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WILTZ: A deer hunt with my grandkids - it will be awesome if half my expectations are met

I don't know how important deer hunts are in the world scheme of things, but if I had to choose a personal most significant deer hunt, I'd have to pick the one that's about 10 days away, for it will include three of my Wisconsin grandchildren. Why is it so important? Because to a degree, my behavior, my body language, and what I say will influence their attitude toward hunting for the rest of their lives.

More than occasionally, some parents and grandparents attempt to relive their lives through the lives of their children and grandchildren. I once made that mistake with our oldest daughter, and I must be careful not to attempt to force my enthusiasm for the hunt onto my grandkids. If any or all decide that deer hunting isn't their cup of tea, I must accept it without the slightest hint of disappointment. Now I'll tell you about my daughter.

Back in my high school days, I was a fair shot-putter. Over the years, I came to appreciate that how high one jumped or how far one threw it determined one's success. It had nothing to do with whether or not the coach liked you. When my kids were babies, I decided that they would go out for track.

As it turned out, Laurie, our oldest, was a fair discus thrower. She had placed in the state meet her junior year, and I had visions of her setting a new state record. I poured a concrete slab in our yard and painted shot and discus circles on it so "we" could practice every day unless that circle was snow-covered.

On a Saturday morning in May during Laurie's senior year, the Avon Invitational was rained out. "We can practice all morning!" I told her. She worked and she worked. Were those tears beneath her eyes? Of course not ... they were only rain drops. She was soaked and mud-splattered when she finally came up to me and blurted out, "When are you going to realize that you care a h--- of a lot more about this than I do?"

I was crushed for some time before I realized what I had done. Sadder but wiser is how I'd put it. A few years later, I was the keynote speaker at the Parkston High School athletic banquet. The gym was packed with parents and student athletes, and I told them the story about Laurie and me, as I had come to realize over the years that I wasn't alone among parents in getting carried away with the importance of athletic achievement.

A girl came up to me after the banquet and told me that her parents were there. She said that they needed to hear what I said, and that what I had said was "profound" in her estimation. A hint of anger was present, but it wasn't directed at me.

The young deer hunters I've referred to are my 15-year-old grandson, Sam, and his 12-year-old identical twin sisters, Gabrielle and Grace. Because they have all successfully completed the hunter safety course, South Dakota will make doe tags available to them for $10 apiece.

How do I mentally prepare myself for making the hunt a success? I must be a font of encouragement. Should we get a deer, I must not pressure them to field-dress their own deer without assistance. It should be a pleasant learning experience, and I can help make it that way by playing a game of identifying the different organs, etc.

If they get cold, we go back to the ranch to warm up. I will refrain from delivering toughness lectures. Becoming tuned to new sensory experiences will be huge. Cooing sharptail grouse, cackling rooster pheasants, and yipping coyotes will be new sounds for them. They will note the sharp aroma of prairie sage biting at their nasal passages.

For armament, Sam will use his dad's Ruger M77 in .308. Because she's right-eye dominant, Grace will use the family's new Savage bolt-action .243. Gab, who's left-eye dominant, will use my Ruger .223 single-shot. To make a deer rifle out of the .223, I've hand-loaded some Barnes Triple-X 62 grain bullets over 24 grains of IMR 30-31 powder. I look to give a report on the potency of this round in a future column.

I don't yet know how we will organize. I'd guess that the girls will go with their dad, Tom, and Sam, who has already taken two deer, will go with me. I'm excited just thinking about it.


A gentleman from White Lake called a few nights ago and asked me if I had an "arrangement" with The Lodge at Chama. I had earlier reported that I had chosen The Lodge for a coming cow elk hunt. No, I have nothing going with The Lodge at Chama, and I have never accepted any favors for mentioning a place or product in my column.

He did get me thinking about personal endorsements, and I'd have to say that I would be more comfortable if folks would hold off booking with Chama, or anyone for that matter, until I can give a personal report. As always, I'll tell it the way it is.

Regarding the Oct. 20 pheasant opener, five of us bagged one bird north of Wagner. I've heard reports from Pierre, Webster, Pukwana and Kimball. Birds were sparse in all these locations. It wasn't what it was bragged up to be.

*See you next week.