By Trent Doan
I thought of the word “Bittersweet” when I found out that a lucky hunter this past mule deer season had taken a buck I had been watching for the past three years. This hunter turns out to have been watching this buck just as long as I had and is known as a hunter that puts his time in to find big bucks. When I found out that he harvested the buck, I was really disappointed that I wasn’t going to have a chance to hunt him myself. Then I found out how much time and effort he put into locating the deer and felt happy for him. He worked for it and deserved such a stud of a buck.
The thoughts and daydreaming of taking such an outstanding buck led me to the point of calling him “MY” buck when I would talk to friends about him. The realization hit when I found out that it wasn’t “MY” buck but someone else’s. It’s not truly yours until your hands are holding his head up taking the trophy photos. I was humbled to say the least.
As time went on and opening day got close, I kept thinking that I was happy that another hunter who happened to be in the right place at the right time didn’t kill him and that a guy who worked hard for him and deserved him was able to take him home. The word “Bittersweet” continued to come to mind when I thought of this buck and the hunter that took him. Good for him to harvest a buck that scored over 205”. Truly the buck of a lifetime!
My opening day finally came and I had a great hunt. We went home after six days of hunting without a buck. Josh, a buddy of mine, came by when our hunting party got home to talk about my plans for the rest of my hunt. We decided to go to an area that Josh knew held a few good bucks. We would leave early the next morning.
That evening I was in the garage re-packing gear and getting ready for the early morning hunt when Rae came out to the garage and said to me,
“Daddy, I really want to come with you!”
I had my back to her and in my mind I thought, “Jeesh kid, I already said no and I said no because I am trying to protect you from a day of having to crawl around in the sage and heat.”
I spun around with the word, “No!” almost off my tongue when I saw her eyes full of tears.
“Please daddy?” she begged.
Wow, talk about having your heart softened by love for a child that just wants to be with her dad and be there for the hunt no matter how hard it could be. I went to her and gave her a big hug and said,
“Ask your mom. If you can miss cheer practice then you can go.”
She broke my bear hug as quick as she could and started screaming for her mom. 3:30 am came early and we headed out to the spot with some great friends of mine.
We started our walk into the sage flats just as we were able to see. 800 yards in we stopped and went to our knees glassing the flats for deer. We found a quality buck quickly and once he bedded we started our crawl to get within range. 600 yards on our hands and knees was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon! I had the blisters on my knees to remind me! Rae and my friend Josh had knee pads on so it wasn’t so bad for them.
Once within shooting range, the buck got up and with one quick shot the stalk was over and the celebration began. Rae was so happy I had made a good shot and the buck was right in front of us. We jumped up and down, gave high fives and big hugs! We were so thrilled to have been blessed with a great buck.
For me, as a dad, when all the excitement was going on, I honestly didn’t care about the size of the buck. What I cared about was that my kid just crawled 600 yards on her hands and knees, with tears in her eyes just to be with me! She didn’t care about how big the buck was or how early we had to get up to be there. She didn’t mind missing cheer practice and all the fun that goes with it, she just wanted to be there with her dad. I’m so proud of her for the young lady she has become and her determination to hunt warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes.
As I watched her run up to the buck and grab his antlers and look at me in pure happiness all I could say was,
“I love you Rae and I’m Glad you’re here with me.”
I think she thought, “Yeah, yeah Dad, you got a big buck, stop being a sap and come check him out!”
We got him cleaned up, took a bunch of photos and got him packed out to the truck. Once again I had a great hunt with my friends and family. This one will be held tight in the depths of my heart and mind with the memories of Raegan and taking our first buck together. Taking a nice buck with my daughter by my side turned a “Bittersweet” hunt into one of the most rewarding hunts I’ve ever had.
Thank you Rae, Dad loves you.