Deer hunting can make or break families

Published 9:57 am Friday, December 1, 2023

Deer hunting season has arrived once again. For many, it’s a time to be in the woods with a rifle or a bow hoping to get a deer that will wind up in the freezer and eventually on the dinner table.

In some cases, it’s a right of passage for youngsters. Many parents who hunted in their youth want their sons and daughters to hunt and continue the tradition.

Growing up in the South, hunting was what we did. I hunted off and on through most of my life, but I never had much interest in hunting deer. My brother Johnny once took me on the family farm to a wooded area on the backside. He got the deer, one of the first of many in his life.

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For me, it was upland hunting–duck, quail, pheasant. It always seemed to me to be slightly more advantageous for the winged ones to live to fly another day because we never used hunting dogs or baited the fields. You walked, walked, and walked to scare up a pheasant or a quail. Hunting ducks meant standing in fishing waders in ice cold water for hours with the least offensive caller in the group blowing into a duck call. I sometimes felt we scared away more ducks than we attracted, especially if the preacher got invited. We often joked afterward about how we understood why no one answered his calls in church on Sunday to come down to “be saved.”

Of all the types of hunting, deer hunting is the most dangerous. Although any firearm can be lethal, bird shot loses its power quickly after the shot is fired but rifle bullets are capable of traveling for miles. Add to the equation a lack of discipline, no gun safety training, horseplay or alcohol and the risks skyrocket. You might be able to guess which one contributes to one of the highest causes of deer hunting accidents–falling out of a deer stand. About 4,000 people are injured this way every year, some fatally.

But nothing troubles me more than seeing children, some barely out of diapers, being taken on a deer hunt. Gone are the days when kids had to wait until they were nearly teenagers to go. Nowadays, it seems to be more about the parent being able to post a photo on social media proudly showing little Johnny or Emma holding up the head of their “first deer” at the age of 6.

I think of this now. I doubt anyone reading this knew Avery Davis of Orangeburg, S.C. He was 6 when he was hit in the head by a shot while deer hunting the day after Thanksgiving. He was in a tree stand with another 6-year-old when a teenager on the ground aimed too high.

Avery’s father said, ”It was a freak accident.”

It was more than that, as we all know. It was more than that.

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com