The Measure of Success
Since the birth of my son Ryan, I have dreamed of the two of us hunting together. I started tutoring Ryan on safe shooting skills once he reached his eighth birthday. Ryan quickly developed good shooting skills practicing with a lever-action, .22-caliber rifle with open sights.
Once he became proficient with that rifle, I allowed Ryan to shoot a scoped, .243-caliber, bolt-action rifle. The rifle is a Ruger Model 77 and was the first bolt-action rifle that I had purchased on my own. Now it is Ryan's first deer rifle.
Ryan could operate and shoot that heavier gun, but he needed sandbags or shooting sticks to support the forearm of the rifle. Ryan enjoyed shooting, and in the summer of 2003, he began begging me to take him deer hunting during the upcoming 2003 Youth Firearms Deer Season. I agreed.
The night before the two-day season opened, I recognized the enthusiasm and excitement in my son that I had many times experienced. It reminded me of my childhood when I would lay out all my hunting clothes the night before a quail hunt with my father. I never got a good night's sleep before any of those hunts.
When my alarm sounded, I went to Ryan's room to wake him. I had barely turned the doorknob when I heard him ask, "Is it time to go, Dad?"
As we donned our hunting clothes, I told Ryan how dressing in layers would keep him warm. I went to the kitchen and began to make a pot of coffee.
"Dad, can you make me a cup of coffee?" he asked.
"Don't you mean a cup of hot chocolate?" I replied.
Ryan nodded. I guessed he just wanted to do what his dad does.
It was a long drive to the property on which I had received permission to take Ryan hunting. He sat silently, drinking his hot chocolate. I couldn't help but think about what must have been running through his mind. He was probably picturing the same hatrack bucks that I was seeing. Hunting together reduces the age difference between men and their sons.
We arrived at the property well before daylight and began walking, but heavy rain forced us to seek shelter in one of the landowner's outbuildings. The rain broke at daybreak, and we continued on to our hunting spot. On the way, I told him the proper ways to