A Lost Son and A Cherished Memory

By Rick Bampton

Deer season started like every other one. I would let everything small go by in hopes of shooting that trophy buck. As opening morning would progress, I would see several does and small bucks. By mid-afternoon, after hearing shots all morning, my impatience would get the best of me, and I would end up shooting a mediocre buck at best. This year was no exception.

Because I shot my deer on opening morning and had to travel most of that next week, I decided to take my 8-year-old son when I got back from my trip. I got home Thursday and talked my wife into allowing me to take Dan out of school on Friday to try to get him his first deer. The forecast for the weather was perfect: cold, still and clear. That Friday morning, Dan and I headed out to the woods. We got there early, and just as predicted, the weather was perfect. Well, at least for me it was. Within 20 minutes of sitting in the woods waiting for the sun to appear, Dan looked up and whispered he was getting cold. I told him the deer would be in the woods today and to try to hang tight, which he agreed to do — for about another 10 minutes. He again looked up and said he was getting cold. Rather than fight this, I decided it was his hunt, and if he wanted to go up to our condo stand, that’s what we would do. So, about 7:30 a.m., we walked through the woods to the
open field where the condo stand was.

I have to admit, it felt good inside the stand as the sun was shining through the window. As we sat in the stand, I actually fell asleep, which I never do. But, I figured we wouldn’t see anything in the open field, and had my sights set on the afternoon hunt. Around 9 a.m., I woke up to the sound of Dan saying there was a deer running across the field. I looked up to see a doe running within 10 yards of our stand. I told Dan to get ready, because it looked like the doe was being chased. Well, 15 minutes went by and we didn’t see anything else. My hopes were quickly sinking.

Then as I looked in the Imperial Whitetail Clover field to my left, I noticed a big buck coming up over the pond dam and walking down to the water to drink. I anxiously told Dan to look all the way to the left by the pond and asked him if he wanted to try to shoot him. At first he said no, worried that he might miss. But then he quickly changed his mind and grabbed the .270 to take a shot. As the deer stood there drinking, I told Dan to get set and shoot when he was ready. It seemed like forever, but then the shot rang out, and the deer fell in its tracks.

I cannot describe the excitement displayed by Dan when he saw the deer drop. After he settled down some, and we were sure the deer wasn’t going to get up, we climbed down and walked over to see him. It was then that I realized it was the deer we had been seeing for the past two years. The first year he was a nice 8-pointer. The next year he was a big 10-pointer, and now he was a heavy main-frame 11-point buck with a sticker to make him 12 points.

We had coined this deer the “Ghost” because with only two exceptions, the only reason we knew he was around was because of the few pictures we would get on our trail cams a couple of times during a three-week period in October each year. The current year was an exception because we did not get any pictures of him. I thought he might have fallen victim to blue tongue disease, which had stricken so many deer in our area. In the end, what I thought would be a normal day with father and son spending the day together in the woods
actually turned out to be one of my most cherished memories of Dan that would last a lifetime.

This was Dan’s first and only deer. My little Dan was killed in a car accident in August, 2009. He will be missed terribly. Take your kids hunting, and cherish your time together. You never know if it will be your last.