I woke up early the other day and as I rolled out of bed many thoughts of early season bowhunting adventures raced through my mind. I quickly ate some breakfast and headed out to pick up my Dad. When I stepped outside I was greeted with a cool, refreshing fall breeze. I fired up my truck and began the drive across town to his place.

     I recalled many of our early season hunts and knew that soon enough we would have yet another memory to store away. My father probably never realized that when he introduced me to bowhunting 23 years earlier that he would gain so much more than a son who enjoyed the same hobby as he did. He would gain a best friend, a friendship that goes so much deeper than a typical father and son relationship.

     After I picked up Dad we headed to our parcel of land for the morning hunt. I decided to go to a favorite spot that I hadn’t hunted in two years. I found a nice tree, latched my climbing treestand to it and made my way to a perch about 15 feet off the ground.

     After I finally settled in, the woods came alive with wildlife. I watched squirrels and chipmunks dashing through the leaves as they gathered nuts for the winter months. I could faintly hear geese honking and knew their annual trek south was in its beginning stages.

     Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of movement in the brush: it was a small buck, feeding on acorns as he made his way toward my stand. I was content to just watch him. He fed through the area surrounding my treestand for about a half-hour. As he rummaged through the leaves with his nose I heard a stick crack behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and could see a larger buck coming up the hill, heading right for me.

     As he closed the distance the other buck in front of me trotted down the hill. I watched closely as they both were now directly beneath me. The smaller buck sniffed his larger counterpart’s nose and then started circling him. His hair stood up on his neck and he pinned his ears straight back against his head. I knew a fight was brewing.

     After completing two circles around the larger buck the smaller one lunged forward. They cracked their antlers together, pushed and shoved and then broke apart. Within a few seconds they were locked together.

     Deciding to take the larger buck, I slowly drew my bow. Their hooves were dug into the moss, but neither one of them appeared to be gaining any apparent advantage. My sight pin quickly settled and the arrow found its mark. The bucks separated and dashed away in opposite directions. The smaller buck thought he had won the battle. He ran a short distance up the hill and gazed at his fallen foe about 60 yards away. Satisfied with his apparent victory, although he couldn’t quite figure it out, he eventually wandered off.

     As I climbed down the tree I gazed into the powder blue sky and quietly whispered a simple thank you to my father. Without introducing me to bowhunting 23 years earlier I never would have witnessed what had just taken place in front of me. I would also never have been able to share the experience an hour later with my Dad, my best friend.

     As we all get ready for the fall hunting seasons, remember to take a kid hunting if you have a chance. Who knows, it could change a kid’s life forever. Thank you, Dad, for taking me early season bowhunting all those years ago. And thank you for still taking me and more than anything for becoming my best friend and the person I have shared every outdoor moment with since that first fall day.