The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
Ken Perrotte’s outdoors column: Young hunters give thanks
THERE IS NOTHING like a little deer hunting to clear a person’s head after the unprecedented barrage of political vitriol we here in a “battleground state” had to endure for much of the year.
After a nice mature white-tailed buck decided to make his presence known by posing for my game camera on Nov. 1, I eagerly awaited the opening days of the early muzzleloader season.
Big boy and I had a late afternoon Election Day rendezvous, but he dodged the proverbial bullet and escaped unscathed. He had seemingly disappeared, along with other deer, for several days, before I saw him again on the last day of the early season. Sadly, he was lying dead near the roadside, obviously not as lucky when it came to eluding motor vehicles.
The opening day of the general firearms season saw me taking my grandson Kenny hunting.
This was his first hunt using a 20-gauge slug gun. The cold, clear morning presented no opportunity and at noon we headed to Essex County and Bruce Lee’s Kinloch Farm for the annual youth deer hunt of the Fredericksburg–Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association.
Many of the young hunters are recent graduates from the multiple Hunter Education courses Buddy Fines leads
in and around King George. An increasing number were girls, which matches a national trend of more women beginning to enjoy hunting and the shooting sports.
The young hunters and their adult mentors were just finishing a feast of a lunch, prepared by Lee “Mac” McLennan when we rolled in.
I reminded them that Thursday is Thanksgiving and asked them if they would share with me what they are thankful for in terms of enjoying the outdoors. They jotted down their thoughts, with many acknowledging God’s creation and the good times spent with family. A couple added thanks to Lee, the landowner, for sharing his outdoors world with them.
Actually, hunting access can be as important as mentorship for young people and others interested in exploring this American tradition and tapping that hunter–gatherer in our DNA.
Here are their words.
Jacob Randall, 14, King George: “I guess this year I’m thankful for the food we have to eat, the woods that we can hunt, and the Earth that God has given us.”
Spencer Wilson, 13, Orange: “One thing I am grateful for is that we are able to harvest these wonderful creatures of nature and provide food on our tables. I am also thankful for people like Bruce Lee to allow us to hunt his property.”
Travis Keyes, 13, Stafford: “I’m thankful for people like Bruce Lee for letting me hunt on his property.”
Andrew Woodard, 10, Spotsylvania: “I am thankful for enjoying the outdoors with my family. I like to get out and see the wildlife.”
Allison Powell, 13, King George: “I am thankful for the food/animals provided in the outdoors. It’s interesting to see the cool things. I’m also thankful for spending time with my dad or grandpa.”
Nikolas Powell, 15, King George: “I am thankful for the food God provides us, the enjoyment of nature and the safety of the people.”
Constance Johnson, 15, Farnham: “God’s wondrous creation of nature.”
Madeline Hassler, 14, King George: “I love being in the outdoors because I used to live in a city so there weren’t very many trees to start with. The main reason is I get to spend time with my dad.”
Lauren McCall, 10, King George: “I like to hunt and play basketball outdoors. When I shoot a deer, I like my dad to put it in the barbecue. I like to spend time with my dad and grandpa.”
Randall Bosworth, 15, King George: “I am thankful for all that God has given us.”
An opportunity came for Kenny and me to sit in one of the hunting blinds on the property for the late afternoon portion of hunt.
The wind was squirrelly. At 4 p.m. a couple of deer ran past a blind about 400 yards away. Forty-five minutes later, I heard leaves crunching in the woods to our right. When the deer finally appeared just 40 yards away at the edge of the field I told Kenny to get ready.
His adrenaline was spiking and he drew deep breaths trying to slow his racing heart. The deer took its time stepping into the clear, and Kenny settled his nerves. When it finally advanced a few steps and looked away, Kenny centered the scope’s crosshairs and fired.
Fifteen minutes later, we were field dressing his first buck, a nice spikehorn. We jokingly called it an 11-pointer; the deer’s perfect spike antlers looked just like the numeral 11. My observation is that spikehorns make up the majority of many young hunters’ first deer. It is certainly a trophy buck to him.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach and mentor, and to pass along an appreciation that hunting is so much more than seeking the thrill of a hunt’s climax.
I posted on Facebook a photo of Kenny and me with his buck, as well as a plate full of neatly trimmed backstraps begging for the grill.
One of my Facebook friends, noted wildlife photographer Tim Flanigan, observed, “Isn’t it sad that the nonhunting public isn’t aware of the pleasures that we enjoy afield and the gourmet quality rewards that we enjoy on the table?”
As we enjoy Thanksgiving today, hopefully with some sort of wild game as part of the fare, let’s give thanks for those pleasures. We can also take it a step further, imparting our love and enthusiasm with those who don’t know or understand our outdoors passions and mentoring those who may want to share our experiences.
Footnote: The U.S. Senate was unable to act on the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525). The legislation is expected to come to a vote Monday.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail