Earlier this summer my spouse, Kelleye, and I were hiking in Allerton Park near Monticello Illinois. We happened to cross paths with a young couple hiking in the opposite direction, we exchanged pleasantries and took up a conversation. The couple, Kevin Tran, and his girlfriend Erica were from the Champaign Illinois area. Kevin expressed his desire to learn more about the outdoors and particularly hunting and the culinary aspects of the hunt. Sensing an opportunity, I offered to assist in this process as I felt I had some degree of knowledge in this area!
Kevin and Erica offered to attend the Annual Duck Drawing at the Sanganois Wildlife Area to boost our hunting groups odds in drawing a blind. Although unsuccessful in drawing a blind, a friendship had been developed with this couple and I was more than willing to take Kevin hunting with me for the opportunity to take a deer.
Kevin’s parents escaped Vietnam during the fall of Saigon as children. His father stowed away on a boat nearly succumbing to exposure in the process. Both of his parents went on to become successful in their new country with the help of various people and a willingness to work hard! Kevin graduated from the University of Illinois in Chicago attending the downtown campus. His experience of the wild and woods of Illinois was limited.
Kevin completed the Hunter Safety Course required to obtain his hunting license and was able to secure his Firearm Identification Card from the Illinois State Police enabling him to possess a firearm and ammunition. This was no small feat as he had no experience in any aspect of hunting or firearms! He purchased a Mossberg Pump Action Shotgun with both a rifled deer barrel and the standard smoothbore barrel. I assisted Kevin in assembling the firearm and all safety protocol. He also purchased a compound bow, becoming proficient with it at local ranges in the Champaign area.
Kevin hunted with me in Brown County during the squirrel season and took his first shot with Mossberg to take his first squirrel! Now he was ready to hunt deer with me with his bow.
We hunted several times during the season, but Kevin was offered no shots! He held off on a good eight-point buck at thirty-five yards because of distance and the brush being too thick. I was impressed with his control and maturity. I was beginning to think I was a bad-luck charm for him in this regard until last week. We hunted a cut cornfield being used extensively by the deer feeding on the downed corn. After watching numerous animal feed throughout the field, a buck finally approached within shooting range and Kevin was able to take the animal with a clean and lethal shot in short order!
Kevin insisted on field dressing the deer himself to learn the process and I must admit his attention to detail was good having learned the process through watching “You Tube” videos. We elected to transport the deer to my home to process the following day. Kevin skinned, quartered and butchered the deer to the utmost degree often by following instructions from on-line sources!
Although having two daughters, I was not able to give them the appreciation for the outdoors that I possessed. Largely, due to not making their early experiences fun and enjoyable. With Kevin, although older and more mature, he was able to soak up my advice and use my direction to his benefit.
Kevin was looking forward to cooking the various cuts of meat and to tasting the results of his labor. He was more serious about the culinary aspect of the animal than the procurement of the rack!
This experience will be the highlight of my 2023 Hunting Season after my fall off the hill in Brown County Illinois on October 8, 2023, somewhat hampering my physical acuity afield. Getting a new young hunter pointed in the right direction is very satisfying and hopefully we will get more days afield in the future!