Blog reader Judy Black is always very generous with her tales, and she recently sent a great one about a "first timer" that fits in with our feel-good holiday programming. Judy started out by saying that her sons, now 27 and 29, grew up watching her and her husband Scott hunt. While her youngest didn't take to the sport, her oldest, Brian, "has the raging fire like his mother for hunting." Brian harvested a spike horn in 1996 and a small 7 two years later. It was then that he decided he would plant and let the small ones go -- a decision for which Judy says she admired her son. After going on to practice deer management, Brian killed an "awesome" 10 point opening morning 2006, and another 10 point opening day of the following year. He still practices QDMA on his family's 150 acres.
I'll let Judy continue the story about the next generation of her family's hunters from there. -K.H.
In 2001 Scott and I purchased almost 200 acres that was once part of his grandparents' farm. Situated on the land was a 1973 mobile home, and the ink wasn't even dry on the paperwork, when we started calling it camp. Scott's brother Jim owns 300 acres adjacent to our property. It has some of the best hunting and farm land in the area and Jim is an avid hunter as well. By fall the food plots were planted and the blinds in place.
Jim has a son Jason, now 21, and he too loves to hunt. He spends countless hours walking or driving their property taking note of the bucks and by October I swear he has them named. If you tell him you saw an 8 point buck, you best know if it had a broken G2 or real white horns. It is not very often that a buck shows up that Jason hasn't already seen.
Jason's youngest sister Sadie has sat with her dad and Jason many times for many years. She has never hunted and is now 16 and has the normal interests of a 16 year old young lady. But this year Jason "begged" her to get up opening morning to hunt in his stand with him. She went and they didn't see anything that morning. Sadie went again for the afternoon hunt and this is where the real story starts.
Around 4:30 Jason told her there was a buck coming out. He didn't know how big it was, just that it was a buck and he had promised her that he would let her shoot "something." Sadie would later tell me that he was "bouncing off the walls" telling her to take the gun and shoot. She was totally unprepared and took a little longer than Jason was comfortable with getting ready to shoot. He was "having a fit" as the buck walked off into the woods....Sadie was like, "what the heck"!!!
The buck turned and came back out to the edge of the field and now Sadie was ready. She took aim and fired the shot. Both of them watched as the buck disappeared into the woods. Both Jason and Sadie knew it was a good hit so they started burning up the cell phone lines. A call to mom brought a "yeah right" and then to Uncle Scott who couldn't understand what she was saying.
Back at camp I was patiently waiting for them to bring her trophy as Scott told me Sadie had shot a 10. I was so dang excited for her and could not wait to see it. They backed the pickup up to the porch of camp where the light was good and we could all see. I was barely out the door when the passenger door flew open and I was greeted by the biggest smile you can imagine. I hugged Sadie and told her over and over how very proud I was of her. She chatted a mile a minute recounting the story of Jason "bouncing off the walls" and then her shot. She just kept pointing from herself to the buck saying "I did this....I got a 10 point buck!" Once again I told her how proud I was and Sadie's reply was "I just kept thinking, who, who, who will be proud and I said..Judy will. She will be so proud of me because she hunts and knows."
I was about in tears as it made me realize that all those years of watching all of us hunt and celebrate the harvest, this young lady got it. It isn't just the hunt, it is the camaraderie, the thrill, the sharing of the stories. It is about family and friends doing what they love to do and then taking it all back to "camp" and sharing. Sadie now had her own story to share and she will have that memory for the rest of her life.
My sister has always told me that "I never look happier than when I have a dead animal in the picture with me." Well, it is not only my harvests that make me smile. We took pictures of Sadie that night and I asked that one be taken with her and I. She brought the pictures over to me the following night and I have to say there was no wiping that smile off her face the night she killed that buck, she was one proud, happy young lady. But the picture of Sadie and I together shows that I was just as happy and proud as she was.
If I don't harvest this season it will be just fine with me. It meant more to me to have Sadie get her first deer than if I shot a 12 point myself. I remember my first fish and I remember my first deer. I too remember my kids first deer. Now I can say that I remember Sadie's first buck, an awesome 10 point. What a treasured memory. -J.B.
I thought we'd start some feel-good holiday programming with a tale of a dog owner who saved his retriever's life -- then the retriever saved a life right back.
Katie Hendrickson! Known to us as "Katie," she is a long-time blog reader, and says she got her first bow harvest with her Gear Giveaway prize from last year -- a FatBoy hunting cushion from Hunt Comfort.
Regardless of how much I'd love to post nonstop field reports on well-earned harvests at this time of year, we should really take a break now and then to discuss the world beyond the woods. President-elect Obama's selection of U.S. Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado as his Secretary of the Interior seems like one of those times.
Salazar is a controversial choice. According to this New York Times story, his record drew, "mixed reviews from environmental groups on Wednesday, but cautious praise from energy and mining interests."
On one side are executives such as Marc Smith of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, who said in a statement, “We are pleased that the president-elect has chosen someone who understands that there is a direct connection between federal lands and access to affordable, clean natural gas."
On the other side are opinions such as that of Daniel R. Patterson, a former official of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, who is now southwest regional director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Patterson stated that, "Salazar has a disturbingly weak conservation record, particularly on energy development, global warming, endangered wildlife and protecting scientific integrity.”
Wearing his usual ten-gallon hat during Wednesday's news conference, Salazar said that his job would include not just the development of green energy like wind, the Times story said, but also, "the continued domestic development of coal, oil and natural gas, [and] fossil fuels that generate heat-trapping gases when they are burned."
It's a fine line between energy development and habitat protection, and I can only hope the most talented, experienced, well-informed and forward-thinking candidate has been chosen to walk it. -K.H.
Blog reader Paula Smith is on fire this season! After getting a bird a few weeks ago, last Friday she called her boss asking if she could leave early to hunt for her buck. He told her, "Go get him, Smitty!" Although Paula certainly deserves a big congrats for her harvest, she's quick to share the credit with someone else. Here's the story of her recent success, and who she believes is to thank for it. -K.H.
I headed out bundled up to the hilt and with lunch in my pack, got to the farm and began the dreaded climb up the mountain. I never hunt this area because it is such a bugger to climb especially when you're winterized, but I felt it was the best place to hunt for a buck. An hour later (got a little lost) I finally found the spot on the other side of the mountain where I wanted to sit and plopped down, scaring a deer out of the brush below. Okay, good start. I pulled out a soda and saw movement down below so I stopped what I was doing and watched a deer, going from bush to bush along the side of the mountain. I couldn't tell what it was so I just watched as it was slowly making its way up the mountain towards me. Finally I got a good look at about 100 yards and saw it was a buck. I got him in my sites and saw he was a legal shooter to boot (first legal shooter I have ever seen hunting). Yahoo! I aimed, pulled the trigger, nothing. Then I was like, safety dumb ass, and I released the safety. He came out from behind yet another bush and I fired. He kept walking like I never shot. Huh, what the heck is going on?! Then at about 10 yards he stopped, dropped and rolled, right down the mountain. I sat there, jaw hanging open, thinking is this some kind of fire safety video shoot or is this a whitetail escape maneuver that no one has ever told me about? Then it occurred to me that I might have hit him and he died.
Now the shaking and crying begins. I pulled out my cell, called my hunting buddy, my boss, my oldest son and got voice mail for all of them. My message was the same to each, "I just shot a buck, I don't know how big, I think he's dead because he just rolled down the mountain." After about 15 minutes I walked to where he dropped and saw that indeed he was hit and most likely deceased. I found him about 200 yards down. I field dressed him and then started calling everyone I could think of who was local. There was no way I could drag him a mile up hill. I got a hold of some friends, dragged him to a logging road and then out to the dirt road where they were waiting. We got him hung (my hunting buddy put up an electronic hoist for me, it's awesome!) and then I waited for my youngest son to get home from school so I could get this picture. What an absolute blast I have had this season and am so proud of my "Tri-Fecta" Triple Crown: doe -archery, gobbler-shotgun and buck-rifle.
In reflecting on my season, I know that I owe all of this to one person, my hunting buddy; kind of like the hunter behind the huntress. Two years ago I showed up at his camp in my street camo and carrying a borrowed rifle. The only thing I knew about hunting was what I learned at the safety class and a week's worth of the Outdoor Channel. When I shot and missed a stampeding herd of whitetails and he asked what I aimed at and I gave him that deer-in-headlights look, he took me to the shooting table and taught me how to shoot a rifle. Then he put me in a spot and drove some deer my way. I had one in my sights and fired and nothing happened. I pulled the gun down and looked at it like it failed me. The deer gave me the middle finger whitetail style and then I realized I had the safety on. When he met up with me and asked if I saw anything, he didn't get mad when I told him about the safety being on. He just said "geez, we thought we were having fun before at camp and then you came." I took it as a compliment; my Dad wasn't so sure.
He then took me on countless hikes, showing me deer sign, trails, etc. When I missed 16 turkeys at 14 yards, we went to the shooting table with my shotgun. When I almost lost my left breast from shooting a borrowed bow that was way too big for me, he told me to wait for mine and then gave me archery lessons off my deck. Because he doesn't live nearby, his inbox was full of emails from me with questions: should I do this, should I buy this, etc. Even though I know I was a PIA he never let on that I was. He has 40 years of hunting experience and I needed to learn it. I listened, practiced and took his advice. We discussed where I should hunt for each and everyone of my harvests this year! So my utmost gratitude goes to my Hunting Buddy, this one's for you! I hope we are still doing this for the next 50 some years! -P.S.
Laura Benjamin of Colorado Springs, Colorado! Laura is a long-time blog reader, and recently wrapped up our discussion regarding news stories about women hunters with a long and thoughtful comment.
Laura will be receiving the fantastic and endlessly useful camo cargo bag from BigFoot. So congrats to Laura and thanks to Bigfoot, and I look forward to naming another winner next week! -K.H.
Our own Laura Benjamin recently sent me this Denver Post story (Download DenverPost.jpg) which a friend had sent to her. The article comes at the "huntress" topic from an anthropological angle, and therefore seems almost surprised by the fact of women in the woods. I thought it would make a good Friday bonus post follow-up to our discussion about female hunters in the news. Thanks, Laura! -K.H.
Look what Lou Alexander's husband dragged out of the woods! At first he'd thought the deer was an antlered doe, but then realized it was a male with a "very small unit." Lou said they nicknamed the deer Pat, and added:
The bases on this guy are massive, there are 11 scoreable points, but as you can see the rack lacks any length and is still in velvet. We didn't see any exterior female parts and I'm not good enough to pick out the reproductive organs internally, but if there were some I'm sure they would have been under sized too. Our taxidermy guy told us that the doe's he's seen have had a rubbery consistency to their antlers, but Pat had hard antlers. Just something different to see. I'm sure any fans of SNL will understand the name :)
Another thing, my husband also shot a very nice 10 pt buck later and he came in on Pat's trail like he was smelling a hot doe.
I certainly haven't seen anything this bizarre this season. Anyone else? - K.H.