Life with Liz: The buck stopped here
Well, the list of things I never in a million years thought I’d do has grown longer by one: I went on my first successful deer hunt.
Of course, my presence was tolerated only because G is a few weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday. I never wanted to do it and will probably never do it again, but this one time sure made for a great memory.
One of the biggest regrets I have is that I never let the kids knock off school to go on a hunting trip with Steve. I also never, or almost never, let them miss another commitment to go on a hunt.
Occasionally they may have missed a practice, but never a meet or game where the team may have depended on them. “Priorities.” “Commitments.” “Team players.”
Although I take most of the blame, Steve did agree that commitments should be kept.
He occasionally expressed regret about not pursuing more extracurricular activities in his high school days, usually on days when the hunting wasn’t so good.
We did agree as parents that it was important for the kids to be in school and at the activities they signed up for, and we thought we’d have Steve’s retirement years and their adulthood to take the big hunting trips. We were wrong.
Even though winter sports started non-mandatory practices last week, I allowed G to skip so he could get out in the woods as much as possible.
I knew it would only be three or four days, and for a high school sophomore who just finished playing soccer and running cross country, I wasn’t worried about him falling out of shape. I knew that time in the woods was good for his mental health, and he needed that as much as gym time, maybe even more.
G had outgrown his old bow even before Steve died. Steve had talked about getting him a new one for that last Christmas, but the two of them were both lefties, and they couldn’t always just run out and pick something up at the store.
While I knew G’s old bow was way too small for him, I had no idea where to begin bow shopping, and he hadn’t been ready to answer a million questions from an overeager salesperson last year. He had a crossbow, but I could tell he was less than enthusiastic about using it, and really wanted to get out there with the compound bow.
The answer had been staring us right in the face. With a little adjustment, Steve’s bow was a perfect fit for him. Steve had also been talking about getting a new one, but I knew it had at least another season or two in it, and I knew it would mean the world to G to bring home a deer with it. But, he had to get out and put in the work on the range and get comfortable and confident with it.
Some days, he was a machine, and other days, there were excuses. I understood completely and let him go at his own pace.
For the last week, G raced out of school as fast as he could, jumped in the car, we sped home, and out to the woods we went.
I had no idea how many different stands Steve had set up around our property. G, however, was an expert on all of them. He could tell me all the deer he’d shot out of each one, or which ones Dad had shot.
Then, there were the stories of all the deer that had been missed.
There were stories from when A was still hunting, stories about stories Dad had told him. It became clear to me that even though he’d only had a few short years hunting with his dad, he’d made a lifetime of memories.
Part of it was due to Steve’s extraordinary storytelling abilities, which I now know have been passed down to the next generation, and part of it was that despite making him go to school and practices and games, Steve had still managed to get him out in the woods every minute that they had available.
Finally, on the third day, he had his shot, and he took it. When you take a deer down with the bow, there’s a whole process to go through. Let’s just say, it’s not quite as quick as when you dispatch them with a bullet. We had to wait a little while to go looking for it. During that time, I thought G was going to jump out of his skin. He reminded me so much of the calls I would get from Steve when he was killing time waiting to go looking for his downed deer. Even though I’d witnessed it, I had to hear about it about seven times before he thought it was time to go look for it.
By that time, it was also dark. Dinner had to be made, E needed help with her homework, and I really thought he didn’t need me for this part of it. (OK, maybe I was also getting squeamish.) “Aw Mom, this is the fun part,” he said. I thought that was highly unlikely, but how often does a 15-year-old want his mom to do something “fun.” “OK, G, tell me what to do,” I said.
He carefully explained how to look for the blood trail, and how to be careful not to disturb the area as we searched. I have to say, I was pretty proud to be the one who picked up the trail first, and yeah, maybe it was even a little fun.
Before I knew it, my heart was pounding in my chest, as we were clearly getting closer to it. Sure enough, his aim had been true, and he brought home a nice 7-pointer.
It soon became clear I was there in another capacity, as he posed himself with the buck and said, “Mom, take the picture.”
That smile made it all worth it.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News.