In October 2021 I was able to take my 10-year-old son on his first big game hunt. Our location, Idaho. My husband has hunted here over many years, enjoyed the country, the atmosphere and was overall impressed with the conservation of Idaho in place. When he found out that Idaho was somewhere our son could hunt when he turned 10, he couldn’t wait to get him his tag!
How we did the Idaho Mentor Program Mule Deer Hunt:
Once my son turned 10 years old we were able to buy him a tag. This is key – Idaho required the purchase of his tag be after his 10th birthday. Believe me, we tried before thinking we could get it for him for his birthday and was disappointed to login and see it was not an option. Honestly, we thought we missed out! LOL. Both Koop (my son) and Cody (my husband) were disappointed. Then one day Cody tried after his birthday and it was available.
This hunt was done through Idaho’s Mentor Program, you can read more about it here for all rules and regulations. In short for our mule deer hunt: He needed to be 10 years or older for big game, have a mentor 18 years or older (me) and we both have licenses through Idaho Fish and Game.
At first, we were going to have our friends (Idaho residents) be his mentor. Then we found out about being able to get on a couple of times throughout the summer to purchase any surrendered big game tags. After trying on two dates that the Idaho Fish and Game release, waiting impatiently in the queue only to log on and not see my unit available – I finally snagged a tag.
If you are wondering: Why did you, his mom mentor him instead of his dad?
First, I say, LOL. AND then yes, part of me did wonder if I was “taking away” that experience from my husband and son. However, my son was STOKED. My husband was all for it. Basically, it went down like this: I didn’t draw out anything, anywhere. Meanwhile, Cody drew out both Utah and Colorado. Therefore I called dibs. Only seems fair right?
We also knew that this would be a very family-oriented hunt. We’d go out: all four of us Me, Cody, Koop and Riv (5). We have the tools to hopefully – either have is all there OR leave Riv at camp with friends for our longer more strenuous hikes.
Getting ready – I’ll do a whole post on packing for a week long hunt/camp with the family.
How our Idaho Deer Hunt Went:
We spent 10 days in Idaho at honestly the camp of your dreams. Surrounded by aspen and pine trees in the valley of our unit. Allowing us to glass from the camp when we were there. Who doesn’t love a sam-ich and glassin?
The hunt started on a Sunday in October. Going into it, Kooper was the first priority when it came to harvesting a deer. I was there to mentor and was not looking to kill a deer myself until he got his. He decided he wanted a 4 point (Who doesn’t, Koop? LOL) but would be happy with a good 3 point. We reminded him that he had a week of the hunt that we were able to be in the field and could get a lay of the land.
The second day of the hunt we made our way down a road that felt like we had already traveled it for a week, when dad had to get out and pee. As one does when the truck stops, you glass. As soon as I ran my binos accross the mountain side only to start seeing the shape of a deer, I hear Koop “Deer. Big deer!!” He had already found him. (atta-boy!).
We couldn’t have been more excited to think he found a deer he liked and HE found it. We notified dad when he got back, pulled out his spotting scope and confirmed. It was the deer Koop wanted. IT WAS TIME.
The snow was just starting to fall, the first we had seen since winter ended earlier that year. As we all got geared up, we made our sneak. Little brother and all.
BUT, the snow had another plan. After getting him lined up once and deciding it was still too akward of a shot we made our way closer, the snow now sticking on the ground as we made our way up the side hill.
Only to get up there, him set up, looking through the scope and the snow come in thick. With confidence but disappointment he whispered “I can’t see clear enough through the snow to make a shot I feel good about.”
His dad and I have never been more proud. To have a deer he’d been dreaming about for 10 years in his crosshairs but knowing it didn’t feel like a clean, ethical shot. Valuing the life of the animal.
We talked it through and proudly made our way back.
That is how we spent the first couple of days, getting a feel for the animal and the territory. The snow coming in thick. Deep and the wind with a vengeance.
After that, we only saw two points for the next couple days and A LOT of does. Koop was still being patient, he knew how he wanted his first deer hunt to tag out.
Until Next time:
Equipment we used for our Idaho Mule Deer Hunt