Derrick Wheeler with his father Dave Wheeler and grandfather Dave Derrick


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Paula M. Nulty

Young Men and Old Traditions

Like Swiss Steak with stewed onions and barbecue sauce on birthdays, or the youngest's of six permanent station wagon seating assignment - way back and backwards - certain family traditions are not great.  The tradition of hunting, however, by these Hartford High School students, is valued and cherished within their families, and has been for decades.

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Derrick Wheeler is a sophomore who has been deer hunting for 10 years, learning from his grandfather and father.  They base themselves out of the West Hartford camp built by Derrick's great-grandfather, Asa, and his hunting friends, back in 1964.  Youth Deer Weekend in Vermont is held annually in November, just prior to the opening of regular firearm season.  It was during one of these weekends, wherein youth hunters must be 15 years old or under and have successfully completed an education course, that Derrick shot his largest deer: a four point weighing 144 pounds fully dressed.  It was also during youth weekends that he missed two deer, experiencing his very least favorite thing about hunting, "Taking a bad shot."  But among family,  in fact Vermont requires an unarmed adult - licensed and over eighteen - be present, the fourth generation West Hartford hunter was right where he wanted to be - with his father, grandfather, and friends at the hunting camp he loves.  

Because of his age, Derrick's last youth weekend was this past November.   "It's bittersweet," said his mother, Jenna.  He shot a two and a half year old doe, 115 pounds fully dressed.  

Triston Potter is a senior at Hartford High School.  He started hunting at age six, taught by his father, Nathan.  "I've missed bigger bucks than I've killed," laughs Triston, who has 31 deer in the 12 years he's been hunting.  Included in that total are two 8 pointers, one weighing 181 pounds and the other 185 pounds.  Like Derrick, he hates missing deer.  "My favorite thing is the time that I spend in nature reflecting on daily things."  Triston says the skills he learned from his father has allowed him to make contributions to nature, and takes issue with "anti-hunters", citing their lack of a full understanding.  "I've created food sources and habitat for nature.  I've made food plots, planted apple trees."

Triston Potter in 2016

Echoing his Hurricane peers, senior Bailey Nott speaks appreciatively of family when the topic is deer hunting.  "My father has taught me everything." Over the last 13 years, he has killed 30 deer; the challenge hunting provides drives his love of the sport.

Bailey Nott and his father Raymond Nott

Austin Gaudette credits his uncles and older brother, Cameron, with teaching him what was needed to get two deer and two jakes, young male turkeys, in his six years of hunting.  Vermont hosts a youth weekend for wild turkey as well, and Austin, a current junior, began hunting at the age of 11.  He's never missed a deer, but a turkey did get the better of him.  Anxious as he has yet to get a deer in 2016,  Austin will be out with family this weekend.  His uncles own muzzleloaders, and the current season runs though December 11th. He was awarded an anterless deer permit for muzzleloader by Vermont Fish and Wildlife, in an effort to keep herds in check after the mild 2015 winter, but laughs about his luck.  "They gave out 19,000!"  His least favorite thing about hunting is "the cold, deerless days."  

Austin Gaudette with his brother Cameron Gaudette in 2013

The fresh snow this week will make for new tracks this weekend.  For the young men of Hartford, that means first those of deer, followed by fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, grandfathers and grandsons, and brothers and brothers.  The tradition continues.


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