We had been talking about going hunting for 6 months. It all started one night when I opened the freezer and asked my girlfriend what she wanted for tomorrow’s dinner. She pointed at a freezer bag of “beef” and asked, pot roast? I replied that the roast in question would probably make a better venison roast. Her eyes got big; she smiled, and then asked if all that meat was venison? The conversation sidetracked into a discussion about deer and hunting, and how she had always kind of wanted to hunt, but no one was ever willing to take her.
I have met her ex-husband. He is a decent enough guy, good with their girls, but not what I would call a rugged outdoorsy guy. It did not surprise me that he did not hunt. Her dad, on the other hand, owns about 100 acres in a very rural part of the Missouri and he occasionally shoots deer. She explained that he doesn’t really hunt; he just shoots a deer every so often when he accidentally learns the deer’s pattern. He doesn’t much enjoy the sport but does enjoy venison. I think there was also a little bit of, girls don’t/shouldn’t hunt… and with two daughters, he never bothered to teach them.
I really enjoy taking new people hunting. Last year, I took two friends on their first deer hunts and on a separate trip, took a woman friend and two of her kids. My female friend had hunted a few times, but none of the others had. One of the guys was so excited he said he didn’t even notice how cold it was on the second morning until he saw ice on his balaclava. He even passed on a fawn and a small spike, despite a burning desire to shoot. Of the four new hunters, we only had one person baptize themselves as a true, new hunter.
The 11-year- old girl shot an 85-pound doe. She was so excited, then very disappointed when the doe grew antlers on the ground. It took the entire 15 minute ride back to the skinning rack to convince her that everyone would be super excited she shot a deer and not to worry about it being a spike. I don’t think she really believed me until the land owner greeted her with a huge smile.
Being rural Georgia, no one at the Mexican restaurant thought an 11-year-old girl with deer blood on her face was odd. Quite the opposite, it made her a bit of a celebrity. One of the families had a 10-year-old girl who immediately started giving her dad grief about her “not being old enough to hunt.” The manager sent her over a free dessert to celebrate the successful hunt. Her twin brother was jealous, but happy for her.
My girlfriend already knew about that story, and when we discussed taking her hunting, she knew it was either drink or paint your face to honor the deer. She did draw the line at Mexican restaurants. We took her for Chinese instead, but I am getting ahead of myself.
My girlfriend is a LEO and not at all shy with firearms. She carries a Glock 22 as her duty handgun and has an issued Smith and Wesson AR-15. She uses a Glock 17 and a personal AR set up a little nicer than her agency will allow, when we shoot 3 Gun. When we were discussing what gun she wanted for the hunt, it came down to convenience. Our trip was a bit of a multitask, so we decided to only bring one hunting rifle, in the form of my stock Remington 700, .270 Win. with detachable box magazine. Accuracy was not an issue, as she easily grouped my Hornady 130-grain soft point handloads at just under 3 inches at 200 yards.
We chose to hunt out of an elevated stand on the edge of a power line easement. It runs adjacent to our hunting lease and we have the hunting rights there, too. The first 30 minutes was spent familiarizing her with the area and suggesting locations where I thought deer might appear. Each of the places we discussed had deer appear—it was a very busy morning. The first of 17 deer of was a spike. She itched to shoot him right out of the gate, but I suggested he was kind of far away and how he was moving indicated that he would gradually move much closer.
Over the next 25 minutes, we watched him wander from about 160 yards to about 70 yards. In that time, two other deer dashed across the large open area. At about 80 yards, she decided it was still early in our hunt, we were seeing multiple deer and she didn’t want to invoke the first hunt rule. She decided to wait for something bigger.
As the spike wandered off to our left, he froze for a second. Then, he moved more diligently away from something in the tree line. I recognized that look and suggested she watch him while I scanned the rest of the field. About 30 seconds later, I got a very insistent tapping on my thigh and a hiss, is that a big one? I turned my trusty Nikon 10X binoculars to where she was looking and found the spike warily staring at a hulking 8—no wait, 10 point. I whispered, yes that is a very big deer for GA. He weighed about 185-195 pounds and his rack went 110+ inches.
She settled into a shooting position and waited. Again, I was proud as she asked which way I thought he would turn for a broadside shot. It was obvious he didn’t know we were there, but he was head on to us and she remembered to not take that shot. After the two bucks decided it was pointless to fight, the spike moved out quickly.
The 10-point just stood there. She again asked how to tell where he was going to go. I laughed and said to pick a direction and hope for the best. She picked right. A minute later, he turned right. I waited and waited, then insisted she take the shot. When I did so, I must have moved empathically as the stand wiggled. She kept the rifle pointed at the deer; but turned her head and glowered at me, “Thanks.” Apparently, my insisting she take the shot, shook the tower enough to bounce her crosshairs. When she reacquired, he was behind deep brush.
I felt like a real jerk. Again she made me proud as she whispered, “I haven’t earned that good of a deer yet anyway.” I think she was trying to make me not feel so bad. A nice gesture, but it didn’t work.
About every 10 minutes later, we saw another deer. We saw a few does, but mostly bucks. Very few had any interest in hanging out in the power line. They all seemed hot on the trail of something or to have someone hot on their heels.
About an hour later, we both noticed another buck nudging out from the tree line on our left. This deer was cautiously making his way across and scenting the air. His caution would be his demise. We made sure to count points and verify he was not a yearling. Again a 10 point; but, unlike the 5-year-old bruiser, this was a 2.5-year old weighing about 140 pounds. She definitely would not be invoking the first deer rule. After a bit of quiet maneuvering, she had him in her sights. He kept giving quartering shots, which she wisely didn’t take as he was angling closer to us and would likely go directly in front of us.
I whispered that when he gave her a full broadside, I was going to attempt to freeze him by bleating. About a minute later, he gave us that perfect shot at about 80 yards. I bleated, he froze and stuck his nose up to sniff the air.
BLAM! Slap! Thump! No hesitation this time.
She followed through and watched through the Nikon Monarch 4x16x50. Her eye slowly left the scope, and a big smile creased her face. A giggle escaped, then she whispered, “Big Buck Down!”
The next step was to wait 20 minutes and make sure he is actually down and not just acting like it. It was a pretty long 2 minutes sitting with a squirmy person who really wanted to get her hands on that buck. Then, he tried to get up. She was back on the gun wanting to put another round into him. I suggested that she might want to put another round in the chamber. She started to look up at me, then remembered, “bolt action!” A not so smooth re-chambering happened and she was locked on tight. After 2 more minutes with no deer movement, she let up and smiled again. She whispered that he scared her.
She kept the gun ready for the next 10 minutes, but all seemed well. I sent a text to my father and brother-in-law, as they had dropped us off. Then, we went to retrieve her deer. A bit of dragging the deer out of the brambles; a bit of posing for pictures; a bit of face painting, and before we knew it, the big new diesel Ford had its bed baptized with deer blood, too.
Do you have a story of a hunter’s first trip afield? What gifts are you buying a young or new deer hunter for Christmas? Share your answers in the comment section.
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