By: Tom Lounsbury.
There is no question that the future of hunting relies on introducing (and mentoring – preferably one on one) kids to this wonderful outdoor pastime. It is the key reason I am a Hunter Education Instructor. I’ve always believed if you are going to talk the talk, you better be able to walk the walk.
This also relates to why I fully support the special youth hunts as well as lowering (actually removing) the age requirement. I truly appreciate the Mentor Hunting license that allows kids age nine and under to go hunting (per adult supervision) and the Apprentice License (for age ten and older- also per proper supervision) as well.
My three sons are grown now and with families of their own. All three are avid hunters, and it is a pastime that I never forced upon them (although taking a Hunter Education class was a mandatory requirement under my roof, whether or not they ever went hunting). To actually go hunting was a decision that they had to make for themselves and I would have been supportive either way. Before I ever mentored them in the field, I needed to see an actual desire on their part to be there and participate. It is what I call having the right attitude.
I tend to be by nature a “loner”, especially when it comes to deer hunting, a pastime I’m quite passionate about, and I’m a bit picky about who I share the field with. Half-hearted attitudes don’t bode well with me at all, and admittedly, I’m set in my ways.
That is why when 14 year old Kyle Schneeberger of Cass City approached me at a church picnic, looked me in the eye and let me know he wanted to go deer hunting, it was a no-brainer on my part. I shook Kyle’s hand and told him it was a done deal and we would for a fact go deer hunting together during the Liberty Hunt.
Kyle would put in some shooting practice with me beforehand which entailed a whole bunch of plinking with a Daisy BB Gun, followed by more plinking with my scoped Gamo air rifle. He would then be introduced to the hunting arm he’d be using. My son Jake had loaned Kyle the use of his scoped H&R “Ultra Slug” 20 ga (rifled barrel) shotgun that is clearly an ideal and very effective deer hunting piece with a minimum of recoil, especially since it has even been ported (by Mag-Na-Port) to further control recoil. Kyle enjoyed shooting the H&R (with Lightfield slugs) on my shooting range and I could sense he felt confident and comfortable with it, which says a lot towards success in the field. We were ready to go.
Since last year the Liberty Hunt also combines the early antlerless season at the same time. I won’t hesitate to put a plump doe in the freezer, but when I have a kid under my wing during this early hunt, I leave my hunting arm behind and the only things I carry in the field are a binocular, deer call and a field-dressing kit. My entire focus is on the kid and my main role is to be a guide, the spotter for shots to be taken, and muscle to get the deer out of the field if one is harvested.
The opening morning offered a beautiful sunrise, but due to the balmy temperature, I didn’t expect much deer action, which there wasn’t with the deer in my neck of the woods lying low relatively early. Kyle and I did have a doe move in close to us, but a bush blocked any clear shot and the deer finally sensed our presence and made good her escape. Then I saw a wall of rain featuring lightning bolts coming our way from the south and I let Kyle know that we needed to back off and rest up for the evening hunt.
That evening found us in another location that I felt just might work if we watched our approach to the old wooden deer blind we were going to use. I also selected this blind because I was pretty sure we were going to have to weather out a nasty rainstorm I sensed was imminent. Not long after we were in position, the storm hit with a vengeance and I became aware that the blind’s roof needed some repairs, but leaky roof aside, it was better than sitting out in the open and Kyle was clearly game for patiently waiting everything out. Snacks are always a great idea in most hunting adventures, but seemed essential during this down time. I especially like jerky or something similar. When available I choose Michigan Brand jerky. They have many outlet stores and all of their snacks can be purchased online (MichiganBrand.net). Simply put, I trust their ingredients and their ‘stuff’ is delicious.
When the storm subsided and the wind died down, I let out a social deer bleat and immediately got a response. I whispered to Kyle that the noise wasn’t coming from a frog, and that is when I saw an antlered buck’s head about 80 yards away through a hole in the brush, moving its head around and gazing about. I then switched to social (“hello buddy – I’m over here”) subtle buck grunts, then quit calling and whispered to Kyle to be ready. At the beginning I had told him he could shoot any deer he wished, so when matters happened, touching the trigger was entirely up to him, and the limit was only one deer during this special season.
Not one, but two bucks suddenly materialized out of the cover and were headed our way, and on an angle that would offer a good shot. The deer were walking in tandem with a 6-point in the rear and a dandy 8-point in the lead and I let Kyle know the lead deer was a real nice one. Kyle immediately braced his gun on the window sill and got ready. The lead buck reached an open spot about 35 yards away and I let out a subtle deer bleat from my throat that caused the buck to stop and offer a perfectly broadside shot, and I whispered “shoot” to Kyle.
I was looking at the buck directly over Kyle’s shoulder when he fired and I could tell it was a beautiful shoulder hit. The 8-point reared slightly at the slug’s impact and dropped from sight. The 6-point stood stock still in utter confusion, and then moved forward to see what was up with his buddy, the 8-point. After sniffing a bit and still confused, the 6-point finally boogied out of there.
I high-fived Kyle and let him know he had just put a nice buck down in its tracks, but that we would have to play it safe for a few minutes and just sit still. I’m pretty sure I was languishing just as much as Kyle, because I was a bit excited myself, but I hate pressing matters, even though I was certain the deer was down for the count. Whitetails can be tenacious critters.
We then went out and located Kyle’s buck, which was lying dead right where we expected. There is little doubt Kyle Schneeberger is now an avid deer hunter, and that works for me.