From City Slicker to Hunter

I am the type of girl that the guys in the office like to torment with mice and tarantulas and rattlesnake sheds. I probably could have been voted Texas’ most unlikely candidate for hosting a hunting show.

But at a charity auction in the spring, that’s exactly the opportunity that transpired. I was given the chance to co-host an episode of Veteran Outdoors with my friend — and now co-worker — Cody Hirt. I had long admired his tenacity and desire to "give back to those who gave" and figured if anybody was going to coax me into camo, it might as well be him.
Once Cody set a date for the filming, I shot a rifle for the first and only time, figured out how to buy a hunting license, and bought some camouflage gear.  Mentally, however, I was far from ready. I had not grown up around hunting and had absolutely no idea what to expect. My biggest fear was not that I would encounter a rattlesnake or porcupine or coyote (which I did) but that I would be on national television with a buck in my sights and not be able to pull the trigger.

The dread only escalated when we went to the shooting range at the ranch and I had to shoot at a paper deer a hundred yards away to make sure my Leupold scope was properly zeroed. Every ranch hand and cameraman was watching. They were talking about adjusting the triggers on their rifles. I was rehearsing where the safety was on my borrowed .25-06. I couldn’t even find the trigger with my finger after I aimed, I was so nervous.

Finally I pulled off a couple of rounds close enough to convince the guys I could at least wound a deer. I am sure they thought their tracking dogs were going to get a workout that weekend. Kisha, the veteran we were hosting on the show finally got her scope adjusted and hit the target dead on. Talk about intimidating. I was really glad the focus of the show would be on her.

When we finally got in the field, my nerves never settled down. We watched some does and a few young bucks feeding in a clearing about 120 yards from our blind. The cameraman Ron, Kisha and I were in a pop-up ground blind and two guides were in an open elevated stand to our left. We couldn’t see them, so they were sending text messages to the cameraman about what they saw.

The plan was for Kisha to shoot a trophy white-tailed buck, if we saw one, and I was the designated management shooter. About an hour into the hunt, a good candidate for me came into the clearing. He was a mature six-point buck, and our guides Trey and Brian said that I could shoot him if I wanted to. I debated with myself for what felt like hours. Not about whether or not it was the right deer to shoot, but if I could actually do it.

Ron and Kisha told me to wait for a better deer. Then when we finally changed our minds and decided that I should just go for that one, a coyote trotted out of the woods and scared him off. I wondered for the rest of the weekend if I made the right decision.

I did watch as Kisha shot a spike and finally a 10-point buck. Surprisingly I didn’t pass out or vomit. Maybe I could do it, I thought on the last morning when the hunt was all about getting a deer for me. Everyone on the ranch was out scouting, texting in reports to Trey.
We ended up leaving the elevated blind where Kisha had killed her big deer the night before, driving to the other side of the ranch and hiking to a ridge where we could look for movement in the valley. Two of the guides saw a buck moving on the edge of the woods, into the wind, about a thousand yards away. I think they had better binoculars than me, because I never spotted him. I certainly couldn’t have hit him. I wasn’t sure what they were thinking.

Eventually we got back into the truck and drove around slowly, looking for who only knows what. But when a young buck and two does darted in front of us, Trey stopped the truck, told me to grab my gun and follow him, I did. He walked stealthily through the brush, blowing into a grunt, which he explained later made him sound like another approaching deer (instead of a man with a rookie and a cameraman).

He stopped 30 feet (yes, feet) from a huge buck grazing with 10 or 12 other deer. As Trey stooped down so that I could get a look, the deer saw the motion and took off.  Trey and the cameraman started running after them, so I jogged along also, watching the ground for holes and snakes. When I looked up, my hunting companions were actually sprinting after the deer. I had to pick up my pace. Despite the waiting and the stalking and the efforts of the entire ranch staff, I went home empty-handed.

Four weeks later, I went back to T4 Outfitters in Sterling City, Texas to hunt again, determined this time to not pass on a good deer.  I hadn’t shot since the warm-up the last time I was there, but we got a late start and headed straight out to the field. The guys explained to me that the deer were in the rut now, more interested in chasing does than grazing, so I might not have as much time to shoot.

I was all business and loaded my rifle as soon as I climbed into the stand. The whole evening, we watched deer come and go and ruled out every candidate. They were too young, too far away, or too promising as a trophy. I went to bed that night hoping that I would be successful before the cold front blew in the next afternoon.

The next morning we went back to the same blind from the very first night at my request. The wind was barely blowing, and we were definitely downwind from the usual movement pattern of the deer. We had barely gotten settled in the blind when Brian, the guide on the elevated stand, sent me a text message that there was a deer on the edge of the clearing. It wasn’t even light enough to determine whether it was a doe or a buck.

As dawn approached, we saw that he was probably a good choice for me, a mature eight-point buck. We watched him for ten or fifteen more minutes, waiting for enough light for the video camera to film my shot. I may have dehydrated from the sweat pouring from my hands. The cameraman had to chamber my round for me.

Finally it was light enough, and the buck turned toward us. I wanted a side shot. Then he moved again. I had a good shot, but the camera angle was bad. He was about 120 or 130 yards away behind two small trees.

Once the deer moved back into a good spot for the camera, the mesquite was in my way. By this time, I was nervous enough to accelerate the pulse of everyone in a four-county area. Even the cameraman was sweating. At last, the buck took another step and I took a deep breath. Brian told me later he knew when I was going to shoot because he could hear me inhale from his elevated stand.

I exhaled half way and pulled the trigger. At the crack, the buck’s hind legs shot up and he took off. When he started to stumble, 20 yards away, Brian fired another shot to make sure he was going down and that he wouldn’t take long to die. I grinned at the camera and unzipped the blind to go find my deer. The sun was just coming up.

The hole from my .25-06 Federal Premium Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet was just under his right shoulder — definitely a fatal shot. At sunup on a chilly Monday morning, just before Thanksgiving, I moved from being just a city slicker to being a hunter. I passed an important self-examination that day. I now believe that I can shoot to kill — whether it’s for provision or preservation. That’s a good thing to know.

Editors Note:
If you like old school aviation click here to check out the Charlie Bravo Aviation logo. I am trying to convince Rene to make this a poster.