I decided last year that my oldest daughter (7yr old at the time) was ready to not only go out on a hunt but also to harvest her own deer. I worked with her on the range enough that I was confident that she could make any shot out to 100 yards and also to be patient waiting for the right shot and being aware as to not make a pass-through on another animal behind her target.
Her first ever hunt was last January for Youth Hunting Day in SC and despite spending all day in the stand we didn't see a single deer. She was a bit disappointed but she needed to learn that hunting is about patience and enjoying nature and NOT about the sole act of killing the prey. She started to understand that it will be a learning process and was willing to put in the time to reach success.
She was invited back down to hunt in mid September so we made the 4 hour drive to hunt 2 afternoons and try again. This time she got to experience hot temperatures along with mosquitoes and tree frogs. The Thermacell once again paid for itself but there wasn't anything anyone could've done about the sweltering heat. Despite that we did see 5 small does that she had no problem passing on. She was dead set on shooting a buck and one big enough to get put up on the wall at that. We came back down during her Christmas break, but once again there was nothing to be seen. But before we drove back home from that trip one of the local guys who runs his own (extremely) successful lease invited her to shoot a buck off his land on this year's Youth Hunting day...which was a welcome surprise as he doesn't ask ANYONE to hunt his property as he's known to keep some rather large deer.
Both of us was very excited at the opportunity for my little girl to hunt this person's property because I knew this would be her best chance to not only shoot a deer but a buck big enough that she would be bragging about for many years to come (not to mention me bragging about her!)!!! The cold snap that happened a few days earlier helped the deer as they were moving all day. We got into the stand right before 2pm and chased 5 small bucks and as many does out of the field so right away I had a good feeling about the evening to come.
It was cold, just above freezing, and that wasn't including the wind chill which was non-stop. We were inside of a ground blind and I had my catalytic heater going full bore but it was still cold. It wasn't more than an hour before the first group of does to show back up and once they were there they not only never went away but picked up in numbers that by the end of the evening there were in excess of 60 deer in the field before us. The does were in full force for the first 2 hours and that's when the first couple bucks showed up to the party. They were 2 young cow horns and a decent 6 pointer and they harassed the does for a good while.
Every once in a while I kept glassing to the back of the field and eventually the first shooter sized buck showed up. He kept to himself and fed away from the herds that were all over the place as the deer started pouring out of it seemed everywhere. in less than 20 minutes I counted 14 large bucks, 2 of them real monsters that would make any seasoned deer hunter weak kneed. It was another 20 minutes and ALL of the deer were within 120 yards of us with no idea that we have been sitting there all afternoon.
We agreed on a big buck that she would shoot and when he came within range she got behind the rifle and tracked the buck waiting for an opening. We realized rather quickly that too many deer wasn't a good thing as if there wasn't a deer in front of the buck there was a deer on the opposite side right in the way of a possible pass through. I could tell that she was getting frustrated because she was on the scope for close to 15 minutes without getting a clear shot and it was about 10 minutes before shooting light was gone. She decided herself to abandon this buck and she picked out another one all by herself that she knew she could get a shot off at.
She knew that this was her time and it was weighing heavily on her. I reassured her that if she didn't want to shoot she didn't have to and if it wasn't her time then it just wasn't her time. She whispered to me that this is what she wanted to do and asked me if it was ok to shoot. I told her that she could shoot anytime she had a safe shot and to just slowly squeeze the trigger until the rifle goes off. I was watching the buck through the binoculars until I heard the rifle go off. The buck went straight to the ground and didn't even do a single kick. She just asked me "what happened?" and I told her that she just shot her first deer.
I had to hold her back from running out to her buck as I wanted to be there first to make sure that he was fully dead. It was almost dark by this time but light enough to see that this was one spectacular buck! She ended up putting that 125gr SST through both lungs and I ranged the blind at 88 yards from where he laid there on the ground and she did it with my 300 Blackout. She was beyond excited and I couldn't be more proud of her. This will be an experience that the both of us will remember for the rest of our lives and in a couple of months she'll have her mount to put up on the wall.