Some say that sons spend half their lives compensating for the sins of their fathers, and if that’s true then my 6-year-old Merlin will be nine before he gets over this year’s deer opener.
Merlin had begged me to take him hunting, and we had a great time, camping in the back of my pickup way out in the Montana prairie the night before opening day, looking at the vivid stars in the morning as we cooked cocoa on the camp stove. We planned to walk about a mile in the dark to a knoll where we could put the wind in our faces and wait for other hunters to push mule deer to us.
I blame what happened next at least partly on Merlin. I was so mindful of his comfort – making sure he was warm enough and that we had enough snacks – that my hunting gear was almost an afterthought. I normally rack a round into the chamber when I’m hunting by myself, but because I was hunting with my boy I loaded three shells in the magazine of my Savage .270 and left the chamber empty. I wondered momentarily why only three, and not the customary four, shells fit in the magazine of the Model 111, but we were in a race with the sun so I slipped another couple of shells in my pockets and started hiking, encouraging Merlin to step lightly through the cactus flats.