By Larry Bart Barefoot
-- It was the first weekend in January 2007, in Alabama's Black Belt. Of course, it was your typical Alabama winter. The temperatures were in the upper-60s to mid-70s with an approaching cold front that had wreaked havoc, producing strong thunderstorms and tornadoes. My hunting partner, Trey Wofford, and I had permission for a weekend hunt on the property that adjoined our hunting lease.
This property was prime and also adjoined one of the big plantations near Union Springs. I had planned to make this weekend a hunting trip with my wife, Kim, and 3-year-old daughter, Shelby.
We woke up early Friday morning to thunderstorms and heavy rain, so hunting was not an option. There were tornado warnings in Montgomery and Fitzpatrick, which was right in the area where we were.
Kim and Shelby were coming up that day to hunt the next two afternoons with me. The severe weather almost kept them from coming, but I assured her it was going to move out by the time they got there. However, there was another front behind this one that would probably be coming through Saturday night or possibly Sunday morning. I just hoped we could get in a couple afternoon hunts.
I had taken Shelby on only two hunts before this and knew she was pretty good in the stand but still could not sit still for very long, so a shooting house was definitely required. Our first afternoon was very uneventful. My daughter had yet to see a deer at all when we were hunting. Whether it was the coyotes that started up less than 100 yards from the plot right at prime time, or the constant moving around by Shelby, Friday was another skunked afternoon for her.
I had plans for Saturday afternoon to be better. I had decided between two stands that afternoon, one of which was a particularly long shot to the food plot, about 275 yards to the front and about 325 yards to the back of the plot. There was a long rectangular pasture that led to the plot, which was bordered on both sides by pretty thick cover and some planted pines. Behind the plot there was big timber bordering a creek and the adjoining plantation property. I knew that would be a really long shot for Kim, but we could get away with more noise and movement at that distance; therefore, I decided that would definitely be our best bet.
We agreed to get to the stand before 3:00 that afternoon to get Shelby settled in early, and it was a very good thing we did. About 3:05 a spike came out in the plot and began feeding. I was more excited than Shelby, I think, for her to finally see a deer while we were hunting.
The afternoon got more interesting from there. Several does came out in the plot after that, and a few yearlings were chasing each other around and playing. There was a young buck that came in and began chasing one of the does around. He kept her running from one side of the field to the other. During all of this, Shelby, being 3, got tired, of course, and climbed in my lap and went to sleep.
Then, it really became interesting. A larger buck came out of the woods at the back of the plot and Kim told me it looked like a big buck. At 325 yards, it was a little difficult for me to judge the size of that deer with my naked eye, and we had an 8-point, 16-inch minimum spread rule. Of course, my binoculars were back at the cabin, but we had an Etch-A-Sketch and a baby doll or two. Hunting with a 3-year-old was a little more difficult than I thought.
I could tell the buck was young, but she told me it looked like he only had one horn on one side. So I wondered, "Now, how do I get the gun from her and look at this buck with a 3-year-old lying in my lap? Very carefully, right?" I managed to do it and indeed the buck's left beam was only a main beam with a broken brow tine. I could tell the buck was young but looked to have about an 18-inch spread. I told Kim it was her lucky day; she could take this deer as a cull buck.
I got my video camera out and began taping. During all of this commotion, Shelby had woken up and was confused about what was happening. Kim was trying to get a shot at the buck, but he would not present a good one; he was busy chasing the other deer around the plot. Shelby began whimpering and complaining about her legs being asleep. I was trying to video, console Shelby, and trying to get her to hold her ears all at the same time.
Of course, Shelby had gone from a whimper to a louder crying, or let's say, screaming mode. Granted, we were 300 yards from these deer, but a crying 3-year-old was getting really loud, and we both knew the deer were definitely going to get spooked. Kim was trying to shoot a buck at 300 yards with a crying kid sitting right beside her. I had to put the camera away and focus on getting Shelby quieted down.
Kim was in panic mode - she thought the deer were going to split. Even though was in a hurry, she took aim, and before I knew it, "Boom!" I saw deer go everywhere. I told her that I thought she had missed because I didn't see any positive reaction from the buck after the shot, nor did I hear the shot hit. Fortunately, there were a couple of does that remained in the edge of the plot.
I saw some deer in the edge of the woods off to the right of the plot that were milling around again - probably wondering what had just happened. Then, to my amazement, the buck walked back out into the edge of the plot and began looking around at the other deer. I couldn't tell for sure if it was the same deer, so once again I had to get the gun and look at this buck. I still had a little girl in my lap, who now had become very quiet and was not saying a word - probably in shock. It was the same buck, and I told Kim how lucky she was to have another opportunity at the same buck.
This time I told her to make sure she took more time before she squeezed the trigger. The buck was walking across the plot and heading back toward the woods in the back. It stopped one last time and looked around and then turned broadside. As I watched, "Ka-Boom," and the deer fell right there in its tracks - never moved other than a little twitching right after it hit the ground.
Kim was so excited! It was only the second buck she had ever taken, and the first time she had been hunting where she got to shoot since before Shelby was born over three years ago. Shelby was also excited to see that deer lying there, and all she said was "Momma got that deer!"
The buck actually had five points on its right side and only a main beam with a broken brow tine on its left side. It had a 17 1/2-inch inside spread. This was indeed a nice cull buck for her, even though he was probably only a 2 1/2-year-old deer.
The next cold front and rain rolled through early Sunday morning, and we were blessed to have gotten in probably my most memorable hunt ever, and I got to share it with the two most important people in my life.
Larry Bart Barefoot
Kimberly M. Barefoot
Shelby Brooke Barefoot