by Dusty McGehee (LPJ Outdoor Writer)
Last week, I mentioned I would be taking my seven-year-old out for his first opportunity to harvest a deer. While this column will not be “Story Time with Dusty” every time, I only get one opportunity to experience his “first” and I feel it deserves to be shared. While the actual hunt is not overly exciting as far as how the events unfolded, the story of Ridge and the events leading up to his first hunt are quite interesting.
Ridge is the kid that doesn’t get excited about too much other than Wolfie (his favorite stuffed animal), ice cream, and the attention from his first-grade lady friends.
Having hunted with me a handful of times over the years, he hasn’t expressed interest in being the trigger man until earlier this year. He knew his big brother had killed his first deer at age seven and always said he “might do it when he’s the same age Anders was.” He turned seven back in the spring and I’ve been anxiously waiting for him to tell me he was ready.
Fast forward into August when Ridge suffers a traumatic injury to his right and dominant eye. Until now, has basically left him blind in that eye. Any plans that I may have had were quickly put on hold. Our lives were now revolving around countless doctors’ visits, bed rest, and a patch over the eye that I had hoped would be looking through the crosshairs this fall.
In the middle of all this, Ridge asks, “Dad will I be able to shoot my first deer this year now that I have a bad eye?” I quickly replied “YES! As soon as we can, we’re going hunting!” One surgery and a lens replacement later, we are leaving the doctor’s office in Shreveport, and I challenged him. If he can see how many fingers I’m holding up out of his bad eye, I will take him to Bass Pro and he can get anything he wants. He squints, says it’s blurry then exclaims “TWO!” Off to Bass Pro we go.
On the ride over, I hint that we need to go check out the rifles so he can pick out his first deer gun. He proclaims, “I know exactly what I’m getting.” After an hour of looking at fish, boats, and toys, I finally ask him to go get what he wants. He runs straight to the check-out line and picks out a two-dollar can of beef jerky and grins and says “THIS!” While I was a little let down by his choice, I stayed true to my promise and bought the boy what he wanted.
All hunters can relate to the fact that we are always looking for an excuse to buy another gun. After all Ridge had been through, I truly thought he deserved to have his own. A quick trip to a local outdoor store, and I surprised him with a brand new 350 Legend topped with a Vortex scope. Off to the range we go. He is struggling to see out of his right eye (his vision is still poor) so he switches around and goes left-handed. Boom, he centers the bullseye and now I have a newly converted left-handed/left eyed shooter.
On Saturday (October 9), the opening day of our youth season, was the day we had long been waiting for. I built a ground blind under an old barn overlooking a freshly growing food plot. Scouting the day before had shown plenty of deer activity in the late evening. We took an ice chest (it was HOT), snacks, books, and Mama with her camera to document the hunt. We had barely gotten situated when a group of six does came out.
As I was coaching him through the situation, the matriarch of the group spotted us, snorted and the whole herd exited just as quickly as they had come. Both of us were dejected, but a quick pep talk from mom got us back in the right frame of mind. Twenty minutes pass and I see movement from the left. I immediately get Ridge on the gun and give him the green light on the first one that turns broadside. He whispers, “I’m on her.” I click the safety off and tell him to slowly squeeze the trigger. Simultaneous with the boom, his first deer drops.
I yell with excitement, scoop him up and carry him out into the field to see his trophy. All the first deer emotions were magnified with the roller coaster we have been riding over the last few months. We laughed, cried, high-fived; he even tackled me at one point while we admired his deer and this major milestone in his life. He suggested we go to Dubach Deer Factory so he could finally have his picture taken by Kyle Green. Kyle unloaded the deer, put it on the scales and confirmed Ridge’s trophy was an 88-pound doe. Everything about this deer and this hunt was perfect.
Left eye. Dead eye. Ridge proving you can’t keep a good man down.
Dusty McGehee is a native of Downsville and a 2006 graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a bachelors in wildlife conservation. He is currently employed by WestRock and serves as an environmental engineer at the Hodge Mill. Dusty is an avid hunter and crappie fisherman, fishing crappie tournaments with his son when he is not in the woods. He and his wife Rachel have three young outdoorsmen/women: Anders (9), Ridge (7) and Mae (5).
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