Despite an age difference, 22 years to be exact, he and I are a lot alike. When I thought he wasn’t paying attention in class, he was able to answer every question in review. When I thought he was getting bored, he aced his test and was now able to purchase his first license.
With deer season quickly approaching, I took Jonah out to our range with a single shot .17 hmr just to get him used to shooting. I figured I had challenge on my hands as Jonah is left handed and I am right handed. As a small child, Jonah had surgeries to correct trigger thumb and issues with his pincer grip in both hands. I was very worried he might not be able to cock the hammer on the gun or pull the trigger.
We practiced shooting left and right handed talking about gun safety and reminding him about the things he had learned during the hunter safety course. Jonah was more comfortable shooting right handed. He was a natural, acquiring the target and nailing a bullseye within the first couple of shots. He asked if he could try a shotgun. I did not bring a shotgun for the day but fortunately, I was able to find my nephew’s 20 gauge and a couple boxes of slugs. This would give us a good indication if he was going to be able to handle a larger gun and continue with his pursuit of hunting. With little instruction he was able to shoot a bullseye free handed.
We would be using my 20 gauge to hunt. I had to change the barrels as I still had the turkey barrel on the gun. My husband wanted to shoot his muzzleloader a few days later so I took the opportunity to make sure my 20 gauge was still dead on. I shot once from the bench and once free handed. Each were center mass as I knew they would be.
I needed Jonah to be familiar with the gun as it had a red dot scope and he had shot one with open sights. Picking up where we had left off, I had him shooting free hand. He shot only to be off target. Figuring it was just a fluke, I had him shoot again. The gun was all over the place. I shot a couple of times only to have the gun do the same thing with me. I was panicked; what had happened to my gun? I told Jonah not to be discouraged as it was not his shooting and we would get the problem fixed. It was a simple solution to the problem; it just needed a good cleaning.
Opening day had come. I had told Jonah’s parents I would pick him up at 6 am so we could get to the blind early. Everything that happened that day was a learning experience. We spoke about walking quietly through the woods, he learned that he needed to sit still and be quiet in the blind. I taught him the prayer I always say once I’m in my set up. He was taking it all in. Jonah asked tons of questions and I answered as best I could.
Less than an hour into the hunt, I caught movement off to our left. I watched for a moment to figure out what was moving through the brush. It was a deer. I pointed out the deer to Jonah who was playing a game on his phone. Jonah saw the deer immediately. I handed him the gun and told him to find the deer through the scope. He quickly did. Seeing the deer moving through the brush, I told Jonah to wait until he had an open shot. All the sudden, the deer was standing 15 yards in front of us
The moment had come, it was time to make the shot. Waiting until the the deer presented a broadside shot, I told Jonah to go ahead and shoot. He said he couldn’t. I thought this might happen as he has a soft heart and a love for animals. I told him it was ok and to go ahead and pull the trigger. What I didn’t know that he really wanted to shoot be we were having a gun malfunction.
The deer was looking at us in the blind, the same blind from which I have had much success. All I could think was this is my fault, I am the one who loaded the gun. The action wasn’t far enough forward. I told Jonah not to move or the deer would spook. Since Jonah already had his hand on the action, I told him to try to move the action forward. He was successful (by the grace of God!) in moving it forward without any sound. I could see it was now in position to shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot, I whispered to Jonah. He pulled the trigger and I watched the young spike buck drop to the ground!
Jonah was shaking as he was so excited. He handed me the gun and I ejected the shell and put another one in. I handed the gun back to Jonah and told him to keep the gun on the deer in case he tried to get up. Jonah had put a good enough shot on the buck that he didn’t have to shoot again.
All he could do was smile and hug me. We got out of the blind and slowly approached the deer making sure the deer had expired. We tagged him and started making phone calls. We called his parents who were just as excited as he was. We called my dad who took me hunting for the first time. I think my dad was as proud at that moment as he was when I got my first deer. We celebrated as only I know how, a sports drink and a brownie.
After all the excitement, I asked Jonah if he would want to say a prayer for our successful harvest and he did. We each knelt to the ground, placed a hand on the deer and held hands. I said a prayer thanking God for the experience and a successful hunt.
We had to wait for my husband to come help us. We had a brief delay as a level three ice storm hit unbeknownst to us as we had been sitting in the blind. Kurt called said he couldn’t make it out to us and would have to wait until the level three was lifted. Jonah and I went back to my father-in-law’s house to wait for the weather to break and the ice to subside
Once it got above freezing, Kurt made it out to the house. We all walked together back to where we left the deer. Kurt and I field dressed the deer while Jonah watched intently studying everything we were doing and asking lots of questions. He was intrigued and didn’t seem to be bothered by us field dressing the deer. Jonah helped Kurt drag the deer back to the house. We decided to skin and quarter Jonah’s buck as it was supposed to warm up for the rest of the weekend.
I took Jonah home to show off his prize. His parents were so proud. My aunt and grandma cried. Every time I have seen Jonah since that day, he lights up and hugs me. We have hunted twice more since he harvested his first deer and each time he is just as excited as our first hunt. I never knew the emotion and satisfaction I would feel from helping him. My heart was full and we both have a memory we will not soon forget. Without a doubt, I have a new hunting buddy.
Story by: Mackenzie Walters