Dad’s Last Deer Hunt

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The man who made the author a hunter and told him a lifetime of stories, on what might be his final deer hunt. (Steve Sorensen photo.)

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

“The Storytellers.” Sounds like a good name for a band, doesn’t it? n fact, it was the name of the back-up group for Tom T. Hall, country music singer and songwriter and member of the Grand Ole Opry. Even if you’ve never heard this great storyteller’s name, you’ve heard the stories he has told: “The Harper Valley PTA,” “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine,” and many others. He has written songs for Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and dozens more. The quintessential country song has always been a story, and Tom T. Hall tells them as well as anyone.

If you’re a hunter, you’re a storyteller too. If you don’t hunt, listen in. We never tire of telling them. Give a hunter five minutes and he can spin a good yarn.

Storytelling is so basic to hunting that every hunter’s experience becomes an inventory of stories starting with the harvest of his or her first buck—or even before. How the deer approached. What other deer were with him. How far away he was. What had his attention. How he reacted at the shot. All the details are filed in the memory bank of the storyteller, who vividly recalls them with less effort than the click of a mental mouse so he can retell them to any willing storytellee.

Last week I took a man hunting who has told some great stories. At 89 years, my father’s days of experiencing new stories are waning, and his memories are starting to fade. Facts from different stories have begun melting together. Folks in the stories now occasionally trade places.

On that day, we made a new story from what might be his last hunt. I sprung him from the nursing home where he lives and with agricultural deer damage permits in hand we headed to a spot where a farmer needed some deer killed. Dad would be unable to get out of the truck, so I secured a state-issued permit for him to use a vehicle as a blind. I sighted in his .308 deer rifle with Hornady reduced recoil loads. I scouted the property. I gave adjacent property owners the courtesy of knowing what we were trying to do. No point in making them suspicious.

I wasn’t sure whether Dad could shoot a deer or not, but we were going to find out.
Despite all my preparation, killing a deer was not to be. We saw about 20 deer, and half of them would have been perfect targets if Dad had been up to the task. He wasn’t. With a leg that doesn’t work, his mobility is severely restricted. With diminished strength, he could barely dry-fire the rifle. And with limited flexibility, he couldn’t get his eye lined up behind the scope when the perfect 40-yard shot presented itself.

But that’s OK. We were still successful. He enjoyed the hunt as much as he could have, and when we returned to the nursing home the nurses asked if he had fun. He said, “We had a lot of fun!”

That’s what was important. Here is a man with stories about shooting a deer at 400 yards, sneaking up on them in heavy snow, shooting them on an all-out run, shooting from the hip at a deer less than 10 yards away in a full-bore charge… great times… great stories. And finally, his last hunt—the two of us sitting in a truck watching deer together—was “a lot of fun!”

We had made a new story—what more can we ask?

As his memory dims, his stories remain alive in my mind. And now that we’ve reached the day when I tell them back to him, he listens as intently as I did when he first told them to me.

Since the beginning hunters have been storytellers. Storytelling is in our blood. Stories teach more than how to hunt deer. They create a bond of love and respect. They transform ordinary hunters into poets and philosophers. They are essential to our hunts—and to our families. They keep traditions alive.

And even if no one ever writes a song about them, hunting stories are music to our ears.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing. Read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.