I remember when Dave shot his first deer on the opening day of the season. My wife and I were hunting together in an adjacent field when the text came through: “DEER DOWN!” He was hunting in my no.1 stand overlooking acres of corn surrounded by green grass and clover when a pair of deer came into the field. He had managed to keep his excitement under control and make a fatal shot on the lead doe. This would be the first of many great hunting experiences we would share over the coming years.
We spent the following Spring spent hunting wild turkeys and while we missed a few good opportunities, Dave’s woodsmanship skills were improving drastically and I could tell the turkeys’ luck would soon run out. It was almost the last day of the regulated turkey season when Dave called looking to go on another hunt. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join but I could tell him exactly where the turkeys had been hanging out and how/where to set his blind up. That morning Dave called in two beautiful mature toms and had successfully killed his first turkey all on his own.
“I got a text from Dave. He had shot a doe and wanted to know what he should do. I chose to not answer him – he had to do this on his own.”
It was just the boost of confidence he needed for me to turn him loose. I was no longer going to recommend which stands to hunt from or walk with him to and from his stands. I told Dave I would be there if he really needed me, but he would have to decide where and when to hunt and apply everything he had learned.
A few days into the archery season I got a text from Dave. He had shot a doe and wanted to know what he should do to recover it, and the best way out of the woods. I was extremely excited for him and had to fight the urge to go and help. I chose to not answer him – he had to do this on his own.
The 2016 Whitetail deer season turned out to be an epic one for Dave. He harvested two mature does and a mature 8 point buck. Now Dave was not only a confident hunter, but a darn good hunter and someone who I would hunt beside at any time. This led to my proudest moment as Dave’s mentor when shortly after the close of the hunting season Dave stood shoulder to shoulder with me as we were two of just six recognized as Master Hunters for exceptional harvests at a hunting awards banquet.
It wasn’t until this past May 2017, that I realized just how far the reach of mentoring one person could go. Dave was now mentoring two of his grandchildren and sharing with them the same basic fundamentals that I had shared with him just a few short years ago.