It all started on when we went to Jackson for Thanksgiving. I’ve been hunting a lot more over the past few years, but Laura’s desire to go hunting has been pretty "limited" to say the least. However, when we were in Jackson for Thanksgiving, Laura mentioned to me that she thought she could kill a deer. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. So I asked her what she meant. She repeated her statement. This immediately forced me to challenger her a bit. I responded that I didn’t think she could. That maybe she had the skill to do it, but I didn’t think she could pull the trigger. She didn’t let up, though.
Fast-forward to January 26th when we headed down to Jackson again for a surprise birthday party for my dad. Mississippi’s hunting season runs a little longer than Tennessee’s so she’d get her shot (pun intended).
We ran through the basics of what she’d need to do in order to fire the .444. In MS, certain single shot cartridge guns (.444 included) are legal during muzzleloader season. I knew if she could get the crosshairs on a deer, she wouldn’t feel the kick. But I was hesitant to let her shoot it beforehand. If you’ve never seen a .444 cartridge, it closely resembles something you’d shoot an elephant with.
On Friday afternoon we headed out to some land my dad owns in Kosciusko. This place is a deer haven. I was extremely confident she’d get a chance to see some deer. On the way there, we stopped at another piece of land he has in Thomastown and set up a paper plate for her to shoot a .22 rifle at. At 30 yards, she squeezed off 8 rounds that would fit inside a half dollar. She was ready.
We hit Kosciusko and climbed into the shooting house. The weather was perfect. We’d just gotten a cool snap and the wind dropped down to near non-existent. We’d had a lot of rain over the previous few days so the deer were sure to move. We kept our eyes peeled. We saw nothing. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. We did hear a couple of turkeys gobbling, but didn’t see any deer.
On the way home, we passed back by Thomastown. Dad made the comment that we should consider trying it again the next morning. That he’d stay home with Mom and help take care of the kids. We talked it over that night and decided we’d give it another shot.
Saturday morning we were up EARLY. It’s about an hour drive to Thomastown and I wanted to be in the shooting house when it was still dark. As we got settled into the stand, I had to chuckle. A few months ago, I could almost imagine Laura going hunting with me just to spend time together. But I never imagined she’d be trying to bag one herself. And I DEFINITELY couldn’t imagine her getting up at 4:15 in the morning to do it!
We planned to leave by 8:00 at the latest so we could get home to help with preparations for the surprise party. As the sun broke, we looked around just admiring the beauty of the world waking up. Seeing that sunrise and sunset…watching God’s creation wake up and go to bed…that’s what keeps me hunting. For me, it isn’t really about the killing. That’s an added benefit. I was excited to share that with Laura.
The day was nice again. Clear and cold morning. There was no sound other than our breathing until the faint light of day started to appear. Like a well trained symphony, all at once the noises began. Squirrels chirping and rattling in the leaves below us. Birds chirping. Odds seemed to be in our favor. About 7:20 Laura looked at me with eyes like saucers. "There’s a deer", she said. A doe was bee-lining it through the food plot and stood directly behind the one pile of brush that was around. It stayed there for about 10 minutes. Laura could see the outline through the scope, but it was probably a 50/50 shot that the bullet would hit one of the larger limbs. Not good enough odds. I kept telling her to be patient. That the likelihood of it bolting off was slim and that it should come back and feed in the food plot. It kept watching the woods closely…which made me think ole big boy might step out.
Not sure what exactly it was in the woods, but it spooked her. All of a sudden she bolted. Never to return. There went our chance. Laura put back on her gloves and tried to warm up. She was sad she didn’t get a shot, but excited to have seen one.
Around 7:45 I saw one step out about 250 yards away. It was coming our way. From Laura’s spot in the stand, she couldn’t quite see it yet. Then 2 more came out with it. They were headed towards the food plot. At around 150 yards away, Laura put it in her sights. The all three continued towards us quickly until they stopped about 75 yards out. Right behind the brush pile again.
This time, I wanted to give Laura a chance at it at least. She got the deer in her sights. I told her to give it a shot if she wanted to. There was a chance she’d hit the brush, but it was one we were going to take. I watched her gently squeeze, squeeze, squeeze that trigger just like we’d practiced on the .22. It went off like a cannon. And all three deer briefly scattered. She’d missed.
They weren’t running so I quickly got the gun from her and reloaded. She got it back through the window and cocked the hammer. This time one was in the food plot. This time she wouldn’t hit the brush. She gently squeezed again. She nailed it! We saw it running, and saw where she was hit. She wouldn’t run far. 40 yards or so and she went down.
I gave Laura a high five. She was grinning ear to ear. As I looked back out, the two other does that were with the one she shot came back out. I quickly grabbed the bun, reloaded and dropped one of them at about 100 yards.
It was an absolutely amazing experience. I couldn’t have scripted it better. I am not sure how much more Laura will hunt. I know she won’t go nearly as much as I do. But she will be back. And I can’t wait to go with her.