New Year’s Eve Eve was the most exciting hunt of my life. My daughter and I were headed to a stand in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin in an attempt to seal the deal on her fist whitetail. The stand was a great deal nicer than what I’m accustomed to. My brother-in-law, and father-in-law set up a feeder, and a box stand that I think might be larger than my first apartment. My brother-in-law was kind enough to let us hunt his stand, and my father-in-law was kind enough to let us hunt his property, so Emma & I made out like a bandit on this hunt. And if that weren’t enough, my father-in-law spread out a veritable buffet of soybeans, and ricebran along the edges of the shooting lane for those deer whose pallet had grown tired of standard deer corn. We weren’t leaving anything to chance here.
May daughter is 11 years old. She is small for her age, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in tenacity, and intensity. Even though I have two daughters, I must admit that until this year, I’ve never hunted with a female. I thought that hunting with a girl would be tougher, but to be honest, I find that she has many attributes that I lacked at her age, and still struggle to improve to this day. I find that women are much more focused, driven, and have an acute attention to detail that men tend to “cowboy” through. Women will not take a shot unless they are sure about the shot. I’ve been guilty of rushing a shot for fear of losing my opportunity, usually resulting in a long track or on occasion, a lost animal. Women also take instruction better than most men. Us men already know everything, so we don’t tend to take advice that can be constructive nearly as well as a woman would.
Anyhow, we got to the stand, and I began to tape up some burlap on the rear windows to prevent us from being skylined by any would-be victim approaching from the direction of the deer buffet. My daughter was sitting in her chair looking toward the feeder to make sure that we didn’t get caught unaware while I was doctoring up the rear windows of this monster of a box stand. This thing is four feet wide by eight feet long. I felt like we were hunting in the Taj Mahal.
Of course, while I’m in the middle of my work with my back to the feeder, and my butt nearly sticking out of the window, my daughter whispers, “Dad, I see a deer!” When else would a deer show up, except when we’re not even remotely ready?
I said “You’re kidding…Seriously?” Wide eyed, she said “Yes, and it has antlers!” With my not so subtle buttocks where my face should have been, I couldn’t see a thing. I didn’t want to move for fear of spooking the deer. I could imagine her telling all of her friends, “I would have had my first deer, but my dad showed him his butt.”
We played redlight/greenlight with Emma saying “Okay, you can move….. Stop!… Okay…. He’s looking!… Okay move..Wait!” until I got in my seat. “We’re alright,” I thought until I realized that we hadn’t set up anything yet. My rifle still had the sling attached (thank God for QD sling swivels), and was leaning in the corner of the blind. My video camera was still inside of my pack, and all of the blind’s clear plastic windows were closed. I had planned on setting up a camera tripod, until Murphy’s Law had me facing the wrong direction with my butt in the deer’s face.
With every nerve in my body frayed beyond repair and shooting sparks, we carefully slid the window open, and the rifle barrel out. She was shooting my 6.8 SPC in an AR-15, which has proven itself over the years to be a beast slayer. Emma was loaded up with our 95 gr Barnes TTSX handloads, that she actually helped me load. I ripped the camcorder out of my pack, and with the stealth of a chubby ninja, I slipped back into my seat, and flipped the camera on record. I watched the deer feeding broadside on the edge of the shooting lane at about 75 yards through the viewfinder of the camcorder. It picked up its head, and revealed what looked like 6 points (It turned out to be 8ish points). Judging by the body of the deer, it looked to be a roughly 2.5 year old buck.
I’ve hunted for years, and have never had nerves like I did on this hunt. If my bladder would have been full, I think I might have been in trouble. I whispered to Emma all of the usual coaching that all dads repeat as I awaited the report of the rifle. “Right behind the shoulder,” and “Don’t jerk the trigger,” and “Get steady before you shoot,” but I wasn’t hearing a shot. Sweet Mary, “SHOOT” I thought.
She said “I don’t want to pull the trigger.” I said “Baby, this is what we came here for.” Then I realized that she meant that she wasn’t comfortable in her shooting position. The deer is still feeding. AHHHH! I’m freaking out!
I put down the camera, and carefully re-positioned her, until she was as solid as a rock. I on the other hand, was a neurotic basket case by this time. I didn’t have butterflies. I had a schizophrenic zombie squirrel on meth doing kung-fu moves in his bath robe inside my gut! Before I could get back in my own chair, I saw her little trigger finger with its painted blue nail slip through the trigger guard, and rest on the trigger in preparation for the shot. Quickly I plopped down on my side of the blind, whipped the camera onto the deer, and proceeded to shake like a leaf while trying to film the shot.
Now with a solid rest, Emma squeezed off a round in no time. The buck turned inside-out, and disappeared into the thicket. We both let out a sign of relief. We waited 15 or 20 minutes, and called for my father-in-law (her Papa) to bring his blood trailing dog, Josie. Again, leaving nothing to chance. There was no need to have called the cavalry, because the buck was laying 25 to 30 yards from where it was shot. He was as dead as disco in a honky tonk.
As soon as we finished dragging the buck to the clearing, Emma insisted on receiving her hunter’s mark. The bloodied face. She certainly earned it, and she wore it with pride.
These are the kinds of days afield that dreams are made of. There was a cold, crisp Northeast wind, and everything worked out the way it was intended. We arrived just in time to have a nice buck walk out in front of the stand with plenty of daylight. It was at a yardage that was comfortable for my daughter, and God kept that deer there just long enough for all of our craziness to end in a well placed shot. We even had enough good light left to take pictures, and appreciate the sunset. A perfect hunt with my newest hunting buddy.
To watch the video of the hunt Click Here.