For some families, going on vacation means flying off to California for a four-night stay at Disneyland. For others, it’s enjoying the crackling fireplace in a cozy bungalow that’s within a stone’s throw of the ocean.
Vacation time for Sunnyside’s Osborn family is highly anticipated by all six of the Osborns and it comes around every fall.
A few weeks after school gets underway the first of each September, Huston and Elizabeth Osborn load up their four children, hitch up a small camp trailer to the back of their pick-up and take off for the wheat fields of Dayton.
It’s hunting season, and that means it’s time to put meat on the table.
“For us, it’s our family vacation,” said 16-year-old Emery Osborn.
“We all look forward to this trip every year,” he grinned, as his two younger sisters – Amariah, 14, and Amarisah, 12 – nod gleefully in agreement.
This was the eighth year the Osborn’s have vacationed in nearby Dayton. Besides rolling fields of wheat, the southeastern Washington landscape features striking stands of timber and, more importantly, plenty of venison on the hoof.
On this year’s trek, four of the family members were in possession of deer tags. The two who weren’t – Mr. Osborn and 18-year-old Olen – decided early on this past summer they would forego the modern firearm season and instead try to bag their deer during the special archery and muzzleloader seasons.
This may not have been the year to pass up on the hunting opportunities near Dayton, though. The four other Osborn’s who went loaded for bear, it turned out, had little trouble in filling their tags. All four returned with handsome whitetails.
“We ended up with lots of meat for our freezers,” said Mrs. Osborn. “We’re meat eaters, but generally we only eat what we shoot.”
Although the local family isn’t into what is known as trophy hunting – “…we’re meat hunters, that’s the only reason we hunt,” insists 16-year-old Emery – the top animal taken on this year’s trip was bagged by the baby of the family, 12-year-old Amarisah.
“The other hunters in the area, they were pretty jealous of the deer Amarisah shot. It was that big,” said older brother Emery.
The deer she bagged - her first was a doe but this one, just the second she’s ever taken - was a buck that had a 4x5 rack.
Using a Ruger .243 rifle with a scope, the 12-year-old dropped the animal from about 250 yards out. The first shot she fired hit the buck’s gut, the second its lungs. The family had to trail the animal a couple hundred yards before finding the downed deer.
Older sister Amariah dropped her deer, a doe, using a Weatherby magnum .257. It was the third deer the 14-year-old has harvested, but her first doe.
“It was about 125 yards away from me,” she said. “It turned, and I hit it broad side in the shoulder. It was a double-lung shot,” said the youngster.
“The deer dropped right there, it was that clean of a shot,” said Amariah’s mother, Elizabeth.
The two other deer the family gleaned from the Dayton trip, both bucks with 4x4 racks, were taken within a minute or so of one another.
Hunting together, Mrs. Osborn and son Emery watched as a group of deer were heading through a canyon coming straight toward them. The two began discussing who should shoot the buck that was spotted, leaving several does for the taking for the other hunter.
Because it was Emery’s birthday, and because his previous four kills had all been does, his mother was trying to convince him to take the buck.
The discussion ended when the mother and son team spotted a second large buck in the group of deer.
Emery, using a Ruger .308 rifle, took the first shot and hit the first buck just behind the shoulders.
“I was about 225 yards out. It took out the lungs. The shot dropped him where he stood,” said the teen. “My first buck, on my birthday, it was a thrill.”
His mother then put the crosshairs on the second buck in the group. Like her son, she squeezed off a clean shot.
“It was only the second deer I’ve ever gotten with a rifle,” she said. The first one she shot – last year - was a buck with an impressive 5x5 rack.
The first deer she ever harvested, however, was taken in 1991, long before she had any plans to start a family of her own. She downed the animal using a bow and arrow.
The annual hunting trips for the Osborns - these days - actually serve several purposes.
First and foremost, it’s a way to put meat on the table.
“Everyone in the family likes venison, well…except probably for Amarisah,” said older brother Emery.
The family routinely mixes pork fat with the ground up venison, which makes for a better consistency when preparing the meat as burger.
“And, doing steaks over the grill is always good,” chimed in his mother.
“We get a few roasts, as well, and the jerky, we always get some of that made…but there’s never enough. The jerky goes real fast,” she said.
The annual hunting treks, said Mrs. Osborn, also allow her and her husband to pass along the skills and knowledge that’s needed to live off the land. It’s also a way, she noted, to teach their children the proper way to handle firearms.
And, she quickly added, the hunting trips are something the entire family can do together.
“It’s the only time of the year we all go hunting,” said Mrs. Osborn.
“It’s kind of funny, as the start of school draws near you hear a lot of other kids moaning a little bit.
“My kids, they start getting excited when summer vacation is ending. They know it’s almost our vacation time, when hunting season starts.
“Yeah,” Mrs. Osborn added, “you could say the family that hunts together stays together…
“…and eats together,” laughed 14-year-old daughter Amariah.