Behind the Book

SPOILER ALERT: Read the book first!!! If you read this page before you do, it’ll take away a lot of the surprises and excitement you’d have otherwise enjoyed in the book.

Did you read the book first?



Are you sure?

If you are like many who have read Birthday Buck, you might be curious about certain details, and wanting to know more—the story behind the story, so to speak. On this page, I’ll answer some of the questions I have received from readers, and some other questions I anticipate receiving.

I hope this not only helps you enjoy the book more, but also helps you get to know me a little better too.

Why did you write Birthday Buck?

Because I have a boy, and like many boys, he’d rather play in the woods beside our house than read. Don’t get me wrong, I want him playing in the woods, but I also want him to see how books can take him on all sorts of exciting adventures that he may not be able to experience in any other way.

When I discovered that I could get him to read certain types of books with me, and found that I enjoyed reading them as much as he did, I realized that there is a need for more books of that kind—more books for both boys and girls who love the outdoors as much as my son does. When I imagine Birthday Buck arriving at someone’s house, what I see in my mind—and what I hope is true—is that moms and dads will plop down on the sofa with their kids, and enjoy the book right alongside them. If I can write a book that both parents and their children enjoy, and that helps parents teach their children some important truths about life, I will be pleased. I hope to have done that with Birthday Buck.

What lessons do you want kids to take away from Birthday Buck?

Hopefully there are more lessons than what I can think of here, but I really do want to push back some against a lot of the hunting I see on YouTube—where it is all about the rack, and acting crazy after the kill, and nothing about the experience of the hunt nor the seriousness of taking the life of an animal. I hope that young hunters will walk away with a seed planted in their minds that maybe there is another way.

I also hope that the book teaches some lessons about the trouble with lying, about friendship, and about not assuming the worst about others. I hope it provides parents with an opportunity to discuss with their children how to deal with kids who are giving them a hard time—and about loving our enemies, just as Jesus taught.

I hope that young readers come to see that just because someone is doing something differently, doesn’t mean they are wrong—and that they might have a very good reason for doing it that way. Along these lines, I hope parents can use this book to help their kids understand, that often times, there are things going on behind the scenes in another kid’s life, that no one else knows about—which is contributing to the way they are behaving. And I hope that every kid who reads this book will be more understanding of others as a result of having read it.

At the front of the book you say, “Some parts of this story are real. Other parts are just a real good story. Don’t worry about which is which. Just enjoy.” So what is real and what is not?

Let me begin by saying that it was a challenge to write a book in this way. This is particularly true for someone who is a preacher of God’s Word and is accustomed to only writing and speaking of things that are absolutely, 100% true. But, I also knew that if I only told the story about Jet killing his first deer—which was, no doubt, a very good story—that it wouldn’t be something that many outside of our small circle of family and friends would be interested in reading. I also knew it would limit me on the sorts of life lessons I could teach to the younger readers. So I decided to invent a whole other story to intermingle with the real story about Jet’s birthday buck. Confused yet?

So what’s real and what isn’t? Well, a lot of it is real—and I mean detail for detail real. Most of the hunts happened pretty much exactly as they are described in the book—particularly the last one. But the others also happened pretty much like I wrote them down. Once or twice I combined details from multiple hunts into one. I also messed with the order of the hunts here and there to keep the story building in the right direction—to that final hunt. Also, Mr. Shawn wasn’t near as successful as I made him out to be in that last season. (Yes, Mr. Shawn is a real friend and I am messing with him here.)

And speaking of real people versus not real people—as you might have guessed, there are both in this book. An easy way to remember who is real and who isn’t, if you want to read the book again, is that the people we hunt with are always real folks that we are good friends with—and get to hunt with. Additionally, my wife and daughter are real. My mom and dad are real (I’m evidence of that). And my aunt and uncle are real. In addition to me and Jet, those are the real people in the book.

On the other hand, none of his three school friends in the book are real. They are all made up with made up names. I probably should be embarrassed to admit that to come up with their names I just googled (actually I don’t use Google, but you know what I mean) “popular boy names” and scrolled down through the lists, looking for names that caught my eye. “Parker” and “Mason” came quickly and easily. But, I knew I needed a strong and tough sounding name for the antagonist. (No offense to anyone named Parker or Mason, those are good names too, or I wouldn’t have picked them.) But for Jet’s nemesis, I needed a name that was memorable and had some built-in meaning. The name Wyatt stood out, and the most famous Wyatt ever—Wyatt Earp—gave it some meaning. He was strong and tough and not scared to fight—like I needed the antagonist in this book to be. The name “Wyatt” probably also stood out and had some meaning to me because of my late friend who had that name too (he was definitely tough, strong, and memorable). So Wyatt it was.

But, as you might expect, since those three characters from school aren’t real, none of that part of the story is real either. In fact, I am not sure if Jet actually has a single friend at school who hunts—sad, I know. So there were no conversations at school about hunting. No fights and arguments about hunting. And while I am sure some of his real friends do make fun of me for all sorts of reasons—none of his friends have made fun of me the way they did in the book. In other words, all that stuff with Parker, Mason, and Wyatt never happened. It was all just part of a story I made up and interweaved with the real story in an attempt to make the whole thing into one good story that people like you would want to read. Again: “Some parts of this story are real. Other parts are just a real good story.”

But, other than the invented story which was designed to bring some tension into the book that would need to be resolved at the end, Jet’s journey to becoming a real hunter is pretty accurately portrayed—from that very first hunt with Mr. Andrew to his birthday hunt with my aunt and uncle. He did knock over the chair. He was noisy in the woods (still is, don’t tell him). He did have butterflies in his stomach thinking about what it would be like to watch a deer get shot and die. He does get buck fever as bad as anyone I have ever seen. I did shoot a small buck that we didn’t recover. Jet did beg and beg for his own rifle. He did get a Henry Single-Shot .243 for Christmas. He did struggle shooting it past 25 yards. We did both shoot eight-point bucks within about 30 minutes of each other with that gun on his eighth birthday. And he did shoot his at 40ish yards (I don’t walk around with a measuring tape either).

Oh… and I am still more interested in chasing Jet’s mom than I am in chasing deer. That part of the book is real too.

Do you really hunt with a .30-.30 with iron sights?

Yes! It’s a Marlin 336 for those interested. I got it when I was about 14 years old and killed my first deer with it. I have had other guns along the way (and have a new one that might finally replace it), but, so far, I have always returned to that lever-action .30-.30. I really do love it as much as I expressed in the book.

And, yes, there is no scope on it, just iron sights. On my and Jet’s first hunt together—the hunt when I killed that first spike at Mr. Andrew’s—I was actually using just the standard buckhorn sight that came on the rifle. BUT… I am getting old, and it was a struggle for me that evening. My eyes don’t work as well as they used to, and it was pretty close to dark, and the shot was difficult for me. And so, I soon upgraded to a Skinner peep sight. I cannot recommend them enough.

But, as I just alluded, I may have finally found a rifle that could result in a near retirement for my trusty .30-.30. It’s a Henry Long Ranger in .308. Part of the reason I have held on to that .30-.30 for so long is because I love a lever action—mostly for the nostalgia. But, when I saw that Henry made a lever action .308, I knew that was the gun for me—particularly at a time when it was about the only ammo you could buy.

I do have to confess that while I did buy a Skinner peep sight for my new .308, I bought a version that allows me to easily mount (and remove) a scope on top of the peep sight using quick detach rings. I am hoping to go elk hunting next year, and I am going to want (maybe not need, but want) a scope for that.

Did Jet really shoot his buck with a single-shot .243 with nothing but iron sights?

Yes. I put a peep sight on his as well. He is getting better and better with it. These setups work fine for us because a lot of the places we hunt are going to limit our shots to 50 yards anyway.

Do you really hunt with a traditional bow?

I “hunt” with one, yes. But it hasn’t gone beyond “hunt” yet—the deer won’t cooperate. I used to use a compound bow, but when I decided to start bow hunting again, I said I’d do it with a traditional bow—and have stuck to that. I am really planning on this to be the year, though!

Did both the bucks that were shot on Jet’s birthday really drop right where they were shot?

Yep. We shot them both with Jet’s new .243. The one I shot was only at 25 yards resulting in a perfect heart shot. I knew it was and couldn’t figure out why the deer just sat down right where he was without taking a single step. Later, when field dressing, I realized that the hollow point round had fragmented and a piece hit the spine—that was the explanation. With Jet’s deer, he “meant” to spine shoot it. And, like mine, it laid down right where it was.

Again, it was pretty crazy to have both of those bucks down, right out in front of us, in about 30 minutes all before 7:30 a.m.

Was Jet really born with hunting in his blood?

I am not sure how you could look at his blood and tell that, but if you “follow the science,” you’d have to conclude that there is hunting in there somehow, someway. I just told a friend earlier today that Jet is a hunting nut. And it really wasn’t something he got from me—maybe genetically, but not from me teaching him to be this way. As I said in the book, I wasn’t even hunting when he was born. He was the one who got me back into it.

Are there going to be more books? When is the next one coming?

Yes! I have ideas for at least four more books in The Hunt Club Kids Series. Parker, Mason, and Wyatt will each have books where they are the main character. I am working on the next book right now—one of those boy and his dog stories that we all love. At this point, it’s hard to say anything certain about a release date, but I am expecting early 2023 (first quarter).