Max's first deer OutdoorMentors.org antlerless whitetail hunt

kansasdad

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I look forward to going out with young hunters and their sponsor (parent, grandparent, trusted friend) with Outdoormentors.org. They do the work of finding the landowners wanting to control deer populations, and find the youngsters who want to hunt. Oftentimes these kids are hunting big game for the first time. Last year Xavier and I had a great afternoon hunt, but in the end he decided to not pull the trigger even though he had multiple young deer in easy shooting range.


This year, 13 year old Max, accompanied by his father Luis would be my youth hunter at the Kansas Forest Service's demonstration farm. We all met at the firing range with the thought that making sure the youth were familiar with their weapon and ready to go, only to find that the 100 yard range was closed due to a open house sponsored by El Dorado Park.

Once again, James from "True Grit Tracking" was at the farm, and spent a few minutes sharing about how his bloodhounds track deer (not trained to use blood, but interdigital glands scent instead) with a lively Q&A for James about tracking and recovery of deer.

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I learned that Max is in middle school in Manhattan, a town that I also went to middle school, just 50 years ago. His father is a retired helicopter maintainer, at one point a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (of Black Hawk Down fame) whose slogan is NSDQ,,,,,Night Stalkers Don't Quit. I learned that Max has gone deer hunting before, even taking a shot last year, but he is still waiting to get his first deer.

By random draw, Max and I were assigned blind #3, which has special memories for me.....


Cruising down the hill, we slowed as we approached the blind.

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Soybeans were going to be the draw for the deer, and we quietly set up the chairs and worked on setting up the bi-pod for Max. Dry firing several times, from what I could see, Max was looking under control behind the .270. Not long after getting into the blind we heard the first shot ring out. Way before the "golden hour", I was hopeful that Max would get an opportunity soon.

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Scanning the woods opposite the blind, all was quiet. Spider web floating through the air showed that the wind was shifty, but generally pulling from the south, which is Blind #3's worst wind direction. Over the next 90 minutes more shots rang out, and we deduced that we might be the last group to still be hunting.

Luis saw the deer first, as a doe was out in the soybeans. She was followed by a younger deer, and seemed to be generally heading out way. Max had his gun out of the blind window, and was turned as hard to the left as he could. I could just barely see the deer in the beans through a cracked window opening and was glad to verify that we had a legal deer heading out way.

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As the deer were heading our way, they were presenting a hard quartering to the blind angle, so I asked Max to slowly swing his gun to the right, and allow the doe to walk into his shooting lane further out in front. The doe was walking and eating, and finally had come out in front of the blind that I could see her. Verifying that this was a legal deer, I watched Max from behind slowly swivel as she moved through his first gun location by just a few yards. She was only 40 yards out, and she took another step forward and bent down to grab some grub.

"When you are comfortable, you can shoot".

Head nod, and pulled the stock in tight to the shoulder, I watched as she instantly dropped at the shot. We could see her head bob up to the top of the beans as she struggled to stand.

"Reload, and stay on her" I directed. She once again lifted her head, but I felt like she was going to cease moving in just a few more moments. "Stay on her, but put your safety back on, but be ready to do a second shot is she gets up".

Not seeing her head anymore, we looked down the field to see the younger deer standing there, unsure what to do. I told Max that we should get out of the blind, but to be prepared to do a finishing shot if we saw her moving. As we emerged, the young deer darted off the field, and we moved to a little high ground adjacent to the blind.

Not seeing any movement, after a couple of minutes, I had Max unchamber his round, but asked him to be vigilant to the spot where she went down, should she suddenly find a last burst of energy to attempt an escape. Texting the hunt manager about our success, we were all excited to take this moment out of the blind to "use the facilities" and blow off some adrenaline (all of us, but mostly Max).

After I had taken my turn, I turned around and saw a really wonderful scene....

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We knew where she dropped, but wanted to give the trackers an opportunity to work their noses if James wanted to have a go. We pulled our gear out of the blind, and stood on the edge of a common soybean field, replaying the successful moments leading up to the shot.

I asked Max if his heart rate was slowing down or speeding up leading to the trigger release. He thought about it, and said it was slowing down a bit as she kept getting closer, and then after the shot really pumped up the speed. After she went down like a good building demolition collapse, I gave Max's shoulders a couple of good slaps. Watching Luis's video later that night, I realized I might have brought a little too much energy to those back slaps!

I took a moment to teach Max what should be done immediately after the shot. Noting the position of the deer, the movements made at the shot, and importantly, find a landmark beyond where you think she dropped to make finding her easier.

We all agreed on a line to search for her, but in reality I knew it would be easy, as she was laying a mere 45 yards from the blind. In short order we saw headlights coming down the hill, with a truck and a UTV heading our way. The truck carried on down the valley to pick up other hunters with their deer, while the UTV turned our direction. Dennis hopped out, and we told the story of the sighting, the movement of the deer and the shot. He was surprised that the deer hadn't come from our right, but I told him that what little breeze we were having was pulling in that direction.

I had set my phone alarm to go off at the end of legal shooting time, and it started to chime just as we were heading to go get her. I let Max lead the way, and I intentionally getting positioned so that I would be ready for the "aha, there she is !!" moment. Seeing her laying there, I directed my headlight to where she was, and momentarily Max saw his deer.

Kansas allows for electronic tags and check-in which is nice for when you have good cell service. Down in the bottomlands, service is sketchy at best, so Luis was not immediately able to check in his son's deer. Taking several "as they lay" and then posed photos.

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And then it was time for father and son on the hind legs and Dennis on the fronts, the large doe was hoisted over the dry soybeans and placed in the back of the UTV.

Driving back, we learned that all 5 blinds had been successful for the youth hunters, with one hunter taking two does, about one hour apart. The dogs were put to work, although this year were not "needed" as the track was only 50 yards long.

Getting back to the farm HQ, one deer had already been gutted, and soon Max's doe was placed onto the gutting table.

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A couple of mentors began to show how gutting was to go, with a "oops moment" as the tip of the knife dove a little deep. Short work was made of his deer, and Max was happy to pull the heart out of the gut pile and put it in a ziplock baggie for a ride back to Manhattan. The doe was placed into a tarp with big bags of ice in her chest cavity and put into Luis' truck. I suggested that he keep the bed cover off as the current temperature of 46 degrees would do a nice job of continuing to cool the carcass on the 2 hour drive home.

Taking a break from breaking down the deer, we all retired to the house where Dennis had soup and sandwiches ready for hungry boys and mentors. I had brought a nice hunk of deer pastrami and crackers which was added to the offerings.

After the meal, we all gathered in the lighted processing area to get a final group photo, before hunters and mentors started to disperse. There was one last deer getting a modified gutless method done on her still hanging as I was pulling out for home.

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I love getting out to go adventuring. I love hunting. But I think I have more fun and reward sharing the outdoors with those that are just getting in to hunting, young ones like Max.

Good job Max! I hope that you find enjoyment in the outdoors, and I believe that you will grow into a ethical successful hunter. Because you are a deer hunter and now a deer killer!
 
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