I took a drive with my dad up to Clearwater last week. Our destination was the VFW post, which we reached at about 10:45 a.m.
Even though it was only a one-hour trip, my dad was excited. How excited? He woke up at 6 a.m. just to make sure he’d be ready by 9:15, when I was scheduled to pick him up.
What was the occasion? It was the mandatory training for those who qualified for a special hunt for disabled war veterans at Camp Ripley, located a short distance from Little Falls. I served as a guide for a similar hunt for wild turkeys back in April. At that time, I found out about the deer hunt and discovered that my dad, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, would qualify.
He applied in a special lottery and got picked. He is one of 62 hunters scheduled to go on the three-day hunt in early October. This is a special opportunity for him because, even though he has gone deer hunting numerous times, he has never bagged one. He thinks he has hit one, but has never put a tag on one.
We’re hoping this will be his chance. I saw lots of deer during the turkey hunt, and the folks running the hunt say the deer herd at Ripley is very healthy. Last year, a magnificent trophy buck was taken during one of the camp’s two archery hunts. The good news for Dad is he and the other 61 disabled hunters will go out into the field before any other hunters do. Anyone who has deer hunted long enough can tell you that being out in the woods first is a huge advantage.
Another factor tipping the scale in my dad’s favor is the hunter assigned as his guide, Dick Nordling. He has gone on 10 deer hunts and several turkey hunts at Camp Ripley. He knows the camp well and has been highly successful. In fact, his hunters are 10 for 10 on deer. We’re hoping to make it 11 for 11.
Dick is modest, but quietly confident. He believes my dad will see deer on his hunt. The question is: Will he make the shot? That’s where I come in. I am letting Dad use my 12-gauge shotgun, which has a rifled barrel and a high-quality, Leupold scope (only shotguns are allowed on this hunt). It is a very accurate gun out to 100 yards and beyond. Last year, I hit the bullseye at 100 yards when I fired it at the practice range. I’m going to zero it in again this fall and let my dad practice with it.
I’m sure the gun will perform well. One challenge is that my dad has poor eyesight in his right eye and, therefore, has to shoot left handed. He has practiced this, so I hope he’ll be ready.
Taking his first deer at age 89 would be very cool!