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Bittersweet victory at FoxPro Predator Tournament

The annual Foxpro New York State Predator Tournament was scheduled for the weekend of January 25, 2013. I’ve participated in this hunt in the past with my best friend and hunting partner, Kevin. The only reason I got into this sport was because of him, mostly for the camaraderie. It certainly wasn’t because of our success (more like lack of it). However, Kevin lost his fight with cancer this past summer, which makes hunting not quite the same now.

My son Nathan is 14 and enjoys hunting, so I asked him if he’d like to enter the tournament. Either the father/youth division or the two-man team division. I told him we would have a better chance of placing in the father/youth division, but there were cash prizes for the top four teams in the two-man division. That was all he needed to hear – he was in it for the cash, so we entered the two-man team division. Our name…I’d Rather Be Sleeping.

The tournament started on Friday at dusk. On our third setup of the first night, we had something coming into a distress call. It got within 100 yards and stopped. Not knowing if it was going to come any closer, Nathan decided to take a shot. I heard the “thud,” so I knew he hit it. Figuring it was a fox, we were ecstatic when we got up to it and realized he shot his first predator — a coyote! We were really excited and our weekend hunt was already successful, even if we didn’t get anything else. We hunted until about 1 a.m. with no more luck.

Saturday afternoon we prepared for night two. I told Nathan that having only the one coyote, we pretty much had no chance of placing in the competition, but we could still go out for fun and hunt until we got tired. On our second setup Saturday evening right at dusk, we sat in an open field with the e-caller bellowing out more rabbit-distress calls. Within five minutes of calling, a coyote came to within 150 yards. Nathan was able to get on it quickly and get a shot off. However, it ran away hard and didn’t appear to be hit. Within a minute or two, we heard a few coyotes start hollowing in the woods not too far away. One of the howls seemed to be getting closer, so we repositioned ourselves in that direction. Within a couple minutes we saw the coyote and he seemed like he was going to work his way up along a hedgerow right toward us. He must not have liked something, or maybe he saw us, because he backed out quickly into some tall grass about 200 yards out. With the low light and the tall grass, I had a hard time seeing him, but Nathan was able to watch him through the 3x9 scope. He said, “Dad, I’m on him. Should I shoot?” I responded, “Sure, as long as…” and before I could finish my sentence, he fired. This one also ran away and didn’t appear to be hit. Nathan was bummed and didn’t understand how he had missed both of them. He felt like had good shots. I told him not worry about it because they were both far shots. We walked over to where the first one was and found blood in the snow. Then we walked over to the second spot and also found blood. We couldn’t believe he hit both. It was about 5:30 p.m. so we decided to give them some time before tracking them. I told Nathan that we were back in this and we needed to hunt hard until morning!

We hit a few more spots and he was able to connect with a couple fox that evening. At about midnight it started snowing. We worried we might lose our blood trail on the two coyotes. We headed back to track them and found the first one quickly. The second one was not so easy. There was very little blood, but fortunately there was enough snow to stay on its tracks. Because we were tracking through the thickest stuff around, we left all of our hunting gear behind (including the gun). After about 200-300 yards, we came across a fresh bed where it had been laying. At this point, we figured he wasn’t hurt too bad so we decided to track him a little farther. After about 50 more yards, we heard something and shined the light on him. He was only 20 yards away and we could tell he wasn’t doing well. But we didn’t have our gun! We backtracked to get the gun and caught back up to him in time to close the deal.

We hunted a few more spots until 3:30 a.m. on Sunday and decided to go home and catch a little sleep. At 5:30 a.m. we went back out and made a couple more setups. Nathan shot another fox at 7 a.m. Now we had three fox and three coyote, and Nathan was the shooter of all six.I figured we didn’t do well enough to place in the top four of the tournament, but I would’ve been happy just to be in the top 10. Check-in was between 1-2 p.m. Sunday and we showed up at 1:30. We couldn’t believe it when our names were put on the board in first place! Two p.m. couldn’t come fast enough, but we managed to keep our first place spot. We won! Thank you, Kevin for getting me into this crazy sport. I can’t help but think we had a “third man” on our team during the hunt. You gave Nathan and me the sweetest father/son experience!

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