Cameron's First Deer
By: Pat Harmeyer
My 9-year-old son Cameron was already an old pro at hunting when we made our annual hunting trip to Pushmataha Plantation in Butler, Alabama. He started hunting with me at age 6, started carrying and shooting a .410 shotgun at seven, and has seen many nice deer taken by hunters in our hunting club and 2 previous trips to Alabama. For his 9th birthday, he requested a deer rifle that would let him "reach out and touch" something at a little longer distance than his 410. We bought him a single shot .223 with a 4x scope. I zeroed him in at 75 yards but told him that we might go a little longer if it was a clean shot.
On his first hunt this year at our club's lease, he made his first kill: a fat cottontail at 25 yards. We celebrated that rabbit just like it was a trophy buck. He was now ready to shoot his deer. When I say he was ready, I'm telling you he would not let me go hunting without him. He was determined to shoot his first deer this year. We made several early season hunts without seeing any deer. But he knew that the Pushmataha trip during Thanksgiving week would be better.
Cameron enjoys being in the woods and seeing all the different critters. But like any 9-year-old, he needs some help sitting quiet and still. We bring a portable DVD player with headphones with us in the stand and he can stay entertained while waiting for some action. The stands at Pushmataha are 2-man shooting houses, which work out pretty well for us. Cameron knows to wait until the sun is high enough that the glow from the DVD player doesn't light up the stand. This way he can hunt as long as he wants and then watch a movie to pass the time.
We were traveling with my hunting buddy, Danny and his son Daniel. We were meeting another friend Scott coming from Georgia and his son CJ. This father and son hunt has turned into an annual tradition and usually means meat in the freezer. Upon our arrival in Butler, we unloaded our gear, got some lunch and got ready to make an evening hunt. The weather was cool and clear and we knew that by the time the sun set, we were going to need our jackets. Cameron doesn't mind the cold; he bundles up with some "Hot Hands" and keep on going. When we got to the stand and settled in, we knew that it would probably be a while before we would see anything, so we got comfortable and cranked up the movie player. Meanwhile, I pulled out my rangefinder and started ranging the distances at different spots in the food plot. I pointed out landmarks to Cameron and told him that if a deer come out past those marks then I would shoot it with my 30-06. He said he was OK with that plan and went back to his movie.
At about 4:45, a yearling doe came out of the woods and started feeding in the plot. It was past the landmarks that we agreed upon but Cameron wanted to shoot anyway. I told him to wait; the deer might come closer to us. A few minutes later the yearling was joined by a mature doe. Cameron was now getting real antsy. Still I told him to wait. Get your gun ready and just scope them out. They are not going anywhere soon, so letís wait a little longer. After about five minutes the two does moved around a little but didn't get any closer. Cameron was giving me the anxious eyes of any hunter looking for his first deer. So I ranged the older doe at 150 yards and told him to take his time and make a good shot. He clicked his safety, gripped the rifle well and took a deep breath. I was ready with my rifle to assist, if needed. He fired and the doe fell straight down. I could see in my scope that the doe was struggling to get to her feet, so I fired a shot to finish her off. She rolled over and took her last breath. "You Got Her!" I exclaimed as we were hugging and high fiving each other. I asked Cameron how he felt and he said he was still shaking. When we went down to get her, I could see Cameron's shot was a bit high but still good enough to kill the doe. We would have had to go look for her if I hadn't made my shot.
I was proud of Cameron's shot and the patience and discipline he showed by waiting for a good clean shot. Additionally, I let him know that even though I had killed six deer in my life, I had never killed one that far out. As we dragged her back to the stand we laughed and cut up about how heavy that doe was. As it turned out, when we got it back to the lodge, it weighed 125 lbs., which was bigger than any doe I had ever taken.
We bloodied his face and took a bunch of pictures; this was an occasion none of us would ever forget. We called mom to tell her about his accomplishment. She told him how proud she was of him and to be sure he took a good shower to get all the blood off before he went to bed. Part of our celebration included my awarding of a Buckmaster pocketknife to Cameron as a symbol of him now being a real deer hunter.
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Harmeyer Computer Associates, LLC