-by Tim Anello
The temps were perfect for a youth hunt. Before the sun came up, we lit the buddy heater in the blind to break the chill, and once the sun was up our heavy coats kept us warm. The evening hunts called for just a light jacket. I’ve taken my daughter turkey hunting for the last four years, coming home with a long beard on three of those trips! But this was Hannah’s first deer hunt and everything seemed to be coming together perfectly. Doing what I do for a living, I was so excited to film her hunt and especially for her to kill her first deer. I just knew she was going to feel that unbelievable rush of excitement when the time came to pull the trigger and then walk up and actually put her hands on the deer she just shot.
As we walked to the blind the first morning we realized that, somehow, I failed to notice that the moon phase was full, BIG and up all night. While Hannah didn’t understand what this meant, as the morning hours ticked by without seeing a single deer, I explained how bad it sucked to be hunting with these conditions. I told here that if we were lucky we might catch some deer that might be traveling from far enough away to their bedding area on down the ridge past us. However I knew the odds weren’t good and started getting bummed about the whole thing.
The first day came and went with hours spent in the blind eating on the twenty different kinds of snacks Hannah brought and trying not to laugh to loudly at all the silly things that we did and talked about. We saw a few does and small bucks late that first evening just before shooting light was gone. Hannah thought it was really cool to see the deer so close to us as we were hunting a one-acre food plot that was plush with Imperial Whitetail Clover. I, on the other hand, was still bummed that we didn’t see a good shooter buck for here to shoot.
The second day (the last of a two day youth season) was full of the same laughing and joking along with more eating on all the unhealthy snacks I allowed her to buy for HER hunting trip. As the sun started to approach the horizon, a small buck came out into the food plot. I asker her if she wanted to go ahead and shoot it since bigger bucks weren’t going to be out until well after dark. She simply said, “okay”. And of course my little girl smoked him! That buck didn’t make it twenty yards before he was dead without another twitch.
As we gathered our things and made the short walk to see her very first deer, I could barely hold it together with the excitement of my daughter’s accomplishment. I wondered what she would say or if she was going to yell with joy…. or if she was going to be able to speak at all. I mean after all, I didn’t know what I was going to do with all the excitement I was feeling. I…I…I…I…..I, it was all about what MY expectations were. And boy, were they wrong. When we walked up to the deer, she knelt down and brushed his coat with her had. She grabbed his antlers and picked up his head saying, “wow, it’s heavy”. About to come unglued, I said “so what do you think about killing your first deer!!!?”
“It was fun”, she said.
“I know! Isn’t it awesome?”, I asked her, expecting a flood of emotions and excitement. Without much emotion, she just said, “Yeah, he’s really pretty.” And then she lit up when she asked, “Can we invite some of my friends over and cook it the way you did that one time on the grill when it wasn’t very spicy? I want to tell them all about how much fun we had waiting for deer to come in.”
It hit me like I just walked into a glass door. What was so “awesome” for her was the hunt. The trip. The time spent in the woods with dad. For her, shooting a big buck, or any deer for that matter, wasn’t the point of this whole thing. As it shouldn’t have been for me. I have always tried to make my kid’s hunting trips all about them, what ever they want to eat, how ever late they want to stay up and every other part of the trip. What I learned that day, is that’s exactly what it is about. It’s about the“trip” being all about them, not all about what they might shoot. That day will come as they mature as a hunter. My job right now is to show them what “hunting” is all about.
What are your hunting trips all about?
-Special thanks to Dusy Skaggs for making this hunt possible.