From The VN Archives: Curtis Pulliam: Grandpa’s lessons live on in treasured memory of hunt

I lost a person very close to me last Wednesday.

It was my Grandpa – or, as I called him, "Papa." He was 73.

Papa and I did a lot of awesome stuff together. We went fishing and hunting. We talked about sports.

I caught many fish with him by my side but there will always be one moment I will never forget.

I was 15 years old, and we were up north sitting in the hunting blind.

This was not the usual hunting experience because the blind was more of a cheap hotel. We had a heater, hot chocolate and little packets of just-add-water soup. That was our hunting ritual.

We would get out there before sunrise (nice and early) and walk down the wooded trail. Our spot was well protected by the trees, and it was dark early in the morning.

As a tired teenager, I would get in the blind and fall asleep instantly.

"Can't see deer like that," he'd always say.

But on this day after our ritual, instead of falling asleep, I stayed awake.

I had just been legally able to have my own firearm and it was just like his.

I was too excited to sleep.

After returning from a slow morning hunt, we decided to go back out in the afternoon.

We hunted in a spot where it got darker more quickly because the area was enclosed by trees of all kinds.

About an hour before dark, Papa noticed something.

"Look over there," he said.

I glanced slowly to the right and saw three deer leisurely stroll into our view.

They were looking for food but one had stopped and was glaring at us.

"That's the one you want," he whispered. "Just be patient."

My heart was racing.

I gently raised my .44Ruger to the window.

I had fired it only a couple times to sight the scope. I was extremely nervous.

"When you're ready, fire away," Papa said.

With my heart still pounding my chest, I zoomed in on the deer through the scope and examined it for a second.

I gathered myself, and seconds later pulled the trigger.

The deer dropped to the forest ground instantaneously.

I turned to Papa and we both smiled one of the happiest smiles ever.

I had my first and only deer.

That moment resonates now. It just one of many amazing memories I have of him.

Though he eventually lost his battle to cancer (he was a smoker), I will never forget the 21 years I had him in my life.

There was one thing he would say to me numerous times over the course of my childhood: "Quality is better than quantity."

Every time I heard it, I understood it a little more.

Now with his passing, it has really hit me.

There are people who have shot more deer. But never would I trade my experience for theirs.

One special deer is better than many ordinary ones.