By Charlie Brawner – November 7, 2019
When I was a child my grandpa and uncles went deer hunting every year. They would leave a day or two before the annual gun deer hunting opener – the Saturday before Thanksgiving – and stay for a few days. They’d come back for a day or two to regroup and celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. We’d have Thanksgiving “dinner” at about 2:00 PM at grandma’s house and they’d all head back up north leaving my nine cousins and me with my grandma, mom, aunts…and dad? Dad was an avid fisherman and bird hunter. For whatever reason big game hunting wasn’t for him. Grandpa and the uncles would also go hunting out west for many years and dad wouldn’t participate.
My brother, Andy, started deer hunting when he was 12 (I’m three years younger). My dad turned the mentoring of my brother over to his dad and brothers. This led to the infamous “get what’s on the inside outside” story of Andy’s first deer and subsequent knife wound that I hope he will tell on this page at some point.
Over the next few seasons dad started showing up at deer camp for opening day to check in on Andy and the rest of the family and he’d bring me along. I was more interested in shooting things with my BB gun and Marv’s epic bonfires than I was hunting, but I had fun being a part of it.
In 1988 when I was ready to start deer hunting dad decided he would start, too. Not sure why he didn’t with Andy but he felt the need to with me. It probably had something to do with Andy’s maturity and/or my lack of it. Andy was not only larger than most grown men by the time he was 12, he had a maturity beyond his years to match. At least he did in my mind. I did not. Whatever the reason, dad started hunting deer the same year I did. He was 42.
I remember very little about my first year hunting deer in Florence, but I definitely remember the next year when we joined Ron, Jo, and the rest of the Jasperson deer camp in Polk County. Their camp had so many luxuries that the Florence camp was lacking: private property, tree stands, deer, etc. Dad, Uncle Bill, and I went to Polk County for the next few years and they set me up with a tree stand.
I had to climb a ladder to get up to my spot up in the tree and dad was NOT a fan of that idea. First, it can be dangerous. However, at this point I was 13 years old and relatively athletic. I could climb that ladder in my sleep and was wise enough to know I should wait until I’m in my stand to load my rifle. Dad could not climb the stand and even if he could there wasn’t room for two up there especially when one was his size. This meant he was sitting on the ground at the foot of the tree beneath my stand. While we hunted he verbally checked in on me frequently, but it didn’t take long for him to go silent. I assumed he fell asleep. That assumption was bolstered later when I actually saw my first deer. I wondered to myself, “Can dad see these deer? Is he going to shoot? Probably not. He’s gotta be sleeping.” My suspicions were confirmed when I placed my crosshairs on one of the deer and pulled the trigger. This caused both dad and the deer to jump straight up in the air. It did not end well for the deer. Dad yelled, “WHAT HAPPENED?!? ARE YOU OK???” I remember feeling only somewhat insulted when I replied, “I shot a deer.” I wasn’t audacious or disrespectful enough to say what I was really thinking, which was, “What the hell did you think I was doing?” It was possible that dad thought there was a better chance that I had accidentally shot myself than actually accomplishing what I was there for. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
In his defense, I’d think the exact same thing about my 10-year-old son now.
To read more tales about my dad, the worst deer hunter who ever lived, click here.