Elijah's Youth Hunt, A Shared Experience

By: Josh Christensen

September 17th marked the first day of the youth hunt in Michigan. I, like many fathers, took my son out into the woods in search of a deer. When I woke up at 5:30 I check my deer barometer to see that the deer should be moving. I then checked the temperature which read 63 degrees, not ideal but is what we had to work with. 

I woke my son, Elijah, around 5:50 and let him know he had about ten minutes to get dressed before heading out to our blind. We had discussed the night before that he would eat his breakfast in the blind, so he could get as much sleep as possible. By 6:00 we were both ready to head out to the blind, the only problem was the skies opened up and it was raining. So many things raced through my mind at that moment…do I grab an umbrella, do we go back to sleep and go out in the afternoon, was the reading on the barometer high enough for us to get considerably wet walking out to the blind, will the rain stop soon…so many things. 

Ultimately we decided to walk out to the blind. From our house to the blind we would need to walk through our field that had a small cornfield, a small Christmas tree farm, and a freshly tilled area that was recently planted with purple topped turnips. We walked through our yard and were almost to the small Christmas tree farm when Elijah was able to hear his first deer whistle. You know the one, it alarms all the deer that something is there that shouldn’t be. Elijah quietly asked “What was that?” Then we heard it one more time as we advanced past the Christmas trees and to the two track that would lead us closer to our blind. 

Once in the blind we closed all the windows and unpacked our backpack to get ready for our hunt. I explained to Elijah he had just heard a deer whistle and what deer use it for. I also let him know the rain probably covered up most of the sound and we should still hopefully be alright to hunt. This all took about fifteen minutes and at 6:15 we still had about 45 minutes before shooting light. So we kept the windows closed for another twenty minutes so Elijah could play on his electronic device and his dad could play on his phone. 

Around 6:45ish we opened the windows and waited. Once it started to get light we saw a few squirrels and one deer. Later in the morning we saw a group of five female turkeys. One of which had a small thin beard about six inches long. 

At 7:30 I radioed to the house and asked my wife if any deer where in the field behind the house, i.e. between her and us. The reason I asked was we had been seeing deer in the field around that time and then around 8:00 they would show up on one of the trail cams near the blind we were sitting in. She radioed back to let me know she could see only see one deer and it was bedded down in the field. 

By 8:30 Elijah was ready to go back to the house, but it was still raining so I told him when it stops raining we would go in and if it didn’t stop raining by 9:00 we would walk back in the rain; our clothes were still wet from the walk out to the blind. Well 9:00 rolled around and it was still raining so we got packed up and started walking back to the house. As we began to exit the woods along the two-track I spied something in the field between the Christmas trees and the wood line that wasn’t usually there. We stopped and I glassed the object to find it was a doe bedded in the field looking into the woods/ swampy area. 

A plan was hatched at that moment; Elijah and I would back track down the two-track and follow it around this portion of woods to the other place where it entered the field. Coming out the other end of the two-track would keep us from being spotted by the deer because the cornfield would be between us, concealing our movements. My thought was if we could sneak to the edge of the cornfield and work our way to the end of it Elijah might get the opportunity to make a shot on the deer. 

We quietly walked the two-track back past the blind we sat in all morning and continued along the track. Somewhere along the track Elijah asked, “Will I have to stand to make the shot or will I lay down?” I explained I would sit down in front of him and rest the rifle on my shoulder while he knelt behind me to make the shot. We stopped to practice a few times (this isn’t a shot I thought my ten year old would be taking so I hadn’t had him practice a shot from that position). I also went over shot placement again and if she was still facing quartering away I would want him to make a shot that would go out her back shoulder. We also grabbed our ear muffs and placed them on our heads, but not over our ears yet. 

As we walked the trail we passed our little pond that had fifteen or so wood ducks that took off in the direction of the field where the doe lay down. I thought that might be bad if they somehow alarmed the deer, but there was nothing we could do about it now so we continued on. 

Once at the edge of the field I couldn’t see the deer and wondered if she had left the field after seeing a small flock of wood ducks fly over. But within a second I knew she was still there. The rain stopped and almost instantaneously the deer stood and looked around. Elijah and I froze. I could see her head over the corn. We were at a much higher angle than I thought we would be, which would come into play later in our hunt. She scanned the field and then went back to eating from the tall grass around her. 

I instructed Elijah to stay low and follow me. As we duck walked toward the corn field I thought how awesome of an experience this was for not only my ten year old son, but for me also. Once we reached the corn I could barely see through the stalks to where the deer was, but I could see her and if she looked in our direction she could see something behind the cornfield, which is exactly what she did. I thought the stalk was over for sure, but she didn’t run away. In fact, she took a step towards us. I’m guessing she was waiting in the field for other deer to show up and she could see something was on the other side of the cornfield, but wasn’t sure what. 

She went back to eating a little bit and Elijah and I slipped on our ear muffs and slowly eased ourselves towards the corner of the cornfield where he might be able to get a shot. Once we were close to the corner, not quite there yet but close, the doe looked right at us. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I told Elijah not to move. He was right behind me and I had slipped the rifle up on my shoulder. 

The deer was about 75 yards away at this point and then she started walking towards us, not running away. I thought, “This might get interesting.” As she came towards us I asked Elijah if he had her in the scope. He whispered “No, it’s too high.” My shoulder was too high for this shot, which was angled down. I slowly moved my hand, which I was using to help steady the rifle for the shot, down and with that the rifle until it was low enough for Elijah to see the doe. 

And still she kept coming. At this point I was hoping Elijah was able to see enough through the cornfield to get a shot. In a hushed tone I told Elijah “Shoot her in the chest”, because that was the only shot available and she was only about thirty yards away. She had stopped advancing and was trying to figure us out; the thing on the other side of the corn stalks. 

I heard the cock of the hammer and then the shot. The doe dropped where she was. I saw her go down, but Elijah lost sight of her because of the corn stalks. He quickly asked, “Did I get her!” I motioned to the area she was and said, “She’s right there buddy!” And when he stood up he was able to see his deer. I’m not sure who was more excited. High fives were had and our smiles could have been seen from the moon! 

To most people, this would have been a small doe and not worth mentioning and definitely not a trophy, but to my son and me that was the best hunt ever. To be able to share this experience together will be one I will never forget and will share just like any other “Trophy” hunt story.