
Directly behind me and in the direction of Michael, something falls. Thoughts of the hunt turn to parental concern. Could Michael have slipped and fallen from his stand? No, I reason. I stood under his stand this morning while be climbed up and had remained there while he fastened himself in with his safety belt.
My mind races. Could Michael have dropped his bow? No. The sound was too loud. Could a