Father relishes long-awaited opening-day hunt with young son

Posted Oct. 26, 2011, at 4:32 p.m.

Some hunters — like me — didn’t grow up immersed in the state’s outdoor traditions. Instead, we discovered hunting later, after years of participation in competitive sports ran their course and the desire to reconnect with nature and spend time in wild places became increasingly attractive.

In many other families, the outdoor tradition plays an important role in everyday life. Participation in hunting or fishing can put food on the table, provide recreational diversions, serve as a link between the generations and create memories that will be shared for decades.

After Saturday’s Youth Deer Day, during which the state’s junior hunters got a head start on the rest of us during their own special day in the Maine woods, I received an email from a proud member of that second group.

In a few short paragraphs, Rob Childers illustrated the role hunting has played in his life, and how eager he has been to share his hard-earned lessons with his young son. No deer die in this column. It’s not an “I bagged a big buck” tale.

Instead, Childers shows that the measure of a successful hunt can take many forms. And for him, just getting the chance to spend time in the woods with his son was trophy enough for now.

Here’s some of what Childers had to say:

“I’ve been looking [forward] to this year’s Youth Day for 10 years,” Childers wrote. “My son Tyler was born March 29, 2001, and my first words to him were, ‘I cannot wait to take you hunting.’

“Years went by, and I’d take him ‘heater hunting’ sometimes in the evening when he was around four, and eventually he would walk in the woods with me and sit in my tree stand,” he wrote. “This year was different: He was going with a license and a rifle.

“We got up last Saturday and set out around 5 a.m. and headed for the camp. We started walking our camp road to where a new power line has recently been cut, a place where my brother and I had jumped a deer earlier this summer while scouting. I thought if we stand a chance of seeing anything, this would be [the place],” he wrote.

“We sat there for a couple of hours, no wind, overcast skies and fairly warm. As Tyler was getting a little bored of sitting, I figured we would walk the two miles back to the truck, head home and hunt out back in the afternoon,” Childers wrote. “Just as we stood up, we heard a snort and saw the tail end of a deer dart into the cover of the thick treeline.”

That’s something that happens to all of us at one point or another, of course. Just when we think we’re giving up on a particular spot, a deer lets us know that we should have been a bit more patient. Childers said Tyler was stunned at the turn of events.

“My son didn’t know what to think or do. His chin was resting on the stump he [had been sitting on]. He asked what we should do and I recommended moving to some cover and sitting a little more,” Childers wrote. “So we sat.”

Alas, the deer wasn’t returning. And eventually, the Childers men decided to head for home.

“We made our way back to the truck an hour later, gingerly walking and talking. [I was] mostly answering his questions, but [was] remembering 25 years ago when I was that 10-year-old kid who couldn’t pick up his feet [or] keep still, asked questions and got a little bored … until we jumped a deer,” Childers wrote.

“I guess when I reflect upon last Saturday, there were two youths sitting on a couple of stumps on that power line,” he wrote. “Two best friends. The way hunting in Maine should be.”

Opinions sought on residents-only opener

For the past few decades, Mainers have grown accustomed to having the woods to themselves on the first Saturday of deer season. On that day, according to state law, nonresident deer hunters are out of luck.

Saturday marks this season’s residents-only opening day, and I’ll share some thoughts on a practice that some say sends the wrong message to out-of-state visitors.

I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the matter, but I’m curious: What do you think?

Should Mainers roll out the red carpet and allow nonresidents the same opening-day rights that we enjoy?

Is it fair that a family member who moved away to pursue a career can’t join in with his dad and brothers on opening day hunts like he did when he was a kid?

Does it make sense that a nonresident landowner who allows open access to his woodlot is forced to spend the first Saturday of deer season watching others haul deer across his hayfield?

Does the Maine-only opener serve to reinforce the image of Mainers as unfriendly and distrustful of those “from away?”

Or do you think the law makes perfect sense?

Whatever your opinion, I hope you’ll consider sharing it via email, or on the comments section below this column. I’ll monitor both and may share a few of your thoughts in this weekend’s column.

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