of down camo jacket, earmuffs, gloves, and knit hat, trying for a little more of the sleep stolen from her in the early hours.
Trying to see through the soupy haze, my eyes strained at a dark gray hump against a gray landscape. A doe. No cause for excitement yet; we were after bigger and better things: the Red Chip Buck.
I looked back at my daughter and thought about our good fortune. I had been invited by Ronnie and Jeff Sizemore to participate in a father and son weekend of whitetail deer hunting on a ranch they leased. I had just finished tuning my wife's 6mm Remington with Nosler's new 85-grain Partition bullets and had decided the rifle would be ideal for Celine.
It was Celine's first deer hunt, and I lectured as we drove toward the ranch. "Yes Dad, I understand. Yes Dad, I'll squeeze slowly. Yes Dad, both eyes open and relax," she replied, humoring me.
We managed to arrive at our destination about 2 PM. It didn't take long for the other hunters to realize there was something slightly different about our father and son duo. My son was a girl and an attractive one at that (no prejudice here). Celine immediately became self-conscious amidst this enclave of male hunters dressed in camouflage from head to toe. She jokingly dubbed the camp "Men's Town," but she was welcomed with genuine encouragement.
We spent the first evening in a blind watching the wildlife. Several does passed by and a flock of about 60 turkeys spent almost half an hour in front of us. Squirrels skittered here and there gathering acorns while they screeched their discontent at our presence.
Our supper that evening was hot and filling. We spent the evening listening to big buck stories around a huge bonfire.
The outfitter, Gene Wilson, a long
Celine's "Red Chip Buck" taken many years prior to her son's shooting a 6mm Remington topped with 85-grain Nosler Partitions.
time hunting guide and famous South Texas pigeon thrower in the old days, has a raspy, thunderous voice. It jarred us awake in the early morning hours long before first light. Toast, jam, juice, and coffee were plentiful. A more substantial brunch would wait.
Jeff entered the dining room holding a number 10 coffee can. As he jiggled the can, we could hear the clickety-clack sound of plastic poker chips. Jeff continued to shake the can as he gave us the weekend's hunting instructions. We were to take only bucks with 6 points or less. Does were allowed as well. However, the lucky person to draw the single Red Chip from the coffee can could shoot any buck seen.
Celine drew third and pulled the Red Chip. I have seen a lot of red poker chips in my day, but none like this. Celine's lucky draw lifted her spirits and mine to the coming events. Gene's authoritative voice broke the moment. "Let's get going," he yelled, "time's wastin'."
A long bumpy ride, and the truck finally began to let hunters off. One little fellow shared a blind with his father and grandfather. It would be a little cramped, but the spirit of the hunt would be heightened by three generations sharing this adventure.
Finally our turn arrived. We climbed out of the pickup and into the Texas brush, equipment in hand, to stand alone in the silence of an early morning's darkness, wondering just where we were. We watched as the headlights of the truck disappeared over a small knoll and until the lazy hum of the engine faded into the distance. We made our way cautiously through the brush to the blind, stowed our equipment, waiting patiently for the first rays of light to
cheer the unfriendliness of an unfamiliar place.
No luck. Celine was not allowed to draw for the evening hunt, having already gotten her chance. The young man who drew the red chip that evening didn't connect either.
Next morning, we all assembled outside once more to receive instructions and envy the person who drew the Red Chip for the last time. Jeff ceremoniously passed the can one more time to those who had not yet plucked the red plastic disk from its depths. One youngster about 12 drew a chip after waiting silently for his turn. He stood opened mouth for a moment and then turned his gaze to his father. You could clearly see awe and imagination forming on the boy's face as he raised the red object toward his father in triumph. The Red Chip was gone and all who were eligible had drawn.
Then I saw Jeff look in the can and turn toward my daughter with that beguiling smile of his. "I put one more Red Chip in today. Want to give it a try?"
When he shook the can again, I realized there was more than one chip there. "Come on Celine, get lucky," I thought, as she poked her hand deeply into the can. She opened her hand slowly, and there it was, the Red Chip. And
there, too, was that big smile again.
A pleasant chill filled the morning air. The lack of wind made it less cold, but allowed the silvery mist to hang motionless. As I started to look back at Celine sitting next to me in her crouched position, I thought I saw something move at the edge of the brush to the left
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