Joey Campos didn’t grow up hunting, but he’s more than made up for lost time.
Most of my youth was spent indoors. I played football through high school and I was always up for a late night game of pickup basketball with my friends, but my free time was filled with video games and fast food.
I’ll never forget the day I learned just how much I didn’t know about the great outdoors. I’d taken a youth ministry job in southeast New Mexico fresh out of seminary, and I was driving to a campground in the mountains with a fellow minister for a youth retreat when we passed a herd of mule deer. He was an avid hunter and excitedly pointed them out to me. I was just trying to make conversation when I asked him how long it took for a doe to become a buck. He looked at me like I was crazy and then laughed out loud, thinking I was kidding. I wasn’t.
I took another youth ministry job in 2006. Eastland, Texas, was hot and dry, but that didn’t bother me. As long as the air conditioner blew cold and the video game console didn’t glitch, I’d be fine. I didn’t think much about it when an older couple from church invited my wife and me over for supper, but my life changed that night. Dee asked me if I’d ever done any shooting or hunting, and it wasn’t long before he had me squeezing the trigger on a centerfire rifle at the range behind his house. That led to an invitation to fill feeders with him, and the next thing I knew I was the proud owner of my very own 243, a gift from my in-laws.
In 2008, Dee dropped me off in a deer blind for an afternoon hunt. The last thing he said to me was, “Don’t put one in the chamber until you’re ready to shoot.” The sun was sinking fast when I finally spotted a good buck heading for the feeder. My heart was threatening to thump right out of my chest, but I managed to get a good rest and squeezed the trigger just like Dee had shown me. But nothing happened, and the buck was long gone by the time I figured out I’d forgotten to chamber a bullet.
I did eventually kill a buck, a spike that I shot at twenty yards. I hit him good and he ran straight towards me, going down just ten yards from the blind. He was so close I decided to shoot him again. That hunt sealed the deal for me. No longer would I waste time watching television or playing video games. Instead, I’d spend my time hunting everything Dee would let me; deer, of course, but hogs and rabbits, too.
Fast forward to November 19, 2016. I had a few bucks under my belt by then so I was trying to get my pregnant wife on her first deer. We woke up on time that morning, but I had some stomach trouble that delayed our departure. Fifteen miles down the road I figured out that I’d left my rifle’s detachable box magazine at home. We weren’t off to a great start.
It was light enough to see deer moving when I got my wife settled in her stand. I hurried to another stand about a hundred yards away and got set up just in time to see the biggest deer I’d ever seen in the wild chase a doe right under me. Knowing I only had the one shot thanks to that magazine mishap, I made it count. The buck my wife was supposed to shoot ran twenty-five yards and died, but I had to sit tight for two hours due to the number of deer in the field. Those two hours were both memorable and miserable. Every time I looked at the dead buck in front of me, my heart soared. Every time I looked at the tripod my wife was sitting in, it sank. Let’s just say she wasn’t real happy for me. She wound up shooting her first deer that afternoon, a nice buck that was out cruising for does. Our unborn son in her stomach kicked when she shot.
Our son is three years old now, and he loves going with me to fill feeders and check trail cameras. He’ll have no memory of me playing video games. And he’ll never have to wonder how long it takes for a doe to become a buck.
Do you have a story to share? Type up the details of your hunt, and shoot me an email at email@example.com. Include a picture or two. I’ll make sure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed and publish on this website the story of your hunt for all the world to see. All I ask is that you then share a link to your story with your family and friends and maybe interact with those who might have questions or comments. Because stories are meant to be shared. And hunts are meant to be celebrated.