***Long post warning***
Oct. 22, 23, 24 were an early doe season here in PA, and junior hunters (16 and under) and senior hunters (65 and older) could use rifles, but only for doe. No bucks could be taken with the rifle.
Megan has been waiting for this season since last year's regular rifle season.
I took her to the range recently, and she was shooting really well out to 100 yards off the bench. I had her shoot two shots, and they literally overlapped right on target at 100 yards. The girl can shoot.
So, armed with lots of intel from hunting the archery season (which runs from mid-Sept to the weekend after Thanksgiving), I knew does were frequenting a grass field where I hunt. The stand they came by most often was on a "funnel" where the field would narrow down considerably, giving her a 30 yard shot if the deer appeared. They'd been super regular at this spot, and my dad and I both thought this would be a slam dunk to at least get her a chance.
The first day was warm. Temps were near 80 on the way to the stand. Here's Megan on stand:
We did see two does and two bucks that evening, all out at 200 yards, plus, but she saw deer and was happy.
The next day we went to the same spot, and saw all the same deer again, in all the same places. No shot, all were either bucks or too far away.
I left it up to Megan as to what she wanted to do Saturday AM. Initially she didn't want to get up early, so I had planned to bowhunt on a different property that I just got access to, and haven't had a chance to hunt much just yet. After two nights of watching deer she couldn't shoot, Megan was itching to get into the action, so she wanted to go Sat. AM.
Temps were in the mid-30's, which isn't awful, but we haven't had real cold here yet, so it was a little chilly to go out in those temps.
I got her up at 5AM and we headed out on time. We were in the stand before 6:30, which shooting light coming in around 7.
At somewhere around 6:45/6:50, I saw a shape far out in the field we were watching. I thought it might be a deer, but just figured it was my imagination playing with me in the predawn darkness. The next time I looked at that spot a minute or two later, the shape was still there, but had moved. I put up the glasses, and sure enough, it was a deer, headed straight for us. I thanked God that I had a good pair of bino's, as I saw the little antlers over 100 yards out and still before legal shooting time, which meant Megan had to "stand down" on this one. The deer was all over the field in front of us, coming as close as about 55-60 yards, wandering around feeding. He was there well into legal light, and were it regular rifle season, she'd likely have been able to get a shot at him.
Then we didn't see anything for a long while. As direct sunlight started lighting up the tops of trees, I was trying to decide when we were going to quit for the morning. We had to be home around 9, and it was about 7:30-7:45. Around 8, Megan spotted some deer far out, and we watched them head for bed, never getting inside of 185 yards. They were a little too far for Megan.
A few minutes after they left, a beauty of an 8pt showed up. Megan was amazed just watching him. He was no monster, but a solid 2.5 yr old, and one worth serious consideration for shooting here. I know I would have happily used my tag on him if I were able.
It was 8:15 or so and I was standing up to stretch and think about when to call it a morning when I saw deer. They were to the left and in range, but Megan is a left-handed shooter and I wasn't sure she could even switch to shoot righty without getting busted moving. They were headed the right direction to get into an open spot where she could shoot, though. When they were out of site for a few minutes, I had Megan get ready.
The 2 or 3 minutes it took for the deer to emerge seemed like an eternity, but they did come out. The big doe was first out, and Megan was on the ball, already tracking her in the scope and resting her rifle on the shooting rail. I asked if she was ready. Immediate "yes!"
The doe was at 100 yards, and slightly quartering away. I bleated. No reaction. Bleated louder, no reaction, still walking. Whistled. No reaction, but about to walk behind some brush, and she turned and quartered a bit more away from us. Megan said she was ready, I said, "Do it." BANG!
The deer hit the deck like a sack of potatoes. And couldn't get it's feet. I watched it for a moment, and told Megan to reload. Since she's lefty shooting a righty rifle, she was fumbling. I got a fresh shell loaded for her and handed the rifle back. She hesitated, afraid of a miss. She was amped in the moment and I couldn't explain to her that at this point, just get another bullet in that deer!
The deer was down for a good 20+ seconds when it found its feet and was up and gone. Dang it!
We gave her about 15 minutes and then I got down and found the spot of the hit. There was some blood, and it looked ok, thought I saw bubbles, so I felt like this might be ok.
I worked hard to find more blood, but I did find hair on broken brush and followed torn up leaves and such to a sparse bit of blood. And this continued. I backed out when I heard deer get up and run ahead of me. We had errands to run, and it was only in the low 40's.
We came back around 2 and took up the trail. I got us as far as about 200 yards from the shot, with blood petering out and looking a lot like a muscle wound, with the bubbles I thought I saw before having congealed into solid fat. I found chunks of fat in the blood, too.
I pulled up a pic of a deer in about the same position as her shot on my iPhone and had her point to where she saw the crosshairs when the rifle went off. I did this with several pictures, several times. Each time, she pointed right on or slightly to the front edge of the shoulder, but the deer was quartering away, and she said she felt the shot may have been a little to the right of where she intended, too. Crap. She didn't adjust for the angle of the deer, which was quartering away pretty good at that point.
So, with a heavy heart, but many lessons learned, I took her off the trail, and told her I doubted very much the deer was dead. We were dressed lightly for tracking duties, but her rifle was in the truck. We went back and got it and talked with my friend Dana who had brought his grandson to hunt as well. Dana told Megan to pick the stand she wanted, and Megan picked. We went there, Dana took his grandson to the stand Megan and I had hunted the prior two nights.
About 6 o'clock we were getting chilly from our light clothing and the dropping temps. The wind was wrong, we were in blue jeans, and it was threatening to rain. Megan said, "This just seems dumb. We're not dressed for this, it's cold, and the wind is wrong. Maybe we should just go home early tonight." I said, "Megan, sometimes I've had the most luck on days when everything seems to be wrong, let's try and stick it out."
About 5 minutes later, we heard something that wasn't the horde of squirrels we were used to hearing. This was something I recognized instantly. We had a deer coming in straight behind us in thick brush.
"Megan, be still. Don't move, don't turn, don't breathe loudly."
We sat and listened. The steps came closer, closer...seemed like the thing would be up the ladder with us soon if it came any closer.
Then it turned and sounded like it would come out to our right.
"Megan, get ready to shoot lefty." She did. Then the footsteps stopped entirely. Oh crap.
We didn't hear steps for at least 5 minutes. I'd sort of given up, but was telling her to stay still and quiet and be alert.
More time went by. No sound. I was figuring it must of have just been a squirrel that fooled me. Then we heard it! It was moving again, heading to come out to our left.
"Megan, you gotta shoot righty." She switched to that setup.
"Get the rifle up and ready. Look through the scope to be sure you're all set." She did as I told her. The steps were getting really, really close.
Finally I saw movement just before the deer came out of the brush. It was close. Really close.
The small doe stepped into the field right at the 30 yard marker my father had set up for bow season. She went out a few steps, looked dead away from us, and was perfectly broadside.
"Shoot her through the shoulders, Megan."
Pause....she settled herself...then "BOOM!"
The deer staggered, stumbled to it's left and struggled back toward the woods just a few feet away. It never made it into those woods, toppling where I saw it hit the deck, but Megan didn't.
I gave her a big hug, said, "Great shot, Megan! You did it!"
Having had the experience of the morning, she was sketchy about believing me. I tossed our seat cushions out of the stand and started securing my pack. I'd already cleared her rifle.
"Megan, I saw it drop. You got it." She still wasn't really believing it.
We got down, I walked to where I thought it should be, and was rewarded with the sight every hunter loves...a white belly in the weeds.
Another big hug and congrats, and I won't be ashamed to admit it, I got the shakes something fierce. Worse than with any deer of my own that I've ever killed. Even Megan noticed it, although her own case of the shakes was progressing quickly, lol.
I couldn't stop smiling. I'd been so nervous on every approach of every deer....I've never felt that much of a rush when hunting on my own. Ever.
Snapped a few pics, then the work began.
Tonight we feasted on tenderloins from the deer fresh off the grill. And they were the best tenderloins I've ever had.
Megan with her deer
(Sorry for the flash, I forgot my little tripod and couldn't get a clear pic with no flash.)
She was shooting my featherweight 257 Roberts with a 100gr Partition at 2650fps. The shot distance was 30 yards, to her left (shooting right-handed).
So my daughter is now on the board, too. And she's raring to go for full rifle season in hopes of getting a buck, and we've seen enough of them to think she may very well do it! Hopefully more pics in December!
And that rifle, a Model 70 in 257 Roberts, was her great-grandfather's rifle. She's the 4th generation of our family to take a deer with it.