Never Too Late

After a life-altering experience, this sportsman rediscovered the Mississippi woodlands through a newfound love of hunting. That chain of events culminated last year in the buck of a lifetime! (July 2006)

Ron LaVigne Sr. bagged this good-looking 10-pointer in Jasper County, highlighting his return to hunting.
Photo courtesy of Ron LaVigne Jr.

Most hunters come to the sport as children, picking up and carrying on their family's traditions; far fewer take it up late in life.

One hunter who exemplifies the notion that it's never too late to start hunting is Ron LaVigne Sr. This 65-year-old only "got serious" about deer hunting in the last few years.

LaVigne did hunt some as a youngster, but he didn't catch the fever at the time. "I hunted with my dad, and I learned to deer-hunt," he recalled. "We hunted with dogs back in those days, in the late 1940s and early '50s. There weren't a lot of deer at that time, and I never even got a chance to shoot at one. And I know my dad never killed a deer."

After high school, LaVigne joined the Marine Corps. Then, about the time he got out of the service, his dad passed away. "I kind of lost any interest in hunting at that point," he said. "I just didn't have the heart for it."

For many years, LaVigne's business was the focus of his life. "I'm in the funeral products business, and have my own sales company that provides products for funeral homes and cemeteries throughout the United States," he offered. "There just never was much time for doing a lot of hunting, even though I kept saying that someday I would."

Then, eight years ago, LaVigne, then 57, experienced major medical problems that changed his life: He had a quintuple bypass.

The experience made him realize the value he placed on time spent with his son Ron Jr. and his grandson, Ron III. It also emphasized to him that he needed to create more of those mutual adventures. So, three years after his surgery, he took advantage of an opportunity to spend more time with both of them.

"My grandson started deer hunting with his dad when he was about 5 or 6 years old," LaVigne said. "My son is a very avid deer hunter, and he had stayed after me for years to go hunting with him." And in the wake of the health scare, LaVigne, seeing how much Ron III enjoyed hunting, decided to try it again.

"I just wanted to have an opportunity to spend some real quality time with both of them," LaVigne explained. "Because of our very active work lives, we just didn't have a lot of quality time together except for holidays. Now hunting has become a real joy to me."

Over the past five years, LaVigne has ignited the passion that he never quite kindled as a young man, and going to the woods has become a serious pastime with him. "We've formed our own hunt club out from Pachuta, right out from Quitman," he said. "We lease some land from Hall Timber Company. We have about 1,500 acres for four of us, and we really enjoy it.

"It's really different from when I was a kid. The deer population in Mississippi has really flourished, and we have a lot of deer now."

LaVigne admits that he had no idea of what he was missing in all those years during which he didn't go afield. "I think there are a lot of people my age who missed all those wonderful opportunities in the outdoors," he mused. "Most of us worked very hard throughout our lives, and then by the time we get a chance to enjoy the outdoors, we either don't know how, or haven't taken up a sport like this.

"It's a wonderful thing to do, and to get involved with your children and your grandchildren when they're doing it. I recommend it for anyone as they move toward retirement age. It's never too late to take up hunting!"

For most of his hunting, LaVigne shoots a Remington .270 fitted with a Zeiss scope. "It's a nice weapon," he remarked. "But weaponry was never a problem for me, because I spent six years in the Marine Corps. I've always enjoyed shooting -- I just had never taken up hunting."

Last year saw his fourth season since his return to hunting -- and it held a special surprise for him, which unfolded as, late one afternoon, he was sitting in a stand by himself on their lease.

"My grandson wasn't along on that trip, and I've rubbed that in on him many times," LaVigne said, grinning. "It was right at dusk on Jan. 12, 2005, and it was a foggy evening. At 5:25, a buck walked out and just stood. My son had told me that you don't have much time with a buck, but apparently, due to the rut, he was just sort of mesmerized, standing about 75 yards from me."

LaVigne was afraid to move, concerned that the deer would bolt. But he eased his rifle up, took careful aim and fired.

"I got a very good shot," he recalled. "He ran about 20 yards and dropped. I was really excited, because I'd killed a few does before, but I'd never had a chance to take a shot at a buck like that. That was a pretty exciting day. The deer turned out to be a beautiful mount, and now it has a prominent place right on my office wall."

The buck sported a symmetrical 10-point rack that's above average for the southeast corner of the state in which it was taken.

LaVigne's passion for hunting now extends beyond the general gun season. "I don't have the upper body strength to pull a compound bow," he explained. "So last year I got two physicians' letters, which was the requirement at the time, and bought a crossbow. The very first day of the season, I got a chance to kill a 6-point. That was the first time I had ever fired my crossbow at anything but a target, and I was very fortunate with that shot."

After all his experiences both in the field and out, LaVigne not only is passionate about hunting but is also enthusiastic about the idea that anyone can participate in any phase of the sport. "With all the seasons, even if someone doesn't have the strength or stamina that they had in their younger years, anyone can bowhunt," he asserted. "In my case, I had my chest cut open, so I just don't have the ability to pull a compound bow. But a crossbow is fairly easy to use. So between archery and primitive weapons, you can extend the season from October to February. And that gives anyone the ability to hunt."

LaVigne's not done experimenting yet. He has only hunted deer so far, but his grandson is pestering him to try something else. "I'm probably going to try duck hunting next year," said. "My grandson has sort of fallen in love with duck hunting. My son has about 300 acres under leas

e up near Tupelo in a preserve where they duck-hunt. I've put that one off because of the cold and the wet, but they keep asking me, so I'm going to try it."

Will LaVigne continue to hunt? You'd better believe it.

"I'm delighted that I started hunting," he said, beaming. "I plan to hunt for my remaining days."

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