By Matt Ciomperlik
-- It was typical South Texas weather for November: highs in the 80s and dropping to the 60s at night. My daughter, Kaitlyn, and I were enjoying a two-day youth hunt sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on their East Lake tract.
The property borders a famous salt lake called La Sal Vieja, or "old salt," mostly mesquite, cactus and scrub brush. It seems like every plant in the landscape has thorns, spines or claws and wants to scratch you.
We sat in a pop-up blind along a ridge where deer travel from the lake to dense mesquite stands nearby. Our patience wore thin at the day grew longer and hotter. After two hours of sitting in the blind, we opted to spot-and-stalk instead. After walking nearly two miles we spotted a young nilgai, but it slipped into the thick brush before we could set up for the shot.
We continued on and then set up near a cattle pond, hoping that deer would come there to drink. Kaitlyn relaxed in the shade, reading a book, while I served as sentry.
At sunset, I instructed Kaitlyn to sit in a folding hunting chair, test out the height of the shooting sticks and become familiar with objects around us. Everything was coming together. The wind had settled down to a light breeze and was in our favor.
Kaitlyn was fiddling with her clothing, as many 12-year-old girls do, but responded immediately when I tapped her on the leg. A doe was getting a drink of water. Kaitlyn set up her shooting sticks, resting on them the Stevens 200 in .243 that I had shortened and customized for her. She took a deep breath, and a muzzle flash later, her first deer was down.
We returned to the spot before dawn the next day, but the deer didn't cooperate. We decided to spot-and-stalk instead for a few hours. We then set up along a dirt road, and soon a young deer at came into view at 350-plus yards.
We quickly closed the distance to 250 yards and rested Kaitlyn's rifle on my backpack. Her first shot missed, scaring the nilgai from the tall grass and onto the dirt road, but her second shot connected, dropping the animal with a well-placed heart shot.
My thoughts on this hunt boil down to this:
Pulling the trigger is the easy part.
Watching your 12-year-old daughter harvest a deer . . . priceless!
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