Hearing a twig snap as a doe or buck makes its way through the woods, seeing the sunrise peeking over the trees and enjoying the serenity of the great outdoors are some of Luke Guest’s favorite things while hunting with his 10-year-old son, Karson.
But Karson has quite a different take.
“I like the snacks,” Karson said.
Karson began tagging along on his dad’s hunting trips when he was five years old, and by the time he was eight, it was time for him to carry a rifle of his own.
“He killed four deer that year,” said Guest, vice president of Hunters’ Hollow. “He killed his first one, and then he went on to kill three more that same year.”
What Karson remembered most from the day he laid claim to his first deer, a three-point buck, was his father’s laughter.
“It took him a few shots to hit the first one,” Guest said.
“[My dad] was happy,” Karson said. “But whenever I missed my second, third and fourth shot, he was just bawling laughing.”
As Karson went to bolt his rifle for the fifth shot, Guest told him he’d have to reload before shooting again.
“He hit that first one on the fifth try,” Guest said. “It wasn’t the same deer, obviously, but all of those five shots were in the same morning. It was kind of an eventful morning.”
The fifth shot seemed to be the charm for Karson. Today, he hardly misses.
“After that [first deer], he went on a spree,” Guest said. “He killed four in a row in just one shot apiece. So once he figured it out, he was on it.”
Some of Guest’s fondest memories of Karson’s earliest hunts, before he carried a gun, were when they didn’t bring home a deer or turkey. Sometimes, they didn’t even need to see a deer to enjoy their time together.
“You’d take a stop when a box turtle was crossing the road and mess with it,” Guest said. “I remember we caught frogs one morning. It was definitely some good times.”
They never knew what creatures might cross their path while walking through the woods.
“I remember [Karson] was a trooper,” Guest said. “He would walk a lot more then than he will now. He starts walking now, he starts complaining.”
“It used to be I liked walking,” Karson said. “Hunting has changed so much for me. Now, I actually like to bring my iPad, and all I do is play pretty much the whole time.”
Guest picked at Karson by making phone-playing gestures with his hands while he talked about how technology has changed the nature of hunting.
“But, Dad,” Karson said, “on my first hunt, we just played thumb wars and all kinds of weird stuff.”
When Guest went on hunts with his father as a child, there was no playing on a tablet or cellphone to pass the time.
“You paid attention,” Guest said. “You hoped you saw something move or heard a twig snap or something like that. Cellphones have kind of ruined hunting.”
“You know you do it, too,” Karson said.
“OK, I’m guilty of it, too,” Guest responded.
Guest said now when he gets bored while hunting, he texts friends and asks if they’ve seen any deer.
“Probably while you’re doing that, one’s walking by right behind you,” Guest said.
Although Karson likes the snacks and playing on his iPad the most, he still enjoys the quiet, peaceful nature of deer hunting and plans to get a hunting license at 16. But he is still uneasy with the idea of hunting alone.
“I’m going to get lost,” he said. “But I’m more nervous because I only check [for deer] every five minutes. Sometimes, I forget to go every five minutes, and I wait like 10 or 15 [minutes]. I’m not the person that looks every time. Every time I’ve killed a deer, my Dad [spotted it].”
Karson’s favorite weapon to hunt with now is a crossbow. He killed his first deer with a crossbow last year, and said he likes that it doesn’t kick, it’s quieter than a gun, and he can get closer to deer, meaning he doesn’t have to walk so far.
Karson was asked if crossbow hunting was more challenging since he had to keep quieter that close to a deer. Guest looked over at Karson with big eyes and said, “Mmm-hmm.”
“Being quiet can be a chore sometimes,” Guest added.
“Dad, you’re not that quiet either, you know,” Karson said.
Guest said he wants the hunting trips with his son to teach him respect and appreciation for the outdoors. He also hopes Karson values the one-on-one time and knows that hunting’s not about what’s killed or harvested: “It’s just being out there.”
“You never know what you’re going to run into,” Guest said. “It’s always something different, and it never happens the same way.”
So far, Karson said he’s learned how to be more quiet and how to navigate through the woods a little better.
“I can remember how to get back, but not deep in the woods,” Karson said, “just out in the edge [of the woods], kind of.”
Guest said Karson hasn’t quite learned about the work that comes after killing a deer, such as skinning it and preparing it to eat.
“Yeah, and I’m not going to,” Karson said.
“He’s opposed to helping skin the deer so far,” Guest said.
Guest and Karson hunt whenever they get the chance, usually once or twice on the weekends. But before daylight savings time, they would often go as soon as Karson got out of school in the afternoons.
“I don’t like the time change,” Guest said.
“Yeah, we only have one hour and 30 minutes now,” Karson said.
“You should do a story on that,” Guest said. “We don’t need daylight savings time anymore.”
Video by Luke Guest
By Randall Haley, associate editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.