Emily: “Daddy, it’s kind of sad when you kill a deer”
It was 07:15 and first light was creeping across the skyline. We were both anxious to get started. We have hiked several days and haven’t been able to find a buck. Today was our day.
We stopped at the gas station for a muffin, donut holes, and strawberry milk. Emily was anxious, excited, and chatty. She didn’t stop talking unless she was chugging milk or cramming donut holes in her mouth.
One last chug of milk and we were headed up the mountain. She had her orange vest, hat, gloves, big brown eyes, and a front toothless smile. The day was going to be amazing no matter what happened. We were determined.
Climbing the ridge was tough for those little 7-year-old legs, but we held hands and made it happen…….one little step at a time. When we reached the saddle at the top, I took a minute to teach her a few lessons about peeking over the other side. We also talked about our code word for covering ears before a shot. The codeword is “Ears”. She nodded, smiled, and we crept up to edge.
After only seconds of glassing the drainages below, I found them. A small herd of deer made their way up the drainage. I said “Emily, there they are. A bunch of deer”. She replied with a deep breath of excitement and a huge smile. ”Any bucks, Daddy?” I replied, “Emily, we have to get to the top of this ridge, drop my pack, and then crab crawl to a point where we can see them. I haven’t seen any bucks yet”. She nodded and we made our way, hand in hand, to the top of the ridge.
Her eyes were big and the excitement was building. I said, “Let’s crab crawl up to that bush and then look for a buck”. Emily was confused. “What’s a crab crawl, Daddy?” “Follow me sweetheart and let’s see if we can find a buck”. There we went, side crawling and almost giggling as we moved into position. I glassed the sagebrush and saw several does moving across the hill. No antlers just does. One after another they funneled across the hill. Then……..he appeared. A buck for Emily. A buck for us. A dandy little buck. “Em, there’s a buck. We found a buck”. I handed the binoculars to let her see him. She scanned the hill, and then those big brown eyes connected with mine and I think her smile touched her ears on both sides.
I moved up into position, set the bipod, and settled in for the shot. I whispered “Em, code word. Are you ready?” She whispered “Yep”.
I took a deep breath, one final glance at this sweet little girl, and then pulled the trigger. The shot connected and the buck tumbled down the hill. I handed Emily the binoculars and she was able to watch his final movements. After a few seconds, she put the binoculars down and watched. She stared at the lifeless deer with a long pause. No words were spoken and I could see the confusion, emotion, and mixed thoughts from this little girl.
I watched my little Emily as she showed a glimmer of emotion for this amazing animal. She felt something inside that was confusing and difficult to understand. All of this excitement to get a deer, and now……..this beautiful animal is dead. I didn’t speak. I watched. After a short time, in calm little words, I heard her little voice say “Daddy, it’s kind of sad when you kill a deer”.
Today was a day that I will never forget. It is a First. First experience for Emily to understand why we hunt. A First for Emily to understand where meat comes from exactly. First to feel emotion when a large and beautiful creature is killed. A First to feel it, touch it, live it, and experience it all with her Dad.
I am a happy Dad today. I’m a softy sap that wants nothing more than to share my passions with my girls. They will make their own decisions in the years to come, but today………….. We had an amazing First.