My Son's First Deer
By Charles Smith
This story begins well before the hunt. Every year I try my best to hunt with my best friend John Bailey in Missouri at the beginning of the gun season. This is during Veterans' Day weekend, which is special to us because we both served as First Sergeants in the United States Air Force and retired on the same day in 1995. My son Brian would come along with us since age six when we hunted doves, ducks, and pheasants in Japan. At age ten, Brian went through his hunter safety class and received his hunter safety card. He had deer hunted twice, without success, in Georgia where I am now an educator. Brian lost interest in hunting and turned his attention to sports and getting his education.
Brian and Charles with Brian's first deer.
Brian graduated from Georgia Southern University in May 2009 and was preparing to go to United States Marine Officer Candidate School when I began to plan my 2009 hunt. I was excited about getting to go hunting because I had missed going in 2008 because of cancer. This time I planned to drive 15 hours to John's farm near Steeleville, Missouri. My family did not want me to drive by myself so I asked Brian if he wanted to go. At first, he was not sure if he wanted to hunt but said he would go to help with the driving. The plan was for us drive to”The Farm” and to live in John’s cabin while we were in Missouri.
Brian did not have a deer rifle so I told him he could use one of mine. He checked the safe and said I want to use your AR 15 M4. So I told him to check the rules for caliber and magazine capacity in Missouri. He found that he could hunt with the .223 but he had to have expanding bullets and could not use a magazine with more than 10 rounds in the magazine. So we ordered sleeping bags and one five round magazine and forty rounds of .223 soft point ammo from Midway USA. When the sleeping bags, magazine and ammo came in he began to get excited about the hunt. We began counting the days until we left. We went to the range and he got the M4 sighted in using soft point ammo.
Brian began to shoot the AR like a Marine and any deer that came into range out to 200 yards was in trouble according to him. However, I began to ask him if he wanted to use a larger caliber. He insisted on the .223 or 5.56 as he called it. So I stopped asking. He asked me.”What are you going to shoot?” I told him my Winchester Model 70 in .300 Win. Mag. I also told him I was taking my other Winchester Model 70 in .243 Win., as my back up rifle. So we packed the AR 15 M4 and both Winchesters for the trip. We also pack hunting clothes, ammo, packs, tree stands, and everything we would need for the hunt. The boxes for the hunt began to fill the garage as we continued to count the days.
Brian getting ready to sight in the AR 15 M4
The Plan and the Drive
As I stated before, I had a plan. The plan was to for me to leave the packed pickup truck at home and for Brian to sleep Tuesday, November 10th during the day so we could leave at 5:00 P.M., and Brian drive until midnight while I slept on the first leg of the trip. We would drive all night and arrive on Wednesday, November 11th at “The Farm”. We would hang stands Wednesday and scout on Thursday and Friday and be on our stand or in our blinds on Saturday the 14th of November. I had taken personal leave on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. So we would have Saturday and Sunday to hunt. Then we would start our return trip to Hinesville, Georgia Sunday night. We had planned to meet at my grandmother's house in Savannah, Georgia. I am an educator in Savannah so it would save us an hour or more by leaving from her house. I was late getting off work because of a meeting. So when I arrived at my grandmother’s house at 5:25 P.M. and there was no pickup or Brian, I was surprised.
I called home and Brian stated he was about to leave and that he had repacked the pickup to make sure everything on the list was loaded. Brian arrived at 6:30 P.M. and we began the 15 hour trip. We drove as far as Macon, Georgia, or three hours, before I nodded off. Just outside of Atlanta, Brian woke me to tell me he was getting tired and that he had not slept during the day as planned. So I began driving two hours early. About ten minutes after I began driving we got a call there was a change in plans that we were to meet John in Sullivan, Missouri. John was concerned about my health problem and no electricity for my c-pap machine at the cabin so we would be staying in a motel in Sullivan. I think John and Brian did not want to hear me snore for four nights in the cabin.
John, Brian and Charles at "The Farm"
So we adjusted our route to Sullivan. Brian said that his GPS was better than my small screen Tom-Tom so he changed GPS's at that point. I drove as far as the exit for Fort Campbell, Kentucky on I-24. I told Brian to follow I-24 until the junction of US 60 near Paducah, Kentucky. I went back to sleep. In Paducah we stopped at a rest area and Brian stated he was tired, so I began to drive. He said just follow the GPS so I began following the GPS and did not know we were past the turn off to take me to US 60 and to I-55 in Missouri. The next thing I knew we were in Illinois. I woke Brian and he began searching the GPS for a route across the Mississippi and to I-55. He found a route that went to Cape Girardeau so we were soon heading west. We drove across a narrow bridge from Illinois to Missouri. Then I missed the turn to I-55 and the GPS recomputed the route up through Missouri. We got a call from John at around 6:00 A.M. asking how close we were and I said about two hours if this GPS does not recompute again. Then I told him about us missing two key turns. I also explained that I did not know his GPS like I know my Tom-Tom. Around 8:30 A.M. we arrived in Sullivan, Missouri.
After breakfast at the motel, we then went to Wal-Mart to buy our out of state hunting licenses. After Wal-Mart, we left for "The Farm", and a day of work. We repaired fences, unloaded the truck, and then sighted in our rifles to make sure they were still zeroed. While sighting in the rifles I told Brian to try the Model 70 in 243 Win. He shot the X at 100 yards with the rifle and said, "It shoots dead on."
View from the cabin
I asked, "Are you sure?"
He went and got the target and said, "See."
I then said, "You better keep that rifle then."
He said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "It is your rifle now."
He beamed with delight. After sighting in the rifles we walked "The Farm" and chose locations for the deer stands. Brian was given a choice spot near the pond. I had the permanent blind John had built for me and John had a stand on a ridge line. We hung out tree stands and now had eight locations to hunt from. At dark we left for the motel. We had no problem sleeping.
The permanent blind John built for me to use
Thursday morning we ate breakfast and went to Wal-Mart for food, water and snacks for "The Farm". We all went to our hunting locations and made sure we all had good shooting lanes and watched the wildlife. I watched a flock of turkeys feed around my blind. Brian watched a fox and a yearling play near the pond. He videoed the yearling. John saw several bucks walk near his stand. We collected several cards from trail cameras and John said he would change his location if he was not successful opening morning.
Friday, we viewed the cards and saw several good bucks and worked around the cabin, checked and rechecked our gear, and cleaned rifles. At dark we listened to the coyotes sing near the direction of my blind. We sat on the front porch of the cabin and talked until it came time to go back to Sullivan and the motel.
Brian and I ate supper at Steak and Shake and several people asked if we had come to hunt. Brian told them we had and they wished him good luck. I told Brian that we need to go to Wal-Mart to see something and we went to Wal-Mart. Brian was surprise to see fifty people waiting to get their hunting licenses, Friday night. While we were in Wal-Mart the line kept growing. We returned to the motel to find John fast asleep.
Charles and John sitting and talking on the porch the day before the hunt
Saturday morning, at 4:00 A.M. we left the motel and we were all in our hunting positions by 5:00 A.M. At 7:05 A.M I heard shooting to my left but knew it was not Brian or John because they were both to my right. Then at 7:45 A.M., I heard a shot to my right. A few minute later I got a text that John had got a buck and was heading back to the cabin with the buck. At 10:00 A.M. a doe fed in the food plot in front of my blind; I let her pass. At 1:00 P.M., I left for the cabin and lunch and saw John’s buck.
During lunch, Brian told us he had seen three does together near the pond and the does left heading toward my blind. At 3:00 P.M. we returned to our stands and blind. I saw no deer from my blind and heard one shots. At dark, I returned to the cabin and John told me he had seen a four point and several does, but the does were out of range. The deer were all heading toward the pond. Brian confirmed the does, but no buck and told us he needed help to find a doe. We found a deer about 30 yards from Brian’s stand. I asked Brian what was wrong with his doe and he looked and said it had spikes about 2 inches long. John showed Brian how to field dress and debone his buck after Brian tagged and called in the kill to Telecheck. We got back to the motel around 10:00 P.M. and refilled the ice chest. We had no problem sleeping that night.
Sunday morning, we woke to find it raining so we ate and checked out of the motel at 11:00 A.M. It had stopped raining at noon when I reached my blind. I saw 14 turkeys and two coyotes but no deer by 3:00 P.M. and decided to pack up and leave the blind. Were packed the pickup for the trip and at 4:00 P.M. we left "The Farm." John headed for home and we headed for Georgia. The trip home was shorter because I used the Tom-Tom and Brian used his GPS.
John with his buck
During the trip home, at several places we stopped we met some of the friendliest people in the world, fellow hunters, and they all asked if we had been hunting. Then they showed us the hunting pictures from their hunt and Brian showed his pictures. Brian learned that deer hunting is enjoyed by thousands of hunters every year and big business in Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Also, he learned that a trophy deer is different to different people. Perhaps on his next trip he will get his ten point. However, on this trip he had killed his first trophy, the tooth pick deer, as he calls it. This trip to Missouri was one of the best times of my life because I spent quality time with my son before he left for the United States Marine Corps, I spent time with John Bailey, and Brian got his first deer. Today, Lt. Brian S. Smith, USMC is very proud of his first deer certificate from Missouri, but his dad is prouder of his accomplishments.
Brian's first deer
Thank you, to the great people of Missouri and to their deer management that made it possible for Brian to get his first deer. A very special thanks to John Bailey for the invitation and for being a good friend.
Brian getting a field dressing lesson from John
Dr. Charles Watson Smith Jr. is an educator and an avid shooter and hunter. As a retired United States Air Force First Sergeant, he has hunted and shot in competition in Asia, Europe, and North America. Charles has four passions: (a) A passion for introducing hunting and shooting to his special education students and young people, (b) Long range shooting, (c) Reloading, and (d) Hunting and shooting with family and friends.