Just on the edge of Appalachia, where urban sprawl fades into golden fields, a young hunter crouches low in anticipation. He looks left toward the creek where a dampness settles in the valley. He looks to the right where yellow leaves fall to trail and rays of sunlight filter through the maple trees.
After many long minutes of waiting, his target approaches in a flurry of quick movements. The hunter’s stomach flips and then rights itself. He stands up, cocks his gun, aims and fires.
A flutter of leaves and a soft thump are the sounds of triumph. Then silence fills the air for a few seconds before he proclaims, “I think I got it, Dad.”
The fallen prey had a brown hide, but no antlers. It was a little on the small side, but that made the meat tender. This amateur sniper had just harvested his first squirrel…and then ate it for breakfast.
He cooked a rodent in my cast iron skillet; I couldn’t even watch. No need for a brine, too complicated, and there wasn’t time for marinating. The oversimplified recipe called for butter, salt, and pepper. He scarfed it down with a side of eggs and a glass of cider.
Such filling nourishment gave him the strength to reenact the fateful hunt at least 20 times that day, or so it seemed to his siblings.
In any large family, being the youngest child has special privileges and unique struggles. The oldest siblings certainly claim the youngest are spoiled, getting to do things at a younger age or staying up late while still young.
Our youngest is the only one with blue eyes, freckles and a dimple in his chin. Combine those adorable features with a tender heart and quick temper and that is our number four in a nutshell.
He’s been having a hard time with the fact that he still can’t go out deer hunting like his brother. His dad decided that he could start hunting small game and work his way up to deer. He will also be joining his older brother on the On Target Outfitters Archery team this year.
Change of plans
Our oldest son suffered an injury that made him unable to compete in contact sports last fall. At church camp, he was inadvertently struck in the eye with a golf club.
After two ambulance rides he finally arrived at a trauma center. The doctors determined that the orbital bones around his eye were shattered and he also had a laceration on his eyelid. He left the hospital with double vision and strict orders not to raise his blood pressure to protect his eye.
With three weeks left in his summer, we were challenged with figuring out what to do with a 13-year-old with those restrictions. He still wanted to be outside and spent many hours on a small pontoon boat on his great-grandfather’s lake.
Miraculously, his eye healed quickly and his vision was completely restored. The doctors said that teenage boys heal faster than any other age group.
Instead of playing soccer and risking being hit in the head again, we signed him up for the archery team. It was a decision that changed the trajectory of his next year. He loved the friendly competition and environment at On Target Outfitters in Canfield, Ohio.
Mentorship and multi-generational events are foundational parts of On Target Outfitters. The skills he learned at the indoor target range fluidly transferred to the great outdoors. Eagerly, he practiced shooting his bow all spring and summer.
In early fall, he set up a deer stand near a trail frequently tread upon by wildlife. On the weekends, he wakes up before the sunrise to be on the trail at first light.
There’s an elusive large buck on a farm we like to call the “ghost.” The massive buck shows up on deer cam photos and makes infrequent appearances at the edge of fields.
According to the Department of National Resources, during the 2019-2020 season over 184,000 deer were harvested in Ohio. Almost half the deer were harvested by archers. It seems like someone in my family has a good chance to capture “the ghost” this season. Determination and perseverance are our greatest ammunition in this hunt for the smallest and the largest target.
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