Youth Mentored Success!
This is going to be a long read... feel free to skip to the bottom for actual hunt details. The rest of the story is how we got to where we are. As you'll be able to tell, I'm just one overly happy Dad.
This story begins this past Christmas when Santa brought my son a Cricket .22 caliber rifle. As you’d expect from any 5 year old dying to hunt, he wanted to shoot and shoot and shoot some more. I made him shoot with the open sights for months. He struggled for a while to understand how to use the peep sights, but once he got the hang of it, he would hit 10 out of 10 steel targets at 30 yards. I bought him one of those spinning targets and he’d hit it with every shot. Around June, I bought him a scope for his Cricket. I wanted him to learn how to shoot with the peep sights first before I got him a scope. The scope that they make for these rifles isn’t the greatest quality, but it fits the gun nicely. The only problem with the scope was the poor eye relief. My son really struggled with getting a good sight picture. He stuck with it and after a few range trips, he again was shooting 10/10.
His 6th birthday is in August. The plan all along was to get him a deer rifle for his birthday, so I wanted him to be comfortable shooting by then. For his birthday he got a CVA Compact Hunter, single shot, chambered in .243. I mounted a nice Nikon Buckmaster scope on it for him. I can’t say enough good things about this gun. It is very accurate, low recoil, nice butt pad, and easy to shoot. I purchased some Hornady Managed Recoil loads for him to start out with and we also used my lead sled. I sighted the gun in and as I expected, he was an absolute crusher with this gun. Off of the sled, he was shooting better than me. Once I realized that he may be able to hunt this year, I went ahead and bought a Caldwell Fieldpod. I knew he would need a rest as this little rifle is also fairly heavy. When we’d go to the range, I’d move the bench out of the way and make him shoot off of the Fieldpod. I’d set it up for him but purposely have the crosshairs off target so he’d have to acquire the target by himself. After doing this for several trips to the range, the final step was to buy life-sized paper deer targets. I brought the targets to the range as a surprise for him. When we got to the range I told him that my plan was to give him one shot and one shot only. If he’d hit the deer in the vitals at 85 yards, he could try to hunt this year, if he would’ve wounded this paper deer, he was waiting for next year. So, as usual, I set the gun up for him, zoomed the scope all the way out, and moved it off target. He settled in, got the scope on the deer target, zoomed the scope into 10X, and BOOM! I couldn’t believe it, but he shot this paper deer right where the heart meets the lungs. I was so excited for him. He knew that he was going to get a chance to hunt this year, and just the thought of it made him tear up. He was so proud of his accomplishments and hard work.
Now it was time to HUNT! Youth mentored season is here. Up until this point, all of his shooting was done with the managed recoil loads. I had bought him full power loads and shot it myself as I wanted to ensure the bullet path was fairly similar. My plan was to have him hunt with the full power loads because as we all know, when you’re hunting, the recoil is nonexistent. Fortunately for me, both bullets performed the same. The flight path, from 50-100 yards, was almost the exact same. We couldn’t hunt on Thursday due to a soccer game, so Friday was going to be his first chance.
I got him off the bus and we change into his hunting clothes. He’d been hunting with me for years now, so he knows the drill. I had a perfect spot in mind to take him. We walked up this huge hill and were setup in a field by 4:30. I had a ½ blind out in front of us, with the gun resting on the Fieldpod. I use this ½ blind almost every time I hunt with him as it hides most of his movement but is very easy to setup. As we sat in the field whispering about when the deer were coming out, soccer, hockey, and he ate everything I had packed for myself and him, it was getting closer and closer to prime time. At 5:30 a nice size doe walked out into the field. I got his attention and of course, he sprung up and got behind the gun. The doe was walking right toward us but through some thicker brush also, so he had a hard time keeping the crosshairs on her. Finally, she had stepped into a clear enough area that we could see her whole body, but she was still quartering towards us. He knows that she has to be broadside. She must’ve smelled or heard something that she didn’t like off to her right, and she turned completely broadside to us, stretched her neck out trying to explore the weird smell/noise, and left us with the perfect opportunity. My son settled in, zoomed the scope in, and said he was ready. When she still hadn’t moved, I told him if he was on the vitals to shoot. 2 seconds later… BOOM! The doe drops straight down. Again… tears. But this time it was mine. I was so excited for him and what he had accomplished. My grandfather had hunted into his 80’s and only killed one deer. My son had matched him, and he’s 6. He shared a couple hugs and high fives and went to retrieve his deer.
We took some photos and said a few words to the Man above for allowing us this opportunity, and then I made him help me field dress it and drag it out. I told him that if he’s man enough to pull the trigger, then he’s man enough to do the dirty part also. But in his defense, he didn’t back down. His hands were just as bloody as mine.
When we picked up the processed meat from the butcher on Sunday, he told my son that he couldn’t have made a better shot. So of course, he is still on cloud 9.