At The Age Of 75 Can I Still Continue To Do This?

richard_blake_9_point“I’m not sure I can go this year son, my arthritis is hurting, and at 75 I just don’t know if I can do it any more”. As a son and an avid deer hunter these are the words you don’t ever want to hear from your father. But as a father these are the words you want to hear from your son.” Dad I don’t care if I have to carry you over my back, your going deer hunting”. This conversation took place in July of 2012. When I heard these words it broke my heart, and almost my spirit for deer hunting this year. Then I thought to myself, for years he was there for me… now it’s my time to be there for him.
For the average deer hunter, this may not seem to be a big task. Hop out of the truck, walk into the woods a few hundred yards, and get comfy in your stand. We are not that average hunter! Our family has always scouted, tracked and used our woodsmenship to harvest the largest, most matured deer on public land. This philosophy has been handed down from generation to generation.
My goal for this year was to put my father in front of a buck that we considered a shooter. I shared with my dad a few pictures of a buck that wasn’t a shooter last year but should be this year. I think at this point the pain in his body was so great that these pictures didn’t mean too much to him. My challenges were to make sure this deer survived another Michigan deer season, and to put my own desire of wanting to shoot it myself on the back burner. I had to be un-selfish this year and dedicate this season to a father that has always been there for me.
I started putting the cameras out in August, and begin doing a little scouting. It took a few weeks for the deer to start showing up on camera. I had some success on the cameras but no bucks worth taking. Every few days I would give dad a call and give him a report. By mid September it wasn’t getting any better. Both things were getting worse, the arthritis and the deer activity. And once again I heard those same words. “I’m not sure I can go this year”. I encouraged him to contact his doctor and give me a few more weeks of scouting before we made any more decisions. It was early in the season and the deer were still on their summer habits.
By now, October was getting here and the deer action was still slow. I had a few potential “future bucks” on camera but still not the big one I’ve seen in the past few years. We have been deer hunting long enough to know it can change in a moment’s time, and that it did. I had five cameras out and one of them got hit with a shooter. The only issue there was that it was on my primary bow stand, and not where I wanted to put my dad. I could worry about that later. The only thing that was on my mind was to show him the pictures and get him excited about this deer. Things were changing quickly. Dad’s doctor was getting him meds that made him feel a lot better and our deer had made a mistake by showing himself. By now dad was excited and getting ready for his 63rd opening day. My focus now was to maintain that excitement for him and hope the big one would show up on one of his cameras. I put the trail camera photo on dad’s computer and added it to his screen saver. I wanted him to wake up every morning and take a look at this deer. This would accomplish two things; keep him interested and I figured by seeing it everyday that might just calm him down when it comes in on November 15. Just as any deer hunter can relate, your heart starts to pump a little faster when you see a deer of this quality come in. We went over what runway it would come down, and to focus on its heart when it did. I wanted him to be very relaxed, and again cover all our bases so no mistakes were made.
November 6th was the day I knew it was only a matter of time. On that day it showed up on dad’s run way at 5:45 a.m. The next few days I concentrated on timing the deer out. If I needed to move his blind to assure a daylight shot, I needed to do it now. We did just that… adjusted his blind over looking the run way. Now it was a waiting game. The morning of November 15th was here and we were ready. We went through our opening rituals and hoped for the best. I had the deer timed out to come down the run way around 8:30.
Well 8:30 came around, and I heard no shots. It was a slow opening morning, a few shots in the hills but not too much in the swamp. By 9:00 o’clock I have to admit I started to worry just a tad about why I didn’t hear the crack of the ole’ lever action 348. It’s a sound that is very distinct, any lever action fan would recognize. At that time I looked up and said a small prayer. I told the good Lord if it meant that deer coming my way or his please send it his way. Now I don’t know if you believe in the power of prayer but it didn’t take long after that. At 9:13 a.m. I heard the ole’ lever go off. I think at that moment my heart stopped and I about fell out of my stand. I looked up into the sky and whispered “thank you Lord.” A few short moments later the cell phone rang and dad said “I shot at a rack.” “Did you hit him?” “I’m not sure,” was all I heard. We both knew that it was now or never.
An old mature white tail like this doesn’t stay alive on public land by being dumb. You’re going to have one shot and you better make the best out of it. I instructed Dad to stay there and give me a few minutes to get over to him. I climbed into his blind with him and asked him to show me where the deer was standing when he took the shot. He pointed over to a very thick log pile. I had my doubts at his age if he could make a killing shot of this caliber. I walked through the thick swamp headed over to the stump pile and it didn’t take long for a tear of joy to run down my cheek. There he was! The deer I was after for the last three years. My old man did it! I couldn’t begin to tell you how proud I was that he got it. It meant more to me that he got it then if I had shot it.
After 75 years, his name will be in the record books. Its not the biggest ever shot in the state but it’s a fine public land buck at that. I can tell you now that nothing meant more to me then the next hour spent dragging that buck out with my dad at my side. For all those hunters still hunting with their dad I think you can relate to what I was feeling. And for those that are younger reading this. I can now speak from experience don’t take any of those moments for granted.
Deer hunting means so much more then just getting a deer. It’s about family.
– Richard and Bill Blake