Rattle-N-Roll: A Young Buck Story
by Jason Haley
Cory Page (50), of Phoenix, and his son, Eli do things the old fashioned way. They hunt when their busy work and school/sports schedules allow, almost always on weekends. They stay close to home in Siskiyou foothills of southern Oregon, usually sleeping in their own beds, and they hunt the general bow season with over-the-counter tags. Using vacation time for hunts is rare. Like so many of us, that’s just how they roll.
Cory’s dad used to take him hunting in the same area when he was Eli’s age: 35 years before Cory took a job with Roseburg and settled down to raise two kids. Most years they get very few days in the field and typically don’t expect to fill big game tags. But they still love hunting and keep the tradition alive in a changing world, despite the mounting challenges faced by the average hunter and the pace of life.
Eli is 13 and busy. He enjoys travel-baseball, playing dozens of games all summer. His dad helps coach. He’s trying football now, as a freshman at PHS. The pair joined me for archery elk on two occasions. We were tracking both times. I was struck by their laid-back, cheerful attitudes, as happy to see friends succeed as themselves, and just happy to be hunting and in the woods.
On this day, the boys arrived before daylight Saturday (their only day to sleep-in), slipped into the oaks and set a Double-Bull ground blind near two known trails. One ran lengthwise along the forested edge below and one teed into it traveling through the flat where they sat and up onto a ridge of dark timber beyond. After getting situated, southpaw Cory on the left where he could shoot free and clear, and Eli on the right, father instructed son to start rattling. It was shooting time.
Cory knew Eli would enjoy this cold, late-November morning more if he got him involved. So rattle Eli did, fast and furious. “Louder, faster,” whispered Dad, as the duo began to chuckle and kick dirt around the blind at the same time. “Come on. Do it!” Cory implored, as the synthetic horns echoed in the quiet morning and the two exchanged playful glances. They were getting silly in there, just having fun.
Then they paused to look (and listen). Eli laid back for a short nap, but was up rattling in a few minutes, and I mean gettin’ after it. Then another pause before Eli rolled over again. Then, suddenly, the growing boy’s slumber was interrupted, as he witnessed his dad’s bow come up. Cory’s dominant left hand sucked all the way to his ear with an arrow perpendicular to the blind’s window seem. Full draw!
“At first, I wanted to sit-up quick and see, but…” Eli paused, shaking his head “no” while flashing a joyful smile. He knew better.
The buck had taken the lateral trail, hit the main trail up and was coming right at Cory before turning broadside. Thump! He thought the hit was good, but it was still early so he gave it a full hour, playing solitaire on his smart phone to force himself to stay put while the youngster chomped at the bit. The decision to go was easy, as the cold dry morning started to give way to rain.
The pair found the arrow immediately (a fortunate sign) followed by good blood and smiles all-around. Then the blood quit. They foot tracked the buck a few leaps straight uphill toward the dark timber. Now the tracks had vanished and that sick feeling began to set in for just a moment. Suddenly, Eli spotted the buck on the ground directly in front of them, startling father and son simultaneously, and it was over.
Team Page high-fived and enjoyed the moment. Eli had proven himself as a caller and a tracker and got to share a special moment with his dad that I doubt he’ll ever forget. I know Cory won’t.
I caught up with the boys over pizza almost a year later. “Hey Cory, tell me about your hunt. How was it?” I inquired. “It was awesome,” he said, “the best ever!” I looked at Eli. “What about you, bud? You probably don’t remember, huh?” I quipped, with a semi-straight face. His bright eyes lit up and he grinned ear to ear, giving me a look like “are you kidding me!?” I was, in fact, guilty of kidding the kid, but it was SO worth it.
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