One of the great things about hunting is some of the hunting partners you find along the way.
I have had some really great deer hunting partners over the years — guys like Mike Hanlon, Bill Schafrick, Al DiNicola, The Flanagans, Nelson and Wes, Sonny Lane and my newest hunting buddy, my neighbor Dave Wetmore.
Hunting partners are always great, but even more so when one of you tag a deer and need some help in getting it out of the woods. Over the past couple of years, Dave and I have had pretty good luck in that department.
On a recent archery hunt we had just pulled into the yard of a home where Wetmore and I bowhunt down in Wilton. As I started to get out of the truck to get my gear and head to my hunting stand, Dave said, “I don’t really feel that good. I think I’ll just stay in the truck this morning. You can call me if you need a hand with anything.”
As luck would have it, the morning hunt was uneventful, and after I returned to the truck Dave said he was feeling a little better, so we headed for our usual morning coffee break at a deli down in Wilton. We both had a coffee, egg and sausage sandwich, and a pastry, and then hit the highway home.
Dave remarked that he should have passed on the pastry because now he felt like he had eaten too much. We passed it off as a bit of indigestion and let it go at that. I dropped Dave off and forgot about it — until a little after 1 p.m.
The phone rang and it was Dave and he had some news for me. He was down at the MidState ER and they were checking him out for a heart attack.
A short time later I received another call from Dave and this time he said, “I didn’t have a heart attack, but I am on my way to Hartford Hospital in a Hunter’s Ambulance because they think I need bypass surgery”
As it turned out, Dave did need the bypass surgery, and instead of having three blocked arteries they found six of them! He was in the operating room for an extended period of time while his wife Lois and daughter Kristin anxiously waited for the outcome.
You could always find Dave walking in the a.m. at the Westfield Mall in Meriden, and he was always very conscious of what he ate. So the fact that he had these clogged arteries really came as a surprise to all of us.
And while I miss him greatly as a hunting partner, especially when it comes time to haul a deer out of the woods, it pleases me to tell you that he is home and making great strides in his recovery. In fact, you might just run into him at the Square as he has resumed his morning walks there.
Welcome back, Dave. Seeing you back home is a great Christmas present for everyone, Especially Lois and your little Bichon, Molly.
THE MAKING OF A HUNTER
One of the elements missing from the sport of hunting these past years is the introduction of kids into the sport. It really gives me great pleasure that there is a new father-son hunting team in our area named Kyle and Brayden Cooney.
If the Cooney name rings a bell with you it should not come as any surprise. Kyle’s father Joel was well known as a local athlete and he also excelled in our great outdoors.
Kyle, in the meantime, was in the process of making a name for himself in the baseball world and, at one time, was in the L.A Dodgers farm system before an injury ended his playing days. I even have a baseball trading card with his photo and information on it.
But even with the intensity of trying to make it in the majors, Kyle always seemed to find time to get out in the woods for some archery deer hunting. For Kyle, hunting deer with a bow and arrow was a passion, and now it appears that he has passed this passion onto his son, Brayden.
For the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of fishing alongside Kyle, Brayden and, until he left us, Joel on opening day on the Quinnipiac River. It has become a yearly meeting that I really look forward to.
Kyle called me the other week and related a hunt that he and Brayden had experienced together on Veterans Day in the Salmon River State Forest.
“We went to a spot that we had hunted previously because, for the most part, deer sign in our regular haunts has been rather sparse,” Kyle said. “I set Brayden up in the best spot I knew of, bordering a swamp with lots of thick brush and hardwoods mixed in. We were about 85 yards apart from each other in our climbing treestands and we could see each other from our positions.
“Around 3:30 in the afternoon I looked over at him and noticed he was standing up with bow in hand. I grabbed my binoculars and saw a glimpse of a doe in front of him as he continued to stand still. I lost sight of the doe in the brush and my son was still not moving. I figured he was waiting on the biggest one for a shot or the best angle.
“After several tense minutes he was still standing like a statue, and then I saw him draw back his arrow, and on the release I heard the thump of a hit and the crashing of a deer going down. I gave him a minute and called him on his cell phone rather than text like we usually do in our tree stands. I asked him what happened?”
Brayden excitedly replied, “He’s dead!”
Kyle the asked, “What do you mean he’s dead?”
Brayden came back, “I saw him fall over, he’s dead! There was a doe that came out of the swamp and got within 15 yards of me. I was going to shoot her, but I heard twigs snapping and lots of grunting, so I waited and a buck came out of the swamp grunting like crazy looking for the doe. I thought he was about 30 yards from me and when he looked away I ranged him at 33 yards. I drew back and put my 30-yard pin right on him and shot. My arrow did its job and he fell down and he’s an eight-point buck!”
Kyle said, “I think I was shaking more than Brayden, it was so exciting and I was so proud of him. The deer had only gone a short distance before it expired. We took some photos and, of course, we shared the thrill of his taking his first buck with bow and arrow, and then began the long drag back to our vehicle. We didn’t get out of the woods until after dark, and while we were dragging it out of the woods, Brayden smiled all the way and told me how excited he was.”
Kyle concluded, “This was his first buck and it was taken on state land with archery equipment and that is no easy task. I’m sure that there will be many more deer and I hope we are always together to share the moment, but nothing will replace the thrill of getting his first buck.”
Beside hunting and fishing with his dad, Brayden also plays competitive sports. I asked Kyle how they handled that.
He said, “Brayden plays baseball from January to October (indoor practices) and basketball from November through the end of the year. His team activities always come before the outdoor activities. If he has game/practice in the morning, we go home when the game is over, shower, change and pack to hunt. If game/practice is in the afternoon, we get up in the morning for an archery hunt and many times pack his gear and uniform in the car to go right from hunting to the game.
“We also have a deal that his schoolwork has to be completed and his grades acceptable before any sports, hunting or fishing can be participated in. I think that without the outdoor activities he wouldn’t put that much effort into his studies because he wouldn’t have a goal to shoot for. He has a much greater appreciation for these activities now that he understands the effort and money it takes to enjoy them.”
Kyle added, “We hunt, go to 3-D shoots, scout, hike and enjoy being around this stuff. He’s a good kid and he’s getting an education outside the classroom, both on the field and in the woods.”
It really does my heart good to see a father/son outdoor team like Kyle and Brayden Cooney in my world. And it sure does put a new meaning to the question, “Do you know where your kids are right now?”
Keep up the good work, guys. I’m proud calling you my friends.
See ya and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be, and a Merry Christmas to all from Edna, Daisy, Lilly (the girls a.k.a. Bichons) and of course, your ancient outdoor writer.