After two years of big game hunting, my daughter Shelley harvested her
first deer. This story explains her hard work, determination, and skill in
capably downing her first big game animal.
Shelley had possessed a hunter safety certificate for two and a half years
when her opportunity to pull the trigger in the hunting fields came. Her
shooting experience extends back to the age of 8. Her first two years of
deer and elk hunting netted some sore muscles, a few elk and deer
sightings, and a desire for more.
During each summer weekend leading up to hunting season, our family
packed a lunch and drove to our unofficial, impromptu range on public
lands. The kids would set up targets, each claiming their own cardboard
box, stapling, taping, and sometimes drawing their favorite target. Dad
was the range officer, and watched as each youngster loaded his or her
assigned rifle. Safety was stressed as paramount to a successful hunt,
being more important than any other factor. These sessions also instilled
in them the shooting skills needed to accurately place a killing shot.
Shelley became familiar with, and carried my Winchester Model 70
Featherweight chambered to .280 Remington. This rifle has served me
well, earning a place in my gun safe by combining power, range, and light
portability. My daughter also enjoyed its light weight, good looks, and
confidence it had given her at the range. While she was welcome to use
the rifle as long as she chose, she wanted her own rifle.
She earned enough money babysitting, and in her 15th year purchased
her own rifle, a Ruger K77MKII with a Burris 3x-9x scope. Her caliber of
choice? .280 Remington, of course. We quickly discovered that the
synthetic stocked, stainless rifle delivered excellent accuracy. Shelley quickly adapted to her new weapon, becoming very familiar and
comfortable with its operation and features.
We had been hunting an area that was not real familiar to us (developing
a new hunting place can take up to 5 years). Shelley was stationed on one
of a series of ridges with two of her siblings close by. It was a gray
morning with a storm threatening to drop snow. Some other hunters
spooked a small herd of deer and they passed close to Shelley on the run.
As the deer transitioned through the draw that Shelley was overlooking,
she executed a nice shoulder shot at 125 yards on a large doe who was
leading the group.
Once we all reached the site, we took some photos and then the lesson on
field dressing began. All of the children are required to field dress their own animals. It is part of hunting, caring for your game, and it helps the
young hunter understand anatomy. Shelley did well, with her siblings
holding a leg here and there when needed. We transported the doe back
to camp and skinned and quartered the deer, covering the meat with some
old bed sheets (the cheap version of game bags).
That evening we celebrated with a trip into town and dinner at Pizza Hut.
Shelley was able to contribute to the family’s meat supply. She learned a
lot about ethics, the need for a clean kill, the reverence one should show
when harvesting our game animals, and how to properly care for a
downed animal. Her experience sparked what we hope will be a lifelong
desire to hunt responsibly, share the outdoors with her spouse and
children, and be part of the wildlife management team.