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For this hunter,the most important forked-horn I have known

After a long hiatus, I have finally found the time to bring back the outdoor column. So, with the help of Darryl Swan, editor of the Spotlight, we have decided to bring the column back on a monthly basis.

This year, I decided to really test my hunting skills — and patience — and mentor a 9-year-old, first-time hunter: Mason. I must admit it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, but it was also super-rewarding. The chance to see the adventure of hunting through a young hunter’s eyes is something everyone should experience.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED - Marty LiesegangThe hunt started weeks in advance, with planning, packing and, of course, about a million questions. When the scheduled hunt day had finally arrived and school was over, it was time to make the 4.5-hour drive to La Grande. Arriving late, we had a quick dinner, unpacked and made a rough plan for the morning hunt. Mason awoke way too early opening morning, and additional questions came at me fast as we dressed. You could actually feel his excitement.

We started the morning with doughnuts and coffee, and like any normal kid he snuck some extras while we glassed the hillside behind my uncle’s house. As the sky brightened, we moved out to the orchard and Mason spotted the first deer, a small herd of does with a forked-horn trailing. Much to his disappointment, they stayed on the neighbor’s property, where there was no hunting allowed.

We then loaded up and headed to a big steep draw that usually holds deer. We were not disappointed again. In five hours of hiking, we had seen about 30 deer, with at least eight being bucks. One really nice mature four-point eluded us twice. As I said, it was harder than I had anticipated. I found myself constantly saying things like, “Quiet,” or, “Pick up your feet, there are deer ahead.”

It was strange how I sounded just like my dad so many years ago.

We made it back to the house for lunch and a check-in phone call that included Mason relating to his mom that I had made him hike up “Mt. Hood,” though we were a long way from any mountain. We hung around the house for a bit, helping skin a buck or two other hunters had brought in. It a was a perfect opportunity to teach field dressing and meat care, and how important these things are to preserve the quality of the meat.

I did, however, sense a little disappointment in Mason that we didn’t have our own buck, but that faded as we planned the evening hunt.

After the morning’s excursion, easier terrain seemed like just the thing for the evening. We navigated toward some of my uncle’s agricultural fields, which had a large creek winding through them. Right away we spotted does, a group here, a single there. As the evening progressed, more and more deer came out. We sat and waited, patiently for the most part, and — finally — a buck walked out from behind some does.

As I sat looking through the scope, the buck moved closer and closer, until he was less than 100 yards away. I quietly asked Mason if he would like to try to shoot it: “Yes,” he excitedly replied.

He scooted in behind the 7 Mag, which was resting on shooting sticks. As he looked through the scope, he kept saying, “I see him, I see him!” I watched through my binoculars and kept Mason updated on which one was the buck.

“He is the one on the right. Now in the middle,” I said.

“I see him,” Mason replied.

“Not yet,” I said. “He isn’t broadside ... no. Wait. Wait.”

The buck walked at an angle, getting closer all the time. He stopped, all alone, and began to feed.

“OK, now he’s broadside with his head down,” I said.

Bang!

The roar of the rifle was deafening as the report rolled across the silent wheat field.

This was a hunting trip I will always remember. It was a great, positive experience for everyone involved, and another hunter was created that day. In fact, in my eyes, it was definitely the most important forked-horn I have ever been around. I strongly encourage other hunters to check the regulations for the mentor program and get a young hunter involved this season. You will be glad you did.

Season updates

Duck season is nearing the end, but hunting should be sporadic from now through the end of the season. Eastside on Sauvie Island has been putting up the best numbers. Also, the lower river is always a good bet if you have a boat. Don’t forget to mark your calendar. The Oregon Hunters Association dinner is Feb. 28 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

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