One Day In November

The Winchester slipped from its case, bringing with it the sweet smell of oil. As I prepared for the following dawn, my 10-year-old son, Eric, caught me by surprise. "Can I go deer hunting with you, Dad?"

I looked at his blond head and liquid brown eyes. He was an excellent shot with both his BB gun and the little bolt action .22 I had recently given him. He had even fired the .257 Roberts I held in my hands.

Eric had seen dozens of deer and would not likely mistake them for anything else. I told him no because I suspected he didn't yet know the difference between shooting and hunting.

In the months that followed, the beagle, the boy and I hunted rabbits. Eric learned about hunting, giving his first bunny to his grandmother, who loved the critters in a "skillet" sort of way. So, in his 11th year, I took my child deer hunting. Although he did not take a deer that season, Eric's enthusiasm never dimmed.

The following May, a half-wild, starving, six-week old kitten with impossibly long, blond fur crept down our driveway and made himself a home. Eric named him Oscar, who we discovered had a hypnotizing effect on the local deer.

Whitetails followed Oscar, as he padded about, matching him step for step, ears cupped forward. Oscar seldom gave them a second glance, even though their noses were inches from the little furball's tail. Little did I realize how important a part of my life this little kitten would become.

Opening day of Eric's second firearms deer season dawned dreary and cold. We sat side-by-side on a platform, 15 feet off the ground, as 16 deer walked past, including a buck that walked by just out of Eric's effective rifle range. The highlight of our opening morning was when Eric's whispered, "Dad, a fox!" and the beautiful predator ran under our tree, twirled about, then disappeared.

Eric and I sat in drizzle that mid-afternoon but retreated as it escalated into rain. We returned to the woods, with an hour of legal time left and sat in a large cedar tree. Soon, a huge grey doe fed beneath us, staying past 5 p.m., before finally going away. Eric, on his way to bed, explained to his mother that he had wanted above all else to have a deer walk beneath him unaware of his presence. He then hugged me because "that had