This was submitted by Hook1, about his father.

David W. Hooker Jr July 12th 1937-March 18th 2013

It's Always Coldest

Dad, I'm cold.

I know Son, it's always coldest just before the sun comes up.

Huh?

But it's already light out, it should be getting warm... I thought to myself.

As a young boy sitting in the deer woods with Dad, I did not understand what he meant that morning, 35 years ago.

My Dad, David W. Hooker, Jr. was born July 12, 1937. He is a good Christian man, devoted husband of 50 years, father of two, grand papaw to six, great grand dad of four, served his country in the 1960's, and likes old westerns and Braves baseball.

Dad has hunted all his life for one form of game or another, some for sustenance, others for pleasure.

My first forays afield with him, as with most young boys, was for small game. We always started squirrel hunting as soon as the season opened and we had a pack of beagles we would run rabbits with.

But before I was old enough to go deer hunting, I remember hanging onto Dad's every word when he came home from a hunt and told us his stories.

He would tell of where he had went, what he had seen and of what he had missed. But no deer were ever taken.

As soon as Dad deemed that I was mature enough as a hunter, he started taking me afield for deer. After my first few trips, I was hooked for life.

I did not harvest my first deer until my 17th birthday, November 7, 1981. Since that day, I have taken a countless number of deer , with several being good trophies.

Dad did not harvest his first until the mid 1990's. It was a small scrub 5 point but a good one for his first deer. After that, he had only taken two others; a basket racked 6 point and a 4 point.

Mind you, this wasn't from a lack of trying, because Dad went every day that his work, health and my mom would allow. It just wasn't in his cards that he would harvest big numbers of deer.

We all wished for Dad that he would get himself a big one.

In the early 1990's Dad started having some health problems. He went through several bouts of spinal meningitis and each time the doctors would give him less than a 5% chance to live. If he did live, they said he would be a mental vegetable.

But Dad proved them all wrong. He pulled through every round and kept his mental stability.

Through all this he still hunted.

In the year 2001, after a trip to Tellico, trout fishing, Dad had a light stroke. This put him down for a while, but not out. He now walks with a slight limp and does not travel as far afield anymore, but still hunts.

Over the past several years, Dad's hunting has slowed down alot. Instead of going every weekend, it is now two or three half day trips a season.

At the beginning of this past season Mom said to me, "This will probably be your dad's last year deer hunting. He's getting too old."

Well, if this was going to be his last year I wanted to do something special for him.

I called and talked to the owner of the farm that my son and I hunt on in Middle Tennessee. I had asked in the past about bringing Dad, but was always denied. This time she said, "Sure you can bring your dad, for a day."

At 2:00 a.m. November 11, 2009, we left his house headed for the farm. Both of our hopes were high because big deer roam those fields and woods. We arrived three hours later. We got changed and headed out to put Dad in a stand.

Dad, I'm puttin gyou in the best stand on the property. It's in a five acre wooded funnel with thickets on both ends and thirty acres of cut corn on it's border. You're allowed three antlerless and one antlered deer a day. Shoot what you want.

By the time I get him in the stand and arrive at mine it is well past shooting light. But that is ok, this day is not about me.

I get settled in, hit my grunt call and just like he is supposed to, out of the cedar thicket, walks a shooter 8 point. Well , ten minutes in my hunt, one shot, one kill.

About an hour later, while enjoying the morning I hear a shot from the other end of the farm. Good, I thought, Dad has at least had a chance at one.

At about 10:30 I arrive back at his stand to find him in his favorite position. A cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

Alright Dad, what you get?

Aww, I think I missed her.

Missed? You have thought you have missed every one you have ever killed. Say she was standing right about here?

Yep.

Well Dad, right here is blood.

But we never found her.

When we got back to the truck and he saw my buck I could tell he was disappointed that we did not at least find his doe. I could also see his hope draining as his hunt was half over.

Let me back up just a minute and put all this into perspective for you.

My dad is 72 years old. Through all his health issues and all the years of chasing deer he has only taken three. But he has never lost his love of the outdoors or his passion for the hunt. Most would have hung up their guns by now, but he still gets up and goes.

Alright Dad, we are going to put a move on these deer this afternoon. We've got the wind in our favor so we are goin to sit together and watch where they cross into this cut corn.

We build a make shift blind and get settled in for our evening hunt. We start seeing deer right away.

There's a doe on the fence row Dad, do ya see her?

Yeah, I see her.

Hey Dad, there's a small buck back in the bottom.

If I was in that stand I'd have a shot at him.

Yep, but you're not.

We watched this young buck pushing does around for quite some time, but they never came our way.

The afternoon progressed on into that magical witching hour. Dad pours himself a cup of coffee and lights up a cigarette.

The wind is goo so it doesn't matter.

Dad, there's another deer on the fence.

Dad, that's a buck.

I can't see him son.

Dad, that's a BIG buck !

Son, I can't see him.

Dad, he just jumped the fence !

I grabbed his cup of coffee, put his cigarette out in it and told him....
Get your gun and get ready.

The buck is about 100 yards into the cut corn before Dad makes him out.

Is that him son?

Yeah Dad, that's him.

Buddy, that's a big deer.

I know Dad.

Dad, if he turns our way, let him get into this green field below us before you shoot.

I don't claim to pray alot but at this moment I said a silent prayer.

"Lord, please. This is not for me."

You know what, that buck turned and came from 200 yards, like he was on a string.

Underneath my breath I say to Dad, In the green field let him get in the green field.

The sun has almost sat behind us. The wind is in our face. Here is the moment of silent anticipation that only those who have hunted know, as that buck of a lifetime takes his final steps into the perfect position.

I whisper, "Shoot him Dad."

he steadies his aim and fires.

Through the cloud of smoke, I see this buck flinch then he staggers for 50 yards and falls !

For all the years of hunting, for the hundreds of hours spent on stands, for everyone that had ever wished that Dad would get himself a BIG ONE his buck was down !

When we got upon this deer I do not know who it affected more. For when I saw how truly beautiful this buck was, it broke me down.

I didn't cry. I hugged Dad in both arms and I sobbed!!!

For what lay before us was a perfect 10 point, with a sticker and two daggers for eye guards. A buck that took him a lifetime to get.

I can honestly say this was the most powerful and humblin g moment of my life.

For this was the first time since that cold morning 35 years ago that I had sat together with my dad while deer hunting.

It took me many years to understand what his words had meant that morning.

Though dawn has broken, it is always coldest just before those first warming rays of the sun break through and touch you.

Dad, I'm cold.

I know Son, I know.




_________________________
Youth is wasted on the young.