The Measure of Success
asked Ryan why he didn't shoot. A tear began to well up in his eye. He told me he didn't feel comfortable with his aim and that he was afraid his shot would not cleanly kill the deer.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he said.
I reassured Ryan that he had done the right thing and that he had no reason to be sorry. He had made a conscious decision not to take a shot because he didn't feel ready for it. I told him I was very proud of his decision because it showed respect for the game he pursued.
We continued our hunt and saw more deer, but we didn't get another chance to shoot. Later, a small 6-pointer walked up on us. He was very curious and put on a good show. We opted to let this small buck grow and discussed the importance of harvesting does to help balance and stabilize the deer population.
Ryan continued to talk about the big buck and how he wished that he could have taken the shot. I tried to convince him that he had made the right decision and that he would have many more days of deer hunting. I explained that, with more shooting practice, he would gain more confidence in his marksmanship. He thanked me for taking him deer hunting and told me that he was really having a good time.
The day had provided a wonderful experience for my son and me. I wished that Ryan could have taken the buck, but Ryan had shown a surprising amount of maturity for his age. Being a Conservation Agent, I know that lots of adult hunters would shoot at a moving deer without giving any thought to the possibility of injuring the deer and never recovering it.
The Youth Hunting seasons were introduced by the Department of Conservation to help introduce kids to hunting. They provide an opportunity for adults to spend quality time with kids and to teach them how to make good decisions when it comes to taking wildlife.
Ryan probably experienced a kind of buck fever, but he didn't let it cloud his judgement. He had shown respect for wildlife by letting the deer pass to wait for another opportunity when he would be ready to make his shot count. I was proud of the decision Ryan had made and feel confident that he is well on his way to becoming a responsible and ethical hunter.
Ryan and I have gone camping, canoeing, fishing, shooting and hunting squirrels, but the time we spent together during the 2003 Youth Firearms Deer Season was one of our most successful outings.
I couldn't have imagined the measure of success of our hunt together that day. We spent quality time together. We strengthened the bond between a father and his son. We enjoyed the blessings of the many natural resource treasures that Missouri has to offer, and we learned more about each other. We didn't obtain venison for the freezer or antlers to hang on the wall, but we did come home with a good feeling of why we hunt. We were successful beyond measure.