My granddaughter, Kathryn Rose, aka, “Katy Rose” strode into my office with a swagger reminiscent of John Wayne. “Papo, it’s time for me to shoot a deer. Both my brothers and my two cousins have been hunting with you for a while and have shot deer. Now, I want to shoot a deer!” I suspect my chest swelled a bit at those words. Katy Rose had hunted with me in the past, but primarily as an observer. She had also shot a variety of guns at the local range in the past with her dad, mother and brothers. On occasion she and I had talked about hunting, and as mentioned she had accompanied me a couple of times when I hunted, well actually mostly looked and scouted.
“I’ll be happy to take you! But we’ve got to do some more homework before we go. I want you to know exactly where to shoot a deer.” She agreed. The next few weeks we spent time looking at photos and videos, where I could show her exactly where to place her shot. Then after a while I handed her a pen and asked her to point out where she would shoot a deer, including some instances where I thought the deer in the photo was positioned where it didn’t really offer a killing shot. In those instances she told me she would not shoot! I loved it and thought she was ready.
I decided we should hunt the FTW Ranch, which belongs to Tim Fallon and family to look for her first deer. Tim kindly offered a hunt where Kathryn could shoot a whitetail doe. A couple of weeks later we hunted between Christmas and New Year (2013). I decided we would film her hunt from my “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” (you may recall or saw her hunt which aired this past year).
At a FTW range, with a Ruger 77 in .223, topped with a Zeiss scope and shooting Hornady ammo, Kathryn from a decent rest shot 3 bullets into a 2 inch group at 100 yards. She was ready.
We hunted a couple of days without seeing a doe, hunting from early until about 10:30 or so then going back out at 2:00. We did see bucks and on those I removed all the rounds from the Ruger and let her dry-fire at the bucks. My rule for my grandchildren has always been, “You have to shoot a doe before you can shoot a buck. Your first whitetail WILL BE a doe.” I held Kathryn to the same rule as my grandsons.
The third afternoon a doe appeared about 140 yards away. She fed on acorns. Kathryn positioned the rifle, but the angle shooting down hill, was too acute for her to get a good shot. “Kathryn, sit on my knee and see if that will allow you to get a good shot.” She sat on my knee positioned the rifle.
“I think I can do it from here…” The rifle barrel steadied, her breathing slowed. I reminded her to push the 3 stage safety all the way forward to “Fire” and to take a deep breath, let it all out then when the crosshairs were exactly where she wanted to place the bullet then to gently pull the trigger. She did just as I suggested! The rifle rocked backward a bit. The doe fell to the ground. “DID I GET ????” she asked bolting in a fresh round and again looking where the doe had been standing…
“YES you did! GREAT shot! Congratulations! Kathryn Rose, you’ve just taken your first deer! I am so very PROUD of you!” I’m not sure who was more pleased or thrilled, Kathryn or me.
Moments later we were at the deer’s side, hugging each other!
Thoughts of Kathryn’s first deer and hunting with my two daughters and my four grandsons were running through my mind as we, Kathryn Rose, cameraman Nolan Swinghamer and I sat in another FTW Ranch blind a year later, 2014 between Christmas and New Years. Early that morning we had seen a pretty good 8 point Hill Country buck, but he stayed back in the brush just beyond where Kathryn could get a shot. Now we were back that afternoon hoping either he or another likely candidate would show.
This time she was hunting with a 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Model 77 with an adjustable stock, shortened to her length of pull. She was shooting Hornady ammo. Earlier at the range she had shot it well, under the direction of Larry Summerfield, one of the FTW’s shooting instructors.
Kathryn’s brother Andrew had that morning taken a blackbuck doe, and, her cousin Justin had shot a whitetail doe. Joshua, her other cousin, was hunting for a particular buck and thus far had not yet seen the one he was looking for. My other grandson, Jake, who these days also films for my show, was off on another assignment and could not make the hunt with us this year.
“Papo, is that a blackbuck?” Kathryn asked when a handsome mature blackbuck appeared on the edge of the brush. I nodded and affirmative, and handed her my Zeiss RF binos. She ranged the buck at 145 yards. “I think I could shoot him.” she said.
“Yes, I think you could as well….but we’re here for a whitetail…” I reminded her. She kind of rolled her eyes, “OK….But he sure is good looking and I bet the would taste really good!” I simply grinned and shook my head in a “no” manner.
The afternoon was cold, just a few degrees above freezing. Early that morning we had about a half inch of ice on everything. But we had “weathered well”. Prior to our trip I had made arrangements for Kathryn to be outfitted with Walls’ new women clothing line and I asked her how she was fairing. “I’m plenty warm and I like how these clothes fit and feel. Think I look like a hunter?” asked she dressed in Realtree Camo Walls clothing, with the exception of the black and yellow scarf she wore as head gear. I smiled and nodded an affirmative, “Like a pro!”
During early afternoon, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. Our selected blind was set up so we looked directly into the sun. I secretly hoped nothing we could shoot would appear until the bright sun had slipped behind the tall ridge in front of, leaving us and all we watched in the shade, so Kathryn would not have to shoot directly toward the sun.
Shade had just reached our blind when we spotted a deer about 150 yards away making it’s way toward the feed area across the canyon from us. Kathryn peered through my binoculars. “Papo, it’s a buck, and, he’s BIG!” With that she handed the binos to me. I watched the deer for a couple of moments as it walked toward our position. A quick look through the binos confirmed there was no doubt he was a mature buck, easily five to seven years old.
“Kathryn, the angle is pretty acute shooting down hill. Can you see him in the scope.” She raised the rifle and tried to sit up as tall as she could in her chair, but the shooting angle was too acute for her to get a good rest and sight picture.
“Papo, can I sit on your knee? If I do I think I can get a shot.” With that she moved onto my knee, positioned the rifle, found the buck in the scope. “I can shoot him from here…but I’m really excited!” I could tell she was experiencing a bit of buck fever, she was shaking a bit.. I loved it. I was probably shaking a bit myself!
“Take a deep breath! (She did!) Now take another…. Put the crosshairs exactly where you want the bullet to go. Push the safety forward, take another deep breath, let it all out, and if you’re on target gently pull the trigger.” I instructed in a stage whisper. With that I looked back at Nolan to be sure he was positioned where he wanted to be. He nodded affirmatively.
I felt Kathryn take three more deep breath. Just before the fourth one the buck turned broadside. I heard the Ruger’s safety go to “Fire”. I saw the rifle barrel steady, then concentrated on the deer. I heard the shot, felt the rifle recoil and saw the buck flinch. Immediately I saw blood appear on the buck’s side as he started to walk away. “Kathryn, reload and get ready to shoot again.” She did. The buck started angling away slowly….and fell. He was down. “Stay on him.” I instructed. “If he starts to get up shoot him again!”
We watched the downed buck for another full minute. He didn’t move. The Hornady had done its job!
After taking care of TV show “business” we crawled out of the blind and walked the 140 plus yards to where Kathryn’s buck lay.
At the buck’s side, we hugged each other and talked about her first buck. He was a handsome rascal, a truly great Texas Hill Country buck. Both Kathryn and I were excited. After we finished what was needed for the TV show, she asked, “Can I have the radio to let Mr. Fallon know I shot a buck?” I dug it out of my pack and handed it to her.
“FTW, FTW, FTW Kathryn has a buck down!” said she with great pride!
Several of the other hunters in camp responded with congratulations!
Our hunt was a special one, shared with several friends, including Blake Barnett and his mother, Debbie. Ms. Debbie shot a fabulous 8 point buck the last afternoon of our scheduled hunt, her best to date. Interestingly she shot it with a Ruger Number 1 in 243 Win. The rifle had belonged to her father, one he bought shortly after the Number 1s were first introduced.
Both Kathryn’s and Ms. Debbie’s bucks were later caped and prepared to be sent to the Wildlife Gallery, where their taxidermists will do their magic! The venison was cut up for many great meals in the future….
Before leaving we planned a return engagement to the FTW…