Photo and Text
Healthy competition is closely linked to sportsmanship, and vice versa.
When my son Josh forwarded me a trail-cam photo of a huge buck in October, I quickly texted him back with “I call dibs on that one,” knowing I’d be back in Missouri for the November firearms season.
Part of the rationale behind my claim was that the photo had been captured not 30 yards from the Fat Shack (don’t ask). The Fat Shack is a deer stand Josh constructed, with my future diminished mobility in mind, at the intersection of a short section of power line bordered by woods on both sides and the corner of a large field, in an area we call the Back 40.
Most aging parents try to coerce their children into taking an oath not to put them in a nursing home. I had taken the more pro-active approach of half-jokingly asking Josh, while we were deer hunting one day, if he would continue taking me out to the woods in a wheelchair, if it ever came to that.
THE FAT SHACK
So Josh, a master deck builder by trade, soon started construction of the Fat Shack at the back corner of the Back 40. The structure was mostly finished by the time a nearby hang-on tree stand collapsed beneath me in 2013, sending me 17-plus feet down to the forest floor and scaring Josh, a trio of EMTs, my wife and a dozen doctors so badly that I was prohibited from climbing trees or using ladders until further notice.
The Fat Shack is a four- by ten-foot box stand, complete with a roof and a plywood skirt that serves as a 360-degree shooting rest. It is furnished with three chairs and a portable h
eater and lots of small hooks to hang accessories on to keep them from making you stumble or create unnatural noises. A wooden staircase provides access. After my fall in 2013, Josh added a handrail on one side of the stairs. Bottom line: I’m at no greater risk falling from the Fat Shack than I am climbing up to the second floor of my home to go to bed each night.
But I digress; back to the buck’s pausing in the neighborhood. When Josh sent me the photo, I named the heavy-antlered bruiser Twin Forks. His rack had branched antlers on both sides, unusual for a whitetail.
The rest of October, a backlog of deck jobs kept Josh busy and kept him from bow-hunting as much as he normally does. But the first week in November, Josh sent me another photo of Twin Forks, a close-up this time. With Josh and his bow in the background. With the buck now deceased.
The excuse Josh came up with for not honoring my “dibs” request was that when the buck showed up beneath the same tree I had previously fallen from, he didn’t recognize the animal as the same one he had caught on film. So he went ahead and stuck the buck, which turned out to be a 170-plus inch, 13-pointer weighing well over 250 pounds.
As his father and lifelong hunting partner, I did not and would not want Josh to feel guilty about shooting “my deer.” Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to fall for his concocted excuse, either.
See, we both come from the same string of superb storytellers.
HE’S GLAD, SURE
So I tell people, as I’m telling y’all now, that I’m glad Josh shot Twin Forks before I arrived from Georgia, because had I seen something that size, I’d have surely fallen ill with a fever of some sort and blown the shot, or worse, panicked and found a way to take a nosedive out one of the windows of the Fat Shack.
So now, to bring this story back around to its title, “Braggin’ Rights,” I would like to offer up the rationalization that as Senior Partner of the Firm known as the Slovensky Hunting Club, I am not relinquishing any credit for the recent accomplishments of any of its Junior Partners.
After all, Josh learned a good bit of woodsmanship and deer hunting lore from me, even though I will have to admit he has added a good bit more since I left home. Furthermore, he has genetically acquired that level of narrow-minded persistence required of trophy buck hunters.
And then there’s the storytelling part, which, according to my wife and Josh’s mother, could still use some polish.