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The Shot Heard 'Round Kentucky

Stephanie Gavin

25 minutes into her first deer hunt, this young lady struck gold.

By Tony Gavin

My daughter, Stephanie Gavin, has been exposed to hunting her entire life. I am a taxidermist, vice president of a local bowhunting club, and the regional director of the Kentucky Bowhunters Association. Her mom, Shannon, and I are also both official scorers for Buckmasters Trophy Records. Hunting is in her blood, to say the least.

In the past few years, Stephanie has been out with me turkey, waterfowl and deer hunting several times, but it wasn’t until the opening day of Kentucky’s youth deer hunting season, Oct. 11, 2003, that she decided to hunt for the first time.

That day began as a warm, foggy morning. Stephanie, my friend, Chris Niehaus, and I found ourselves perched in a shooting house atop the ridge of a power line behind our Pendleton County home. Chris and I had just started filming for a local cable access outdoors show that we host and produce, and he accompanied us to film Stephanie’s first hunt for our initial episode.

It didn’t take long for the action to begin. About 10 minutes into legal shooting time, two does crossed a shooting lane I had cut through a cedar thicket and sewn with winter wheat. Stephanie raised her .243 but was unable to get off a shot at either one of the deer. She was disappointed, but I reassured her that it was still early, and something else would probably come through.

Another 10 minutes passed before I caught some movement in the woods where the does had just crossed. It was a buck, and a big one at that. Chris turned the camera back on as Stephanie was raising her rifle, but, as bucks often do, it kept moving. She was unable to get a shot off until after it crossed through the shooting lane. When the deer did stop, there weren’t enough of its vitals showing for a young hunter to risk a shot. Realizing that something had to be done quickly or the buck would follow the does and disappear forever, I started a pretty aggressive rattling sequence. Unfortunately, the buck must not have been able to take its mind off of the does and kept walking.

Stephanie GavinAfter a few minutes, we decided to run some more footage for the TV show and discuss what had just happened. No sooner had the camera been turned off and Stephanie had set her rifle down than I saw the buck step into the power line to our right about 70 yards distant. It had its ears laid back and was acting really aggressive. Obviously, the buck was searching for a couple of rivals. I guess the rattling sequence had been a good idea.

Stephanie raised her rifle as Chris turned the camera back on. I blew a grunt call to hold the buck’s attention as my daughter prepared for her shot. She took careful aim and gently squeezed the trigger. The buck arched its back and very slowly lumbered back into the cedars. I promised Stephanie that even though she might have hit it a little far back, we would find the deer.

Subscribe Today!We waited in the stand about 1 1/2 hours, but, after a 5 1/2-hour search, we still couldn’t locate the buck. Upon returning home, we watched the footage of the shot about a dozen times. I reassured Stephanie that the shot was fatal, and we would definitely find her buck.

A few evenings later, I was asking our neighbors’ permission to retrieve a 9-pointer I had shot that had crossed the fence onto their property, when they asked me if I had found my daughter’s deer. Apparently, their dog had drug a deer leg into the yard.

The next morning, after taking care of my deer, I went back to their property to search again for Stephanie’s buck. An hour later, I found what the coyotes had left — the rack.

My wife scored the antlers once I’d tagged and cleaned the rack. It has 13 scorable points with an official Buckmasters score of 143 4/8 inches. Not too bad for a youngster 25 minutes into her very first deer hunt.

This article was published in the September 2004 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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