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By: Brian Kightlinger

By: Brian Kightlinger

My daughter’s unsuccessful hunt on Tuesday left her more determined than ever to get her first deer. On Wednesday evening, we couldn’t hunt due to soccer practice but on the way home we drove by her blind and saw six doe and a buck standing less than 20 yards from her blind. Abby was sitting in the backseat with her brother Sam and said, ¨If those deer come out tomorrow, I am gonna shoot one of them!” She was starting to see how hunting can drive you crazy if you let it!


On Thursday, October 13th, there was a major change in the weather. A serious cold front came in from the west and the temperatures were not going to get above 55 degrees for the day. The wind was right, the food was there, Abby was certainly ready and we just needed things to fall into place. As you have read in the previous articles, unfortunate events seem to happen while Abby is out hunting. This hunt would be no different and my daughter went through a rollercoaster of emotions.


My son, Samuel, waited for Abby to get off the bus from school while I was busy checking our mock scrapes and trail cameras. There was really no hurry for us to get to the blind as the deer were waiting until after 6:00 pm to hit the bean field anyway. When I returned from checking cameras I found both kids anxiously waiting go to hunt. I grabbed all the stuff Abby and I would need and we all headed for the woods.

On the way to the blind, we could see two deer in the thick brush making their way to heavier cover. Abby asked, ¨Do you think they will come back?¨ I told her there was a good possibility as we were sitting on their major food source. We silently crept to the blind and prepared for the evening hunt.

Abby had a million questions on this night. She had a lot on her mind so we practiced some math facts to take her mind off the hunting which was good because she was preparing for a test that Friday. We also listened for different kinds of songbirds. We laughed too, as a squirrel kept dropping nuts on the blind from the tree above us. The evening was passing quickly and the shadows were beginning to grow longer along the corner of the bean field. The night was going great and expectations were high.

Around 5:30, I noticed a person coming along the field with a dog. Our neighbor was out on an early walk. Abby was visibly upset but I told her they would be gone before the deer would start to move. We watched as the dog and the owner walked along the field, returned and then headed out of our view. Abby said, ¨Now it is going to get good.¨ We sat and watched the clouds roll in and talked about what they looked like to each of us. At 5:50, a silver car pulled up along the field and two men got out. They were talking loudly and walking around. Abby was now starting to worry a lot about them scaring the deer off. Fortunately, the two men walked back to their car and drove off. She was now ready for the last hour of hunting.

The bow was set. Abby was set and ready for some action.

The bow was set. Abby was set and ready for some action.

I talked with Abby about the importance of making a good shot, so the animals do not suffer. We adjusted her tripod and crossbow and waited quietly. We both heard a car and looked up to see the silver car was back. The two men climbed out of the car and went to the trunk. They pulled out two leaf blowers and began blowing leaves around the neighboring property. Abby put her head in my lap and began to tear up. I told her to be patient and that the men might not scare the deer. Who was I kidding, I had seen this scenario play out a million times while hunting in the past. She was sinking into a pit of despair and I needed something to snap her out of her negative state.

Before I could cheer her up, I heard a branch snap outside of the blind. I cautiously looked out of the window and saw three deer standing 10 yards from the blind. I whispered to Abby that she better get up and get ready. That serious look crossed her face as she slowly sat up and got into position behind her crossbow. Two of the deer were yearling button bucks and we watched intently as they started to head toward the Buck Cage scent dispensers that I had hung in the field. By this time Abby was starting to shake and breathing faster. I rubbed her back and whispered for her to take a deep breath and relax. The leaf blowers stopped and the two men walked back to their car. We all took a huge sigh of relief but the movement of the men startled the two button bucks who turned and headed back to the treeline. Abby asked me where the bucks went?  I leaned over and looked out of the blind window and could still see them in the woods. Two good signs. But, even though the two men loaded up their leaf blowers, they then proceeded to get a cooler and open some beverages.

My heart sank as I could see they were not going anywhere. I told Abby, ¨Don’t worry, everything is fine, you just now have an audience now, so make sure you make a good shot if one presents itself.¨ Again I looked out the side window of the blind. To my astonishment, the deer were coming back and there were more coming with them. Seven deer entered the field just 30 yards away apparently more interested in eating than the men casually drinking on the other side of the field. All we needed was some patience and some luck. Luck was something Abby didn’t seem to have much of at this point but I had all my fingers crossed that would change. I looked out at the two men enjoying the deer, and then looked at the deer. They still did not seem spooked and kept feeding toward the blind.

From where Abby was seated, she couldn’t see the deer feeding and was just listening to me commentate what was happening. I watched intently as two deer broke away from the group and began walking toward the Buck Cage. Apparently the scent was too much for them and they needed to investigate. I whispered to Abby once again, to get ready and make sure the deer stops giving her a good shot.

The lead deer came into view and was a mere 16 yards away. The deer stopped and presented a shot. I told Abby to shoot if she wanted. There was a brief silence where it seemed everything went into slow motion. I heard the crossbow go off and watched the lighted nock disappear behind the front shoulder of the deer.

Abby saw the arrow impact and said, “I got it, I got it!” I calmed her down and she looked into the camera and was shaking. She stopped to listen for the deer to crash. We both heard the deer fall in the woods and then, Abby lost all sense of composure. She wanted to get out of the blind as soon as she could but I explained to her that we had to wait at least a few minutes to make sure the deer had expired. She did not like the waiting part, especially after the last few days in the blind. She knew she had made a good shot, had heard the deer go down and as far as she was concerned, it was time to go find her very first deer. I wanted to teach her about patience and not pursuing her animal too fast but it was sure hard to just sit there and wait. I knew the deer was down and not going anywhere, so I felt this was the right time and place to teach her this valuable lesson.

When I felt we had given the deer ample time to die I gave Abby the signal were up in a flash. In a split second she had unzipped the door to the blind and was out into the field looking for blood. She found blood right away and I fell behind her, letting her lead is to her deer. She had been on enough blood trails with me and knew exactly what to do, to go slow and carefully look for sign. There was plenty of sign to follow and the tracking job was easy, even in the darkening woods.

Abby with her first deer and a lifetime of memories hunting with Dad.

Abby with her first deer and a lifetime of memories hunting with Dad.

For video: CLICK HERE

Abby’s shot was good and the deer had gone only about 40 yards before resting in the open woods. I watched with a deep sense of pride and happiness as Abby knelt down beside the deer and grabbed it by the ears. She was speechless and just stroked the soft fur between the deer’s ears. She finally said, ¨He is a beautiful deer, and he will taste good!¨ She was able to see the small buttons on his head and was excited to be able to say that her first deer was a buck.

Abby helped me drag the deer back to the field where we took pictures and relived the hunt. She also wanted to call her brother and tell him the good news. She gave me a huge hug and said, ¨ Thank you daddy! That was so much fun!¨ My heart was ready to burst! This was one of the greatest moments that my daughter and I had experienced together.

I explained to her that we now had to dress the deer so we could get him out of the woods. I showed her how to fill out the deer tag and she placed it in his ear. We then moved the deer together, to a spot where we could dress him out and then load him on the truck.

I figured Abby would be shy about watching me gut the deer but she was really interested in the internal organs and how each one of them worked. I explained to her about each of the major organs and we investigated what organs her Black Eagle Executioner bolt  hit. Her shot had taken out both lungs and part of the liver. She found everything very interesting and wanted to look inside of the deer’s chest. Abby pointed to the two big holes in his ribs and lungs and said, ¨Wow, that Grim Reaper broadhead really caused a lot of damage!¨ I laughed and said, ¨It sure did, that is why he didn’t go very far.¨

Abby wanted to help drag the deer to the truck so we each grabbed a leg and guided the deer to the truck. She climbed in the front seat as I loaded the deer. When I got into the front seat, she leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek and thanked me again. She was on cloud nine and was excited to tell her story everyone. When we got home, she wanted to see the video of her hunt. I told her she would have to wait. After all,  she had to study for her math test and still have dinner.

After dinner, I gave her a kiss goodnight and congratulated her on her great shot. I then took the deer to a local processor and when I returned she was in bed fast asleep. I had time that evening to reflect on the adventure we had been on over the past few years. I smiled thinking about the new adventures to come and where they would lead us. I have hunted since I was 12 and this particular day will be ingrained in my memories forever.

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For more on this hunt:

Just One Shot

Just One Shot: A New Day