Forgiving Dad

Forgiving Dad

Last season, when Lori Poole of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was asked by her dad to participate in a spur-of-the-moment hunt for a big buck he had just seen, she not only ended up bagging that deer, but she also solidified a special relationship.

Lori and her dad, Vernon Ferguson, pose proudly with the 153 6/8-inch trophy that Lori shot on Dec. 1, 2008. Vernon had seen the buck bedded down, and he planned an ambush with several family members. As luck would have it, Lori, who hadn't hunted in several years, ended up shooting the beautiful 10-point trophy.

It was Thanksgiving Day 2008 and Dad was talking about hunting again! He was passing around his video camera, telling everyone in the family about this big buck he'd seen several times during the past few weeks. I was intrigued, so I watched the video. As I watched, I wasn't sure that the buck was as big as Dad claimed it was, but Dad was excited, and that was all he talked about that evening.

At the time, we were not on very good terms. Dad had taken my 5-year-old son, Will, hunting against my wishes. Dad had told me about a new mentor program implemented by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in which you could take a child hunting at any age under proper supervision. I had never heard of the program and I wasn't totally convinced that he wasn't making the whole thing up.

Nevertheless, I argued that, at 5 years of age, Will was not ready to see a deer die. I knew Dad had been working with him, practicing with the crossbow and teaching him where to place the shot on a deer. But I still didn't think Will was ready to see a deer die. I thought it might traumatize him at his young age.

I didn't start hunting with my dad until I was 12 years old, and I felt that Will should be at least a few years older, too. Earlier during the 2008 season, Will had come home from Poppy's (Dad's) house and said that he'd almost gotten a shot at a buck. I asked more questions, and he told me that he'd been hunting with Poppy on three different occasions.

He said he'd been wearing a safety harness and the tree stand they were in had rails on all four sides. But that didn't make any difference. I was still mad. I called Dad and he admitted to everything. Still, it didn't make me feel any better. We hadn't talked much since that time.

When I answered the phone a few days later on the morning of Dec. 1, 2008, Dad told me he had just seen the big deer that he had captured on video. Dad had already taken a nice 8-pointer back during archery season, so he had been trying to let my Uncle Pablo shoot the big 10-pointer while he ran the video camera.

About 9 a.m., they saw the big bruiser at 150 yards. But the deer went into some thick brush and never came out. Dad climbed down from his tree stand and did a little drive in hopes of pushing the buck past my uncle. However, only three does came out. We don't shoot does during buck season (firearms season) even though it's legal where we hunt in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

When Dad got back to the stand, he told Uncle Pablo that he would go up to the house and do another push. When he was 200 yards from Uncle Pablo, he saw the monster's rack down through the woods. The buck was bedded in some thick brush. Since the buck hadn't cooperated on the first push, Dad was afraid he wouldn't go past Uncle Pablo if he jumped him out of his bed.

So Dad got on the phone and called my brother, Vernon. Vernon was working a second shift, though, and Dad never got an answer. His second call went to his good buddy, Herb. Herb said he couldn't leave work because he was short-handed. Since it was the first day of buck firearms season in Pennsylvania, a lot of people had already taken off to go hunting.

I guess I was Dad's last hope. I hadn't hunted in 15 years. Dad told me to go get a license and pick up my brother Victor from his job and be at his house by 3:30 that afternoon.

When we arrived, Dad had all my clothes laid out and my shotgun on the pool table in the basement. Victor and I got dressed in some old musty, smelly hunting clothes that seemed to be as old as my Dad.

Dad sent Victor down in the valley to hunt with Uncle Pablo. Uncle Pablo had been on stand since 5:30 a.m. with nothing to eat or drink. Dad said he was dressed like it was archery season and we knew he must be cold and hungry. Uncle Pablo had called up to the house and told Dad to send Victor down with a bottle of water. We gave Victor half an hour to get set up.

Just before we left the basement, the sky got black and it started to sleet and rain. This was something Dad hadn't planned on, but it was perfect for stalking a big buck. Dad was videotaping and trying to keep the camera dry, and I was trying to keep my scope dry with a glove over it. As we sneaked through the woods, you could hear the sleet on the leaves. It sounded like bacon cooking in a hot frying pan.

As we neared the spot where Dad had last seen the buck, I slowed down and started looking. The buck was still bedded and I could just see his rack moving in the 2-foot-high undergrowth as he moved his head. Dad told me to crawl up to the next tree about 20 yards closer and try to get a shot before the buck made his escape. I think Dad half expected me to jump the monster up and push him to my uncle and brother.

Just as I got to the tree and started getting into position to shoot, the buck decided to stand up and leave his bed. I'm not sure if it was my perfume or just time for him to start feeding! At any rate, he stood up and all I could see was his massive rack and part of his neck. I didn't want to risk a neck shot, but I didn't want him to get away either. I knew I only had a second to make the shot, so I dropped the cross hairs down to where I thought his vital area should be and waited for him to move so that I could get a clear shot.

Dad was still videotaping as the monster started to move. I squeezed off the shot, and the buck dropped like a skydiver with no parachute. Dad turned the camera on me, still recording, and said, "Nice shot!" Those words made me feel great.

Victor called five minutes after he heard the shot. Dad told him it was over and that I had just gotten my first monster buck. The buck had an outside spread of 21 5/8 inches and a total of 10 points on his rack. He grossed 153 6/8 inches. Needless to say, I was thrilled with my trophy buck, and suddenly Dad was forgiven for going against my wishes with Will.

And now that I've started hunting again, who knows? I may just go back into retirement and wait until Will is old enough to hunt, or I may start hunting with Dad on a regular basis. After all,

there's nothing quite like whitetail hunting to bring families together!

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