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No More Pickin' on Paula

Paula Youngblood

How a nonhunter came to love hunting

By Paula Youngblood

Back when my husband Craig and I were dating, my future father-in-law and I would aggravate each other to death, especially about hunting. Back then I'd never killed anything bigger than an insect.

When we'd visit Craig's dad Tim he was always, and I mean always, watching hunting shows on TV. As a nonhunter, that drove me crazy.

One time, several family members were watching a show, and right before the hunter was about to shoot, I yelled, "Run buck, run!" as loudly as I could.

I startled everyone, and my father-in-law was about ready to kill me. But he actually thought it was funny, and it was a big joke for years. I told him whenever I visited and he was watching a hunting show, I'd do it again!

My husband works in the oil fields, and my girls and I have to make the most of the time we get to see him. In 2008, Craig was home, and I was in need of some Craig time, so I decided to join him in the deer stand.

That first time out, I learned you're not supposed to swoosh mosquitoes away or talk loudly. Craig told me this spooks deer, and I got into trouble for doing both.

When we returned to camp, Craig told his dad all the stuff I did wrong. They laughed and teased me for the next two days, so I decided to do better next time and not mess up again.

I continued tagging along, and I think I did really well considering it was my first time to go hunting. Even though the boys picked on me, I learned a little more from them each time we went.

Later that season, I took my first doe. I made a 50-yard shot with a .204 rifle, and I was proud about how I handled one tough situation.

As I was about to shoot, a daddy-longlegs spider crawled across my face, but I swiped it away and never missed a beat, getting right back to business.

The doe dropped were she stood from the neck shot. Afterward, I had mixed feelings about whether or not I'd ever want to hunt again.

As I sat there in the stand, I said a little prayer thanking God for letting me experience this moment. I decided right then, if I'm shooting it, I'm eating it!

The 2009 season was uneventful, but I enjoyed watching the does interact with fawns, and the young bucks chasing the does. Simply observing the behavior of these awesome, beautiful creatures was amazing to me.

In 2010, talk about bad luck! I shot at three different bucks with the .204 and didn't get any of them. It was discouraging, because I thought I'd hit at least one.

The men told me it happens to the best of hunters. Still, it didn't really make me feel much better.

Tim suggested I change to a .243, and it wouldn't kick hard enough to hurt my bad shoulder because I'd had rotator cuff surgery years earlier.

The 2011 season was coming, and Tim and Craig helped me get used to shooting the .243. It wasn't bad, so I decided to use it.

I was nervous that first time out, and said a little prayer asking that I not become discouraged if I didn't get a deer. If it was meant to happen, then it would.

At first light, I spotted a buck bedded down in the trees. I watched to see if it would get up, but it wasn't moving at all. I told Craig to look at it.

Paula YoungbloodThen it hit me. This was a decoy my jokester father-in-law had planted to see if I would shoot it.

Good thing I didn't fall for it, because 20 minutes later, a nice buck appeared out of the tree line and started stomping the decoy! Unfortunately, the real buck never gave me a good shot, and eventually it ran away.

After we returned to camp and Tim had a good laugh, I told Craig, "I'm going to hurt your dad!"

The next weekend, Craig and I returned, and I said my same little prayer.

We were watching a few small deer when Craig said, "Get your gun and be ready. There's a buck chasing some does by that cluster of trees."

When the buck lifted its head, I didn't waste any time making a neck shot and dropping it in its tracks.

I was in shock and couldn't believe it. I'd just taken my first buck, a 9-pointer!

Heck, I don't know who was happier, Craig or me. It took about two weeks for me to stop smiling.

My father-in-law told me I did a great job, then gave me the .243 and had my buck mounted for me!

Tim also said he was proud I didn't let it get away, because he'd spent a lot of time tying it up for me. Ha ha. He's such a funny man. It seems the teasing never stops.

The 2012 season arrived, and Craig and I were back in the same stand with my .243.

At 7 a.m., Craig told me to get my gun ready because he'd spotted a buck. I could see its antlers were outside its ears, so I prepared to shoot if it stopped in the clearing where I'd shot my first buck last season.

The buck went into the thick stuff, and I couldn't get a good shot. All I could see was its back leg, but I waited patiently.

Eventually, it stepped out and I placed the shot in my personal favorite sweet spot, the neck. It dropped right there!

I said an excited prayer to the Lord above, and then sat there waiting to see what Craig wanted to do. In that moment, it occurred to me I had no idea how big the buck was.

I asked Craig and he said, "It's either a nine or 10-pointer."

"Ohmygosh, are you kidding me?" I asked. Again, I think my husband was probably more excited that I was.

After about 20 minutes, I begged Craig to let me go see it. He laughed and told me he wanted to wait a bit more. It felt like hours!

We finally climbed out of the stand, and when we got to the buck, I saw it was a huge nine-pointer like my first buck, only bigger. I was so very happy and thankful.

If it wasn't for my husband and father-in-law, I wouldn't have these wonderful experiences of being a hunter, nor the love for hunting I have now.

All the good-natured teasing has been a fun part of the experience, and I appreciate their patience and encouragement.

My love for hunting grows greater with each season, as well as my desire to see what's going to walk out next.

Our girls, Kylee, 8, and Gracie, 5, were so happy for their mamma they said they want to start hunting, too. Now, it's a family thing!

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