‘A very unexpected season’: Grandfather, son, grandson all harvest bucks

Grandfather, son, grandson all harvest bucks

PHOTO PROVIDED Rich Day, of Montoursville, began the Day family's trifecta during the fall deer season this year. “We’re just truly blessed,” said Rich, who used a crossbow to shoot his eight-point.

Rich Day estimates he’s been hunting for nearly 54 years, but this year he and his family had “a very unexpected season.”

On Oct. 26, during archery season, Rich, 66, harvested an eight-point white-tailed buck whose antlers had a spread measuring nearly 18 inches.

Then, during regular rifle season, his son and grandson also harvested bucks. Rich’s son, Hunter, harvested a 13-point deer with an outside spread of 27 1/2 inches. Grandson Camden Baker harvested an eight-point.

“We’re three for three this year. We’re just truly blessed,” said Rich, who lives in Montoursville.

All three deer were harvested from Fairfield Township in Lycoming County.

‘Off like a rocket’

Eighteen-year-old Hunter, a senior at Montoursville Area High School, has been hunting since he was in middle school. This wasn’t his first year hunting or his first buck.

Hunter was in his stand before daylight on Nov. 27, the first day of regular rifle season. Once the temperature started to warm up, he started to see deer moving in and out of the field in front of him. He said he noticed about 10 deer in front of his stand were looking off to the left, and Hunter started looking to the left, too, without moving too much.

When the buck came into sight, Hunter realized, “It was huge. My heart took off like a rocket. It was beating so fast.”

But the deer wasn’t in range.

With his heart pounding, Hunter had to sit and wait for a shot. The buck walked behind a tree and looked down. That was his chance to get his rifle up.

As Hunter brought the .308 up, “I thought, ‘Take a breath and get a good clean shot.’ “

After he fired, the deer took off. Hunter texted his dad, then called him when he didn’t respond. At that point, Rich and Camden, who were hunting together, had deer in front of them, so it was a short conversation.

Hunter found the buck not far from where he had shot it.

“I just counted the points and started taking photos,” he said.

The excitement escalated when his father and nephew made it to Hunter’s stand.

“He just went nuts,” Hunter said of Rich. “It was crazy. He was just so excited for me.

“My dad is really the centerpiece of this year’s hunting experience. He made sure everyone had a good time and enjoyed the season.”

The buck had a green score of 157.5 on the Boone and Crockett Club scale, and Hunter is having a mount made of it.

The animal is what Rich calls a “once-in-a-lifetime buck.”

Hunter agreed, adding, “I’m really satisfied with this one, but it’s not going to stop me from continuing to hunt and look for good experiences with my dad.”

Rich likes to walk in the woods during the spring, looking

for shed deer antlers. Male deer lose their antlers in late winter or early spring and grow a new set every year.

A couple years ago, Rich found a complete set from a deer with an estimated 22-inch spread. Certain antler characteristics can carry over from year to year. Some of the characteristics in Hunter’s buck are very similar to the pair of antlers Rich found several years ago.

‘A little nervous’

Camden, the youngest hunter in the Day family, is a fourth grader at Avis Elementary School, along with his twin brother, Kayle. The boys, who are the sons and stepsons of Courtney and Jeff Wheeler and the sons of Ben Baker, turned 11 on Dec. 14.

This is his first year of hunting and he took to the woods with Rich, his grandpa, through the mentored youth program. He missed a deer on the first day.

His mom, Courtney Wheeler, was nervous he wouldn’t get anything but was happy that he kept talking about all the deer they were seeing.

Kayle was uninterested in hunting, but Camden didn’t lose hope. His third time out was his lucky day.

On the first Saturday of regular rifle season, Rich took Camden out again. Around 3:30 p.m., they started to see doe, and Rich spotted a buck following them.

He whispered to Camden, “just move an inch.”

The buck wandered to within 30 yards, then ran. It stopped, then bolted a short distance again.

Camden remembers his grandpa whispering, “Take a breath. Then aim right behind the front shoulder.”

He recalls being “excited and a little nervous,” Camden said. When he fired, “the deer took off fast, ran into a field and dropped.”

After saying a little prayer, the duo went down to check out the buck.

His favorite part of hunting season, Camden said, was spotting all the deer through his binoculars, and he plans to continue hunting.

“I’m glad he took me out and spent the time with me,” Camden said of hunting with his grandpa.

“Hats off to the Game Commission. The mentor program is one of the best things they’ve done,” Rich said.

Hunter was impressed with his nephew’s first year of hunting: “He handled it really well.”

‘Great parents’

Both young hunters used the same rifle to harvest their bucks.

“It’s kind of more special knowing my son and grandson both used the same gun, in the same week, to harvest such nice deer,” Rich said.

He is carrying on a family tradition. Rich learned to hunt from his dad, Chuck Day.

“I was blessed with great parents. My dad took the time to teach us how to hunt, and mom would cook what we got,” he said.

Rich used a crossbow this hunting season to take down his eight-point, 180-pound buck on Oct. 26. He kept only the rack and a freezer full of venison.

“He was more excited than anybody when the two boys got their bucks. He was like a little child at Christmas time,” said Rich’s wife, Deb. “He comes from a family of hunters — his father Chuck, and his brothers Gary and Keith, all hunted together. And his sister Nancy and brother Gary came over to the house immediately to see Hunter’s buck after he shot it.”

Rich also enjoyed having the chance to teach Camden about safety and respect for the tradition of hunting.

“They all have such a great love of the sport and are passing it down to the younger ones, which I think is awesome,” Deb said. “Our entire family is so supportive of each other. And we all give thanks to God for the wonderful venison. I make a mean venison roast!”