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A near-perfect hunt for the Phillips

The duck hunters went deer hunting and the season was a wild success. My oldest was successful in his very first hunt. I had the opportunity to spend a little quality time in the stand with the girl as well as her younger, not little, brother. There was a great adventure. And the warm smell of roasting marshmallows set an ironic background. The girl was even introduced to proper positioning of the 20 gauge shotgun. What more could a father ask for?

Even though duck hunting has been pretty good this year, it was time to climb out of the boat in into the box stand. Not because we could not shoot ducks over these two weekends. It was a matter of survival.

My oldest boy is 12. He was not only armed with a gun safety certificate and youth deer tag, he had a 30-06. He borrowed the gun from Betty. She is a wonderful friend. I may add that in her day, she was a fantastic hunter and sportswoman. Age creeps up on all of us. No longer able to hunt, she passed the torch (rifle), in hopes that the boy would continue to find enjoyment in the woods.

The first morning was a total bust. Looking out across the 40 acres of CRP land at our disposal led to nothing but dry eyes. The morning was good for one thing. I discovered that the boy was learning a lot of new language skills. "Dude ... this is lame." And "this sucks, dude; I hate all those dorks who are shooting." "Dude, I want a deer." I am so proud.

The evening hunt was a different story. We were a little quieter and it paid off. Just before the hunt was over, a nice doe was meandering up a farm trail. The shot was behind us and necessitated a bit of maneuvering on our part. My son's view was blocked by an election sign we used as a wind block. So, the stealth boys went into action.

I needed to move out of his way so he could move toward the opening. This was a slow dance as the deer would look up with every movement. Finally, the boy was in position. He wanted to use my gun as it had a scope (apparently needed for a 30 yard shot). He was cool and calm and pulled the trigger -- nothing. He tried it again -- nothing. So we switched guns. All the time the deer just hung around. This time everything was perfect. Someone said it was like God wanted us to have that deer. I think it was more like he wanted the boy to use Betty's gun.

Sunday was a bust. Oh, well.

The kids had Friday off from school and the girl had asked if she could go hunting that evening. She is 10, so she got her free license. She was really excited and looked like a cross between Ralphie's little brother on "A Christmas Story" and Rosie the Riveter. Before the hunt, we went to my parents so she could shoot the 20 gauge. She was no stranger to the gun. However, when you think about shooting it for real, it is different. She pulled the trigger, hit the target dead on. She took the kick like a man. The problem was her lip was on the comb of the gun and it really hurt. So the gun stayed in the car.

The girl is not exactly what you would call tall. Quite the opposite. So much so that she could not see over the edge of the stand. She tried standing, kneeling on the chair and about a million positions. In the end, sitting and cooking marshmallows was best. We talked about anything and everything (in hushed tones). She had a great time, as did I.

Saturday night it was the youngest boy. Thinking ahead, we carried in a life jacket that he could double up and sit on. We saw nothing. We were restless to get down as we heard a shot or two coming from our hunting party. As we pulled up in the dark, the debate was on. My friend and his wife were debating if she had actually shot a deer. She is more man that he and I put together, so I took her side. The search was on.

The expected location of the deer was a combination of open water, floating bog, marsh and hell on earth. It only took us a few minutes to realize how useless our search was in the dark. The best part was listening to my boy regaling tales to a less than willing listener from the edge of the road.

The next morning the oldest boy and I arrived on the scene. The alleged shooter absent, off driving a field. The general thought was that she missed. We were to put in a token effort and head to breakfast at the Shoreline. Much to our surprise, she was right. We found it right where she said we would. I was astonished.

Then the issue became getting it out. Have you ever seen movies about building the pyramids? Well, those pansies did not have to deal with a floating bog. It was finally in the clear and we did the deed. I can not even describe the smell of a gut shot filled with swamp water from an overnight bath in a bog. It was not pleasant.

I had the brilliant idea to drag the deer to the stream and wash it out, mostly because there was no way in hell it was hitting the back of my Blazer in its current condition. Then the crafty hunters looked at each other and smiled. We floated it down stream to the road. This, my friend, was a grand adventure enjoyed by all.

We still have a few more days to bag some ducks. Then, the late goose season comes. However, this year's deer hunt is already one of my fondest memories. I made fantastic memories with all three of my kids -- memories to last a life time. Oooohhh, I almost forgot. We managed to bag four squirrels in the middle of the day as well. Yup, the youngest boy did his job, chasing his mother with a flurry of grey fur.