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A Daughter's First Deer January 2006
Mark Snyder  

The fall hunting season was upon us once again. This year was slightly different, for the first time instead of chasing game for myself I would be taking my daughter, Audrey, on a deer hunt.

It took a few years of coaxing to get her to go; she always went with me on my elk, deer, and javelina hunting but didn’t seem interested in taking game for herself. It wasn’t until she got into her teen years that she felt she was ready.

So a year ago we took the hunter safety course and applied for the youth hunts. She went javelina hunting last February and got a couple of shots with no success but we had a lot of fun.

This fall she would be drawn for the Kaibab doe hunt. Also drawn were Ben and Sam, Dan’s sons, and Ryan, a son of my friend Mike. So we would have a full camp with four hunters. Ryan’s grandfather, George, also tagged along since this was Ryan’s first hunt.

Once we found out that she was drawn for the youth deer hunt we did a little gun shopping. We finally settled on a Browning A-bolt in the new .243 WSSM caliber. We spent a couple of weekend days sighting in and practicing on the e-Deer target with Dan and his son’s Ben and Sam. Dan was gracious enough to give Audrey, Sam’s old pair of shooting sticks which she felt very comfortable with.

The week prior to the hunt I made a few phone calls and talked to a game and fish ranger up on the Kaibab plateau. I wanted to find out if the deer had started to migrate off the plateau to the lower winter range. He said they indeed had started to migrate. I have hunted there several times so I had an idea of where we wanted to start the hunt.

We left Thursday morning so we could get camp set up before it got dark. By late afternoon we had camp set up and there was still some light left, so Mike and I took Dan’s Polaris Ranger for a drive to look for deer. We spotted a herd of about eight does coming out into a meadow about ½ mile from camp and decided to start our hunt there in the morning.

At dark-thirty I rustled Audrey out of bed and we got dressed for the hunt. The temps were in the thirty’s so we dressed in cold weather gear. Audrey and I walked down to the meadow and sat down waiting for the sun to come up. As the sun was rising we spotted a couple other hunters out walking in front of us but they didn’t push anything out. We stayed put for about a ½ hour more to let them pass through then we moved a ridge over to set up in another position.

When we reached the next ridge it started raining with a little sleet so we quickly put on our rain ponchos to keep ourselves dry. After sitting in the rain about 15 minutes we spotted a deer about 300 yards away. We studied it for a while to determine if it was a buck or not. With the rain the visibility wasn’t great and eventually he put his head down to eat and laid his ears back. Sure enough he was a little buck with horns shorter than his ears. We watched him browse and move into the junipers.

A few minutes later we heard a few shots just to the northeast of us in the trees. I told Audrey to keep a sharp eye out in case something comes through the trees. Sure enough after a few minutes two does and a fawn came running out of the trees and were moving along the side of the burned out ridge across from us. The rain was still coming down and I couldn’t get a range on them with the rangefinder. I guessed about 150 yards (Dan later ranged it in clear weather at closer to 200 yards). The gun was zeroed for 200 yards so I told Audrey to hold on them when she shot.

There were a lot of dead burned out trees on the ridge side so we waited for the deer to come into one of the clearer openings. I asked if Audrey if she was ready and she said yes. As they hit the opening I whistled at them and they stopped to locate the source of the noise. Crack went the gun. Audrey didn’t hesitate, which was good as she wasn’t going to get a second chance.

The trailing doe jumped and I knew she was hit. She started running up the hill so I told Audrey to load another round. As Audrey loaded another round the doe started to stagger. I knew then she was hit well and there was no need to fire a second shot. A few seconds later the doe fell over. Audrey said in a very excited voice “I got a deer” and I congratulated her on a great shot. Picture one happy daughter and one proud Dad.

As we worked our way to the doe the rain stopped, which made it nice for picture taking. Audrey hit it right behind the shoulder and punched both lungs. The practice paid off. We said a little prayer thanking God for a successful hunt and to the doe for giving us her life so we would have meat to eat.

Unfortunately no one else in our camp would take a deer. Ryan did get a shot but was unsuccessful and Grandpa George was glad to have been there to witness it. Still we all had a great time hunting and sitting around the campfire at night swapping stories.

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