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Jaywalking

Jaywalking: Deerslayer Kid

Dylan Fisher had two choices to make as he sighted his black powder gun on the second Friday of the two-week Massachusetts shotgun deer hunting season: left or right.

Fisher, a 9-year-old from Northfield, and his dad, Chuck, had been hunting together every day from a familiar stand and seen nothing through the first 10 days. Then, as often happens for diligent hunters who know the woods and persevere, not one, but two deer finally appeared at dusk on that Friday afternoon. The elder Fisher, 35, whispered that the deer on the left appeared to be bigger. Dylan agreed, took aim with his 50-caliber in-line muzzle loader, clicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger to a thunderous roar and cloud of smoke . When the gray, twilight air cleared, the deer had vanished and neither father nor son knew whether Dylan had hit his mark.

Using a blackpowder rifle even though it was shotgun season because it recoils less, Dylan knew he had only one shot and had to make it count . Father and son were confident the deer was hit upon walking to the spot that moments ago had been occupied by two bucks, and Chuck Fisher saw a good sign: blood and hair on the ground. The bad news was that there was not a lot of blood, no deer carcass apparent, and it was getting dark fast, meaning the two had no time to waste. They began following the blood trail and soon found a place where the deer had lain before rising. Not far away, they found its final resting place. The two walked up to the dead buck, which lay about 75 yards from where it was shot. Dylan’s shot had hit the deer above the shoulder and the bullet had not exited the body, thus the lack of blood.

After field-dressing the animal and dragging it out of the woods, the Fishers headed to the checking station at Grrr Gear in Orange, where they learned the animal’s official numbers. On Friday the 13th no less, Fisher was not prone to any of the bad luck generally associated with the day. His 10-point buck tipped the scales at 164 pounds. For those who don’t know, a 10-pointer’s antlers have 10 fingers , a wise buck that few hunters are lucky enough to kill in a lifetime in these parts. The 164-pound weight is also considered big for area deer. The heaviest local bucks weigh up towards 240 pounds, but anything over 150 would be considered big. For a 9-year-old like Dylan, it was a beauty.

It wasn’t Dylan’s first deer. At 7, his father set him up for another and Dylan pulled the trigger. But this one was all Dylan’s doing — a great way to start his hunting career.

Although Dylan and Dad wound up with a trophy buck on the next-to-last day of shotgun season, they had nearly come up empty on what had been an interesting season indeed for Chuck. Hunting has been an activity in which Chuck has participated for the past 20 years, since he was old enough to go out by himself. His family lives on the meat he stores from hunting. So it’s more than just a sport. For those who don’t understand, hunters get two tags for bucks in this area and can use them during any of the seasons, be it archery, shotgun or black powder. During bow season, which begins the third week of October, Chuck had the opportunity he had waited his entire life for: two bucks in one . After killing an 8-pointer, he spotted another, smaller deer. The problem was that by shooting it, Chuck would have been out of tags and unable to take to take his son out . It wasn’t worth it to him. Dylan loves to hunt, and it not only is a great teaching opportunity for the youngster, it also provides father and son quality time together. Important in a day and age when a lot of boys grow up without male role models, Chuck left the second deer that day, and he and Dylan were the beneficiaries, going out daily during shotgun season.

Although it wasn’t easy, the duo continually coming up empty, Dylan would not be stopped from getting his deer.

“He really wanted to keep going out even when it was really cold,” Chuck said. “As you get older, you might not want to go out in that weather. But it takes on a whole different meaning when you’re taking your kid out.”

Persistence paid off. After the Fishers get the head and shoulder mount back from Vernon, Vt., taxidermist Matt Coombs, Dylan will have a trophy he won’t forget and — who knows? — may never beat.

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I talked with Chuck some more about what it meant to go hunting with his son.

There will be some readers of the anti-hunting persuasion who’ll read this and grimace. Those folks seem to have a problem differentiating between animal abuse and hunting — two very different things. I’m not trying to start trouble, so hold off on the irate letters if you don’t understand hunters, or teaching your child to hunt.

For the Fisher family, hunting is a way of life, not sport.

“For one, my son is learning the meaning of life,” Chuck said. “We are doing this to eat and live.”

And Dylan doesn’t just hunt deer. He also hunts wild turkeys, and Chuck said this past spring he shot one that weighed just north of 23 pounds.

You may be wondering at what age children can hunt. Anyone looking to hunt on his/her own has to take a course when they are 15 years of age. Prior to that, they can hunt with an adult and one gun.

Just how much does Dylan love to hunt? At his school, he’s rewarded with special homework-night-off passes for faithfully completing assignments on time. Some may use the free time to p lay video games, watch TV sports or even veg out. Not young Dylan. He uses nights off to help butcher and package freezer venison.

“It’s rare, especially nowadays, for a kid to use a night off to do work,” Chuck said. “Hunting for us is not just about shooting the biggest deer. I’ve always been a meat hunter, not an antler hunter.”

Dylan’s buck provided one final surprise during the family butchering routine.

“When we were cutting up the deer, we found a slug in the neck that was at least a year or two old,” Chuck said.

The family even labels the meat from each deer killed, so when dinner is served, they know exactly whose deer they’re enjoying. At one recent dinner, Dylan’s younger sisters Grace and Layla even thanked their brother for the delicious meal. On Monday night, the family was making tacos using ground venison from Dylan’s deer.

So, to the rest of the local hunting crowd, take notice: There’ll be a 10-year-old hunter in the woods next fall who’s no laughing matter; the kid’s got a knack for bagging the big bucks.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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