Bucks and holidays

We had a really nice Thanksgiving this year. Our family — Sherry, Nicholas, Jackson and me — went on a vacation with close friends. Basically, we just relaxed and enjoyed each other's company, something we don't get nearly enough of with our busy lifestyle. It was special.

The day before we left was special, too. Nicholas got his first buck. He was hunting with my brother-in-law, Russ Campbell, when, late in the day, just about the time they were thinking abut packing it in, a nice buck came into their area.

Nicholas stayed calm, took his time and made a clean 130-yard shot with his muzzleloader. That's a heck of a shot for any hunter, much less a young man trying to kill his first buck.

His work before the hunt was critical in making that shot. We have a shooting range at the house so the boys can practice. Both of them worked hard this year to perfect their skills. Either one of them can shoot a 1-inch group at 100 yards.

Of course, as any hunter knows, it's one thing to shoot a tight group on the range when everything's in your favor. It's a lot harder to do it in the woods when conditions aren't perfect and the adrenaline is flowing.

Nicholas made the shot, but Russ' skills played a big part in it, as well. His experience helped Nicholas keep everything under control until the shot was made. He deserves some of the credit.

After he was shot, the buck ran about 40 yards into a corn field. We let Jackson and Nicholas do the tracking. They did a really professional job following the blood trail using a flashlight in the early darkness. We're as proud as we can be about the whole thing.

Our next goal is to help Jackson harvest a nice one. He had a chance on opening day, but it didn't work out. We — he was hunting with me that day — saw a really big buck, something any hunter on the planet would have been proud to have killed. Unfortunately, his shot was high, and the buck got away.

That's the sort of thing that happens to all of us. It's like losing a big bass — disappointing, but it's a part of the experience. If everything went perfect all the time, anyone and everyone would have a trophy over the mantle. There'd be nothing special in that.

I've included a photo of the buck and the boys with me after the hunt. Nicholas is the one holding the rack. Jackson is on your left. I'm the one in the middle with the big grin.

Tell me it's not all about the attitude!

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