By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
You don't realize just how fidgety a 7-year-old boy can be until you coop him up inside a deer blind and ask him to be quiet.
You don't get true wide-eyed wonder until you do that, either.
After bunkering down in our box blind for an afternoon hunt during the first portion of the Illinois firearms deer season, my nephew, Sammy, spent at least 45 minutes being inquisitive.
He wanted to know about every chirp, rustle and squeak. With each noise came the same question.
"Do you think that's a deer?" he said.
The answer was always no.
"Maybe we'll see one soon," he'd respond.
Then he'd go about finding an old shotgun shell, a screw or anything in the blind that might captivate him for a minute or two.
A rustle of the leaves always brought him back.
"I think I hear a deer," he'd say.
Then a squirrel would shimmy down the tree.
"Maybe we'll see one soon," he'd say again.
Enough time had passed without anything moving across the field in front of us that boredom was about to set in. A trip back to the cabin where a cup of hot chocolate awaited seemed like the logical next step.
Another rustle of the leaves in the woods behind us changed those plans.
Unable to see what was back there, I made Sammy sit as quietly as he could and listen. The noise was distinctly different from the scurrying sound the squirrels and rabbits made earlier, and he leaned over as slowly as he could and whispered in a husky, not-so-whispery voice.
"Is it a deer?" he said.
I told him to keep his eyes focused on the window to his left. A moment later, a doe walked through the brush and into the corner of an open field. In no hurry to move on and oblivious to us, the deer worked toward a fence row and disappeared for the moment.
Meanwhile, the rustling continued.
Two more does -- one just a yearling -- followed the same path into the field. While the older doe moved forward, the yearling stopped about 15 yards from our blind and stared in the window.
Mesmerized, Sammy didn't flinch. He stared right back.
The moment lasted 30 seconds or so before the yearling ran off. That's when Sammy turned to me with wide-eyed wonder and said, "Did you see that?"
Indeed I did.
Although I had my hand on gun the entire time, I never thought once about raising it. I was transfixed on Sammy, watching his reaction and gauging his interest. Even as the deer ran off, jumping the fence and crossing a field to the east, Sammy stretched to look out the window and watch them run away.
Awed by their presence and disappointed by their swift exit, he asked one final question.
It was the perfect question.
"Why didn't you shoot one?" Sammy said.
I explained I would have needed to reach over him to shoot out the side window of the blind. I want him to understand safety comes first, and reaching over anyone to take a shot isn't worth it.
Although the deer stood broadside and offered itself as a perfect target, there was too much risk involved.
There was too much chance to ruin Sammy's hunting experience now and forever.
He nodded his head like he understood, put his gloves back on and got ready to head for the cabin before it grew too dark.
Yet, as we climbed out of the blind and loaded up the four-wheeler with gear, he left me with one final thought.
"Uncle Matt," he said, "maybe you should sit where I did next time."
Maybe so. But if I had, neither one of us would have enjoyed the moment of wide-eyed wonder.