Her First Deer
by Katelyn Kayser
Being the daughter of a TV host and hunting journalist means that there’s no escaping my dad’s love of the outdoors. Although I enjoy skating, drawing, horseback riding and a variety of other things, by the age of four, I was already trooping along with my father searching for antlers or waiting patiently while he called in a coyote. In the blink of an eye I was 10, and had shot my first turkey. Now at 12, I would be hunting for my first deer. I remember when my brother got to go with my dad and shoot his first deer over a Thanksgiving break. Although I got to spend time with my mom, I still had wished it was me who had bagged a buck. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long, and by my 7th grade year, my schedule for Thanksgiving break had nothing but deer hunting on it.
It was 7th period, the last day before Thanksgiving break, and I was excited to be going hunting for my first deer with my dad. As the bell rang, I rushed outside to the bus stop and flew onto my school’s old rundown bus. The trip seemed to take forever, as the bus rattled down the gravel road. Finally, the old clunker creaked under our high post gate and stopped. I hurried off the bus, sprinted up to my front doorstep and burst inside. Dad had already loaded our bags into the truck and was standing with my mom in the kitchen. “I’m going to go change into some different clothes, and then we’ll head out,” my dad said. After a few minutes, he came back down in a clean shirt and jeans. We hugged my mom, said goodbye, and then climbed into the truck. After our goodbyes, we drove off into the sunset to meet up with Doug Gardner at Gardner Ranch Outfitters (www.groutfitters.com) in southeast Montana. My dad and Doug are good friends, and even though Doug was finished guiding hunters for the season, he allowed us to hunt. Besides, my dad used to guide for Doug, and knows the land like the back of his hand.
On the way, we stopped by a McDonalds to grab a bite to eat, and then we started the long drive to hunting camp. Before long, it was dark and the roads were pretty icy, so my dad had to be careful maneuvering the truck around sharp turns and particularly icy spots. Finally, we arrived at hunting camp and emerged from the truck. I stretched and turned around to help my dad unload the truck, and then we stepped through the door of what would become our home for the next week. A couple of hunters were grouped around a table when we walked in and they all greeted dad like old buddies. Then my dad introduced me, and it was off to bed.
The next morning we got up pretty early and walked over to the building where breakfast was served. After we were all pretty full my dad, the cameraman, and I all got into our gear and set out to find some bucks. We walked along the bank of a river for a while then my dad got on top of a hill to glass for deer. He saw a few does and a pretty nice buck coming out of the woods, so we decided to duck low and walk closer through the tall grass to where the deer were. We set up near a fallen tree to watch the deer. Pretty soon the deer started to get nervous and ran away, so we continued walking along the river. We didn’t see any mature bucks so my dad decided we should try going through the timber. Immediately, we stumbled upon some does and bucks that bounded away. My dad decided that we should set up by a tree near the edge of a small clearing and try to call. After calling for a while, a small buck edged into the clearing. I got my gun ready and asked my dad if I should shoot him. My dad told me to hold off since it was only the first day of the hunt. After the buck walked away we walked back to the lodge to eat lunch.
Right after we ate, we headed back out to a small field where a blind had been set up. We sat in the blind until close to dusk, when finally the deer started coming in to the field. Soon, my dad spotted a pretty nice buck, and I wanted to shoot him. “Just wait, remember it’s only the first day of the hunt and we can probably find a better buck,” he reminded me. After a short while something behind us spooked the deer and they ran back into the woods. We headed back to the lodge for the night, hoping we would have more luck in the morning.
The next day, we woke up when it was still dark, and headed to a new spot. We walked along the bank of a river again to hide our approach. Eventually, we climbed to the top of a hill to glass. To the right was a field, where a few does were grazing with some cattle, but no bucks. Then, my dad suggested we walk through some timber to our left. We started out walking for a while, and ran into an average buck. My dad had me set up, but the buck heard us and ran away.
We walked quietly in the direction of where the buck disappeared, and set up again near a fallen tree. We could see the buck on the other side of a fence walking through some trees. As we watched the buck walking the fence line, another buck appeared. Neither buck knew we were there, and the new buck was a better buck than the one we had just first. After my dad helped me put my earplugs in, he called to the buck. Immediately, the buck charged to our position, and he in the perfect position for me to get off a shot. My hands were shaking so much, I didn’t think I could pull the trigger, but I steadied myself and slowly squeezed the trigger on my Thompson Center rifle.
I fired! I didn’t know if I had hit the buck at first, but my dad told me I had “smoked him.” We waited a little bit just to make sure he was dead, and then walked over to where he had been standing. The buck was just a few yards away from where I had shot him. I smiled at my dad, happy that I had finally shot my first deer. We finished filming for the TV show, and field dressed the buck.
Without my dad I couldn’t go hunting at all. I’m so happy that I have a dad who knows everything about the outdoors and is a blast to be around. A lot of kids will never get to have the experience of shooting their first deer, but I’m glad I have a dad willing to help me achieve that goal as a beginning hunter.