By Mark Kimmel
-- It was Oct. 15, 2005, and my daughter, Alex, and I were on the road for her first real deer hunt. Alex had accompanied me before on several hunts and had been by my side when I had harvested a couple of deer. She began shooting when she was 4 years old and had taken her first turkey by 9. Now she was beginning her first deer hunt where she would actually be the hunter.
It was the weekend of the youth antlerless gun season, and we were on our way to Buffalo Creek Lodge in Sweetwater, Okla. A 3 a.m. road trip doesn't exactly fit into the plans of an 11-year-old kid. So Alex caught up on her sleep during the drive.
We arrived at 5:30 am and were greeted by Joel and Jerry Anderson of the Buffalo Creek Lodge, as well as a couple of young boys who would also be hunting and their parents. After a quick check of our gear, we climbed into the truck and headed out to our stand for the morning.
Alex's stand turned out to be a small elevated shooting house with windows overlooking a wheatfield. The temperature was about 50 degrees and the windows were great. We were able to keep the wind out and still keep an eye out for deer. Once it got light enough to see, Alex brought to my attention the large colony of wasps clinging to the ceiling. Being the great wasp hunter that I am, I quickly removed them from such close proximity.
Although no deer were seen, we did spend an hour or so watching the 30-some odd turkeys that fed out across the field. Once back at the lodge, the kids swapped stories of the morning and spent several hours at the pool table. We more seasoned hunters spent our time napping.
Saturday evening found us in a treestand watching a different wheatfield. Eventually, three does appeared in the field on the other side of a small finger of trees that reached out into the field. Unfortunately, the does appeared about 200 yards out and fed quartering away from us. We opted to pass, although I felt confident that she could make the shot. As darkness approached, we had another visitor. We spent the next 15 minutes watching a porcupine nosing around underneath our stand.
Alex was excited to be able to see things that she would not have if we hadn't been out in the woods hunting. Her excitement grew even more when the porcupine decided it would join us in the tree. I filmed the porcupine as it climbed toward us. After dark, we returned to the lodge for hamburgers, hotdogs and a good night's sleep.
Sunday morning found us in a different stand overlooking wheatfields. As images began to appear in the morning light, I scanned the fields and the treelines. We sat and listened to some turkeys as they flew down and began to putt and gobble.
Then, there they were! While we were paying attention to the turkeys, three does walked out into the field behind us. The windows were just the right height for a grown person to sit in a chair and aim out the window. However, they were just a bit too high for an 11-year-old girl. Alex was so excited and shaking so badly that I had to get her a chair so she could sit down. She had to sit up straight in order to be at the right height to rest her rifle on the window sill.
The closest deer was about 45 yards away and the farthest was about 100 yards. I told Alex to take the first one that turned broadside. After what seemed like an eternity, the middle doe turned to watch two turkeys that entered the field.
The shot rang out, the doe flinched, and I knew Alex connected. My daughter was still shaking as we watched the doe run 40 yards into the trees and stop. I don't think anyone could have been more proud as I congratulated her on a job well done.
We found the doe, only a few feet from where she had stopped in the trees. Alex pulled her out into a small clearing so I could take some pictures with her deer. Then she held the doe as I field-dressed it. Alex used my cell phone and called Joel herself to tell him she had her doe and to come get us. She also called her mom and grandfather to give them the news.
It turned out that one of the boys also filled his tag that morning. Back at the lodge there was time for pictures and congratulations before heading for home. Buffalo Creek Lodge had offered a free youth hunt with paid lodging. This was a great deal in my eyes to give kids the opportunity to get out and hunt with a higher chance of filling their tags.
The time we spent together afield, harvesting her first deer, will always hold a special place in my heart.