From the deer stand

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Courtesy of Jason Christie

There was a time when deer hunting meant climbing a tree, standing on a limb and hoping it didn’t break. I made it through several years of doing that, but if I could go back, I’d definitely take a more safety-conscious approach. But while I can’t change the past, I’ve made safety the very first consideration for my family.

I’ve always been good about the logistics and security of our hunts, but every year — especially this year with my oldest daughter away at college and absent from our family hunts — I’m paying even closer attention to all the little details.

From that early trail cutting and stand positioning, it’s as much about everyone’s well-being as it its for hunting efficiency. For example, last year, while walking in and out of the woods, I saw copperheads and rattlesnakes. This year, I have our paths trimmed back pretty good, so that shouldn’t be too much of a concern. 

Another thing I’ve done is transfer a lot of my hang-on stands to ladder style stands. My dad’s getting older and with my kids and wife hunting on their own a lot, I rest easier knowing that I have them all in as stable a platform as possible. 

Now, I try to keep our family hunts relaxed and fun, but I don’t budge when it comes to making sure everyone stays safe. So, I have a handful of rules that we always follow.

First off, we all wear safety belts. It takes half a second for an accident to happen, so I’m taking no chances. It’s like wearing a seatbelt in your car; you can still get in an accident, but things may not be as bad.

Next, my kids know that whenever we’re rifle hunting, whenever they shoot, they have about 30 seconds to text me. That tells me that they’re ok. 

As a dad, you hear a gunshot and you don’t want anything bad to have happened. Whenever I text them, they may still be looking at the deer or trying to see where it runs off to, so they may not immediately answer.

Most of the time, they’ll let me know “Hey, here comes a deer,” and then I kind of expect the shot. But they know that whenever they shoot, if I don’t hear from them in 30 seconds, I’m heading that way.

The third rule we follow involves other people in our area. We hunt on private land, and I can count on one hand the number of trespassers we’ve had in the 30 years I’ve been going out there. But they know that if they do see somebody, they text me immediately.

There shouldn’t be anybody up there, but if there is, they can let me know somebody’s 50 yards or a 100 yards from their tree stand. And not that a trespasser is necessarily there to do something bad, but as a dad, it’s my job to intercept anyone that may show up and just talk to them and see what’s going on. 

With all these things in place, we generally end up having a pretty good time. You know, in my early days of hunting, it was all about killing the biggest deer I could, but now, it’s more about the family experience.

Of course, I want to shoot one and we eat the heck out of deer meat, so it’s important that we get a few each year to maintain the way we eat throughout the year. But, every year, I’m finding myself focusing more on the family experience.

I look at it this way: Every Elite season I set goals for myself, but it’s not that way with hunting. This is a family tradition that involves multiple generations. It’s something that keeps us all close, so I’ll do whatever I need to do to make sure we all stay safe and happy while we’re making memories.