Dakota’s First Deer

The only thing more exciting than harvesting that big buck yourself is watching your children do the same and carry on the tradition of hunting.  Haley Heath, host of Family Traditions, shares such a story about a recent hunt in which her daughter was able to harvest her first deer.

As parents, we dreamed of our children sharing the love of the outdoors and hunting just like us. Since hunting is part of our career, G. O. and I have never forced our children to hunt, instead we decided to teach them all of the reasons why we love it and all of the safety rules of the equipment we use. Gunner, now 8, immediately loved being in the outdoors and wanted to learn to shoot. At 6 years old, Gunner took his first trophy with a crossbow. Dakota, our youngest, is a complete girlie girl, and although she loves going out and climbing in the blind with me, she doesn’t care for camouflage, nor does she like being very quiet! When Dakota turned 5 she passed the ’10 commandments of gun safety’ test we give both of our children. Then she asked if she too could try for her first deer when she turned six.

For the next 11 months, Dakota chose to spend much of her spare time at target practice and finding the appropriate rifle. She practiced right up until the week of Halloween 2012. Our family of four, along with two cameramen and good friend Kerry Earnhardt, loaded up and headed out for Dakota’s first whitetail deer hunt. Each morning, Dakota would wake up early to get in the stand. Then every afternoon she would get in the stand right after lunch, just as determined as ever.

For four days this continued as six of us would go climb into a huge ground-blind. G.O., Gunner, Dakota, a cameraman, the guide and I would get settled in and wait for the moment all deer-hunters wait for; when a buck comes into shooting range. There were a few times that a good buck would come into range, but Dakota just didn’t feel comfortable with the shot.

Gunner and Dakota in their Halloween attire.

On Halloween, Gunner and Dakota decided during the lunch break they would trick or treat around the lodge in their costumes. Only problem was, Dakota was Ariel the Disney princess for Halloween, and we sprayed her blonde hair with red hairspray! Not having time to wash the red out we needed to head to the stand; costume, red hair and all! Sure enough, we climbed in the blind and almost immediately deer were moving. Then, there he was! A big mature buck headed our way. Dakota got comfortable in G.O.’s lap and we had her gun set up in the perfect rest. She got on him and waited until the buck was stopped and broadside. Then she took her shot!

Dakota taking her time to make a good shot.

It was truly a great moment for G.O. and I to see this tradition passed down to our children, but the excitement, emotion and passion that Dakota showed after we got to her buck was unbelievable! She is hooked on the outdoors!

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