The phone call came just after dark one evening. The voice on the other end was a familiar one saying he had a little boy that wanted to tell me something. It was the special Kansas youth Deer season and I knew what was coming. A few seconds later I heard the excited voice of my seven year old great nephew, Gryffin telling me he had just taken his very first buck. He went on telling me how big he was, how far away he was, what gun he used and then dropped the bomb. “Uncle Kelly we can’t find it”. With that his dad picked up the phone and asked if I could come and help, I told him I would be right there.
I turned to my wife, Linnet and told her I needed to go help Josh and Gryffin find a Deer. Like I needed to tell her anything, I was probably grinning and jumping around like a puppy while I pulled my boots on. They live only about seven miles from us so I made the trip in no time. Pulling up in the driveway I found a smiling kid standing next to his dad who was also grinning from ear to ear. After a quick story about where they were hunting, the shotgun slug and the miss on the first shot I found out the deer was in the weeds and boy howdy did he mean weeds.
They had been hunting from an elevated stand less than a mile from home when the big eight pointer made his way into the clearing. Gryffin raised his weapon, a 20 gauge slug gun and fired. The gun bucked but the deer just looked around. He tried it again and down the buck went and…into the eight foot tall horseweeds, about twenty acres of them if my memory serves.
So now here we were standing where the deer had stood trying to size up the task ahead of us. Did I mention it was pitch black now? Fortunately Gryffin’s dad, Josh is a real outdoorsman and he owns a dog, not just any dog mind you but the kind of dog a real outdoorsman should own. One that retrieves ducks finds downed quail, sleeps on the bed and oh yes, she is an accomplished deer retriever too, with a few deer already under her belt, so to speak.
This story is one of triumph over adversity as Gryffin’s older brother had gone to be with Jesus about six months earlier at the tender age of eight. Very few can understand what this family has been through and are still feeling. This short respite called deer hunting was just one of the things they really needed, to laugh and smile and slap each other on the back and tell stories if just for a night in order to fill that vast emptiness inside.
And we did just that. Ella, a Black Lab found the Deer in short order, in the creek and we began the task of hauling him up the creek bank and pushing over the impenetrable forest of horseweeds to walk on top of them while dragging a two-hundred plus pound eight point Whitetail Buck, what a beast. Did I mention it was still eighty-five degrees outside?
We wrestled that bruiser over the weed field and into my new and as yet un-bloodied truck. Fortunately the tailgate sits as high as the top of the fence and we slid the bed mat over the barbed wire. We were sweating in tall horseweeds now. Taking that deer back to the house was one of my prouder moments in life. I counted myself lucky to have been called to come and help.
Gryffin showed his deer to his mom and younger brother and sister and then Grandma and Grandpa showed up and it started all over again and he did not forget to tell them about the weeds and how hot it was and about standing in the middle of the creek in darkness because Uncle Kelly forgot to bring a flashlight.
As any seasoned hunter knows there are duties to perform after the harvesting of a big game animal and this was no exception. I felt blessed to stand back and watch as a proud daddy showed his son the how to’s of field dressing and skinning, which he thought was gross. We wrestled the Buck to where we could weigh him and he pegged the scales at two-hundred pounds even. My lower back had picked that number hours earlier.
There was much joy in my just watching these things progress as it reminded me of similar times had when I was a boy. My big brother Keith’s first deer and how we processed it in the back yard. My Grandpa “pappy” and his first and I believe only deer in the same backyard. I thought back to my first one and then the many times my dad took us out hunting, fishing and camping. The night we put a cold hot dog in Mom’s sleeping bag and how she screamed, even though she was on to us from the get go. That trip was the only time I can remember seeing my Grandma “Pansy” .
There is a point in about every circumstance where one no longer feels needed or is unable to add to the festivities. That time came for me that night and I really did not mind it at all. I got to be part of a family deer hunt and recovery and the celebration that followed. I took photographs and hugged kids, petted dogs and shooed chickens. My experience was complete and I went home happy.