Rack Magazine

Unencumbered by Experience

Unencumbered by Experience

By Mike Handley

A little girl’s intuition puts her on the other side of the crosshairs from her first buck.

Brandon Hazel of Anthony, Kansas, knows when to say yes and close his mouth.

While most dads would’ve listened to the voices in their own heads rather than the words of their 8-year-old kid, he allowed his daughter Joscelyn to choose where they should hunt on a cold Dec. 4.

He had zero confidence in the blind she chose, since that’s where she shot a doe the previous evening, but he wasn’t about to make the hunt less fun.

“Since she was 5, Joscelyn has sat with me in the stand on bowhunts and during some late-season doe trips,” Brandon said. “I have been waiting all my life to spend time with my kids, to teach them what hunting is supposed to be like and to share my passion for the sport and my appreciation of nature. (He has a 3-year-old son, too.)

“Joscelyn loves to go out and watch deer,” he added. She also loves practicing with her rifle and crossbow.

Her first hunt was in 2014, and she opted to shoot a doe when she could’ve shot a mature 9-pointer.

“She was beyond excited,” Brandon said. “We took some pictures and walked back to the truck. When the doe was loaded, she said ‘I’m riding in the back of the truck with my deer.’

“I was a little shocked, and I said ‘Are you sure? It’s pretty chilly and 3/4 mile back to the camp.’

“She said, ‘Of course. It’s my deer!’ I knew I had a hunter on my hands then,” he smiled.

Joscelyn’s next deer was a doe as well. She shot it the night before she got her first buck in 2015.

Unencumbered by ExperienceBrandon says it was a dress rehearsal.

He checked her out of school at noon on Friday, Dec. 4, just after math class. Joscelyn wanted to hunt from the same blind they’d used the previous evening.

“I wasn’t too excited about that as we had just shot a deer at dusk and scared everything in the field away. With all the activity the night before, I was sure it was a mistake. But that’s what she wanted, and that’s what we were going to do,” Brandon said.

They put their gear in the blind first, and then drove down to pull the cards from a trail camera. Afterward, they went back to the nearby shed and reviewed the photos, some of which were of an 11-pointer they knew well. (It was actually a 13-pointer.)

“It would visit sporadically … not really hanging on us,” Brandon said. “It was hanging south of us. The camera showed it had come out the night before, just 30 minutes after we’d picked up Joscelyn’s doe.”

Maybe returning wasn’t such a bad idea.

After stopping to say a prayer en route, father and daughter were sitting inside the same dome blind by 3 p.m.  They played tic-tac-toe between looks out of the blind’s windows.

They saw nine turkeys and a spike early on during the vigil.

“A 9-pointer — probably 130-class — chased a doe through there at 4:45, but it wouldn’t stop. They were out about 150 yards,” he said. “We would’ve shot that one. We were just looking for a mature buck.”

The temperature began dropping close to sunset, and Joscelyn grew antsy to leave. At one point, Brandon told her they’d get out of the stand in 10 minutes, or 600 seconds, and she began counting.

While her father was scanning the terrain, a buck stood from a little plum thicket in the middle of a mostly wide open field.

“When I pulled the binoculars up to look at it, I knew which buck it was. The 11-pointer. We had plenty of trail camera pictures of it.

“I said, ‘Hey. There’s a shooter coming.’ She said, ‘Is it at least a 10-pointer?’ And I said ‘Yeah, it’s a 10-pointer.’”

Unencumbered by ExperienceFather and daughter shifted to a different window. They had a tripod rest inside for the gun. The buck turned and walked straight across the field they were watching, and the girl found it in her scope.

“She said ‘Is he at least 10 points?’  I said ‘Yeah, he’s a shooter,’” Brandon said.  “My heart was about to beat out of my chest.”

She shot when it was at 50 yards, and the buck ran about 20 more to the right and stood there.

“I said ‘Shoot it again,’ and when she did, the cartridge ejected and bounced off the wall. I turned to see what it was, and when I looked back up, the buck was nowhere to be seen.

“My hands were shaking badly, and she was trembling with excitement,” he continued. “I flung the door open and put my hands against the blind to stabilize the binoculars before glassing the area.

“I thought I saw an antler poking out of the Johnson grass, but I couldn’t tell for sure,” he said.

“We decided we needed to back out, to treat it like a bow shot, and to go back to camp for dinner for a few hours. So we packed up some things and started to walk back to the truck. When we got to the trail, she stopped me and said ‘Hang on, Daddy … Lord, please let us find my buck and please don’t let it cross the fence, and make it easy for Dad to load it.’ I laughed and said ‘Good idea.’

“About 9:30, we all loaded up — three truckloads of us — and drove down to where the buck was shot. Soon after we started looking for the blood trail, I walked straight over to the last place I had seen the deer. It was dead right there,” he said.

“You would’ve thought the whole bunch of us were kids,” he beamed.

Turns out, the first shot had been perfect: double-lunging the animal, exactly what her father told her to do. The second bullet hit it right in the neck and smashed into the spine.

“That night was enjoyable as most of the hunters and friends who had watched Joscelyn grow up came to admire the buck that was as big or bigger than most of them had ever shot,” he said. “For all of us, that was a moment etched in time. Everyone was as happy as she was.”

“I was surprised that I actually shot it,” she said, a rare string of words.

Asked if she plans to hang the mount in her bedroom, she nods the affirmative.

This article was published in the April 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd