A special bond
Father, son hunt together
By Greg Seubert
Michael Kirmse may only be 12 years old, but he already has enough hunting experiences to fill a book.
The next chapter of that book will be written this weekend, as he heads out to the woods near his Scandinavia home for Wisconsin’s gun deer hunt.
He won’t be alone, as he’ll be next to his dad, Jack.
Although he’s only a sixth-grader at Iola-Scandinavia Elementary School, this is Michael’s third year of deer hunting.
“He could sit out in the woods when he was 9 or 10 years old all day and wouldn’t complain one bit,” Jack said. “There are a lot of kids that couldn’t do that.”
Michael won’t be looking to harvest his first deer. He’s already been there and done that. Three times.
He shot a buck during this year’s youth hunt in October and also shot his first two deer – a doe and a buck – in last year’s youth hunt, which gives youth an opportunity to hunt deer and gain valuable experience under the watchful eye of an experienced hunter.
In Michael’s case, that’s Jack, who grew up near Scandinavia on Rollofson Lake.
“My mom and dad were hunters and we couldn’t wait to go hunting,” Jack said. “I started hunting when I was 11 with my mom, dad, aunt and uncle. We had some land down in the Wild Rose area that we hunted. I had never shot a deer until I was 13 or 14. That’s what got me into the obsession of just being outdoors. If I could hunt from September through December and not work, I would.”
Jack first took Michael’s older sister, 14-year-old Maddie, turkey and deer hunting.
“She went out a couple times and that was enough for her,” Jack said. “It wasn’t her thing. I still ask her every year if she wants to go because I want her to enjoy the outdoors with me. I don’t even have to ask Mike if he wants to go hunting.”
The Kirmses will head out Nov. 21 to John and Lisa Nusz’s property near Scandinavia, where Michael shot each of his deer.
“I was super-excited,” Michael said when asked about last year’s youth hunt. “Once in a while, I would come on opening day with Dad and I’d see all these deer that everybody had shot out there. We normally have a group of guys that come out. I just kept thinking, ‘This is going to be the year that one of those deer is going to be mine.’”
He didn’t get a deer during his first youth hunt in 2018, but that all changed last year.
“It was way more exciting this year because those two last year were really small,” Michael said. “Your mind’s just racing, like ‘What’s this deer going to do? Am I going to get a good shot?’”
“I’m coaching him, talking him through it: ‘Take your time, aim at the chest, you’re not going to do anything silly, you’re just going to take a good, ethical, clean shot at this deer,’” Jack said while recalling last year’s hunt.
“He’s telling me, ‘Dad, I can see the chest in my crosshairs,’” he said. “I can’t see what he’s seeing through the scope. I said, ‘If you can see a good shot, you take it.’ He shot his first doe that way. He was pretty excited to get that one last year. He had missed one that morning, so it was kind of one of those teaching moments. You’re not always going to get a deer and sometimes, you’re going to miss. It happens to all of us. We sat all day in the rain. He was able to get one after missing one. We went out again the next morning and same thing, he shoots a little buck.”
More than deer
Jack has also taken Michael to hunt for ducks, turkeys and squirrels.
Michael said duck hunting is his favorite.
“You talk about a good shot, Michael’s a great shot,” Jack said. “It must be from shooting his BB gun when he was younger. I’d see a duck fly over and all of a sudden, Michael would shoot and he’d get it. He shot his first turkey from 50 yards, just a crazy shot. The second was the same thing. He’s been more successful than I at shooting bigger birds, that’s for sure.”
Michael’s preparation for the deer hunt includes getting used to his new rifle, which he purchased with his own money.
“We do a lot of shooting,” Jack said. “He’s using a .30-06, a bigger rifle. We shoot quite a bit at the ranges and work our way up from 25 up to 200 yards.
“He saved his own money and bought a rifle and a fish flasher for ice fishing,” he said. “This stuff isn’t cheap, but when he gets it in his mind, he’s driven on those things and that’s what he wants to do. A lot of kids would buy toys or video games, but Michael would rather be outside shooting squirrels and deer hunting than playing video games. I’d rather have him outside.”
Once the deer season ends, it’s time for the Kirmses to move to another sport: ice fishing.
“I love walleye fishing on the ice,” Michael said. “It’s so much fun to sit out there by your tip-ups.”
“We’re pretty hard-core ice fishermen,” Jack said. “With the tents and the heaters today, you can spend all day out there. It could be 20-below and we’ll be out there ice fishing.”
“I would always fall through the hole and I’d have to warm up my boots by the heater,” Michael said. “I’m not very big, so the water would go all the way up to my waist.”
Down the road
Jack doesn’t want to dwell on it, but he knows the day will eventually come when Michael will want to head out and hunt on his own.
“I wish he’d never grow up,” he said. “I’m glad I got to see him shoot his first three deer, but eventually he’s going to want to hunt on his own. We’re sitting in the same stand together. We’re both participating in the sport and I’m going to miss it. I always thought, ‘Oh, you’re just going to keep hunting with me,’ but I know he’s going to want to hunt in the stand by himself sooner rather than later, unfortunately.
“I just enjoy taking him out there,” he added. “I couldn’t care less if I get anything. I hinge everything on trying to get him to be successful. When it comes to duck hunting, I’ll carry all the decoys out, set everything up and call the birds. If he gets one, that just tickles me to death.”
In the meantime, Michael is happy to spend more time with his hunting buddy.
“It’s a lot of fun to get something, but just spending time out in the woods is a lot of fun,” he said. “When we’re out there, we have our own little discussions about anything. We just kind of make our own little hunting world.”