2019 The Year of the Huntress
My 13-year-old daughter, Abby, loves to hunt! She has diligently hunted since she was 10 years of age. Abby has had some successful seasons where she has filled her deer tags. Yet she has never been successful hunting turkeys. Early in 2019, Abby told me she really wanted to harvest a turkey. This would be her first goal for the 2019 season.
The 2019 Youth Turkey hunt was quickly approaching when I received a call from Dan Kuzma. Dan wanted to invite Abby to his house to hunt turkeys. He had been seeing gobblers almost every day and he asked if she wanted to try her luck on a PA Longbeard. Abby was excited so we planned on heading to Dan's for the Saturday opener.
On the morning of the Youth Turkey Season, my alarm didn't go off. Luckily my internal clock always seems to wake me up around 5:30 am. As I jumped out of bed I realized we were going to be running late. Quickly I called Dan to let him know what had happened and then I woke Abby up from her slumber. Frantically Abby and I dressed and headed out the door.
The sun was coming up as we were arriving at Dan's house. Dan met us in the driveway and showed us to the blind. He reassured Abby that we were not late and that the birds always took their sweet time getting to his property. Abby and I got things set up as Dan headed back to his house to watch from an upstairs window.
Dan was right as it took a little bit of time before we could hear any gobblers. Abby wanted me to call to them so I did. In no time there was a lovesick longbeard headed our way. The gobbler crossed a small creek and presented Abby with a 20-yard shot.
The gobble dropped and flopped on the spot. The Mossberg 20 gauge had done the job! Abby was shocked and in amazement. She hurried out of the blind to look at her first turkey. Dan had heard the shot and came down to congratulate Abby on her PA Gobbler. Abby grinned like the Cheshire Cat as Dan and I took pictures. The bird had a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.
Abby's 2019 season started off with great success and she was looking forward to the fall archery season. During the summer I purchased 12 acres to hunt on and we set up some Spypoint trail cameras. Daily, I would show Abby pictures of deer that we visiting the property. A few of the bucks were looking pretty nice!
The archery season arrived and we all were very busy. Carefully we picked out a few evenings to hunt. Abby and I saw a ton of bucks each time we took to the stand. Each time a buck would show up Abby would look it over very carefully. She passed up at least 10 bucks and I was beginning to wonder if she would ever pull the trigger on anything.
November brought the rut and the first snowfall. On November 8th Abby and I headed out to the stand for an evening sit. Before we got set a nice 8 point come out of the swamp and made an appearance. He didn't stay long before heading back into the swamp. Abby was hoping that he would return but I knew he was long gone.
About 45 minutes later we could hear two bucks fighting near us. Abby got her can call out and turned it a few times. Soon we watched as a nice 6 point was walking our way. The buck was looking for the doe who called out to him. He stopped at the Rutstik long enough for Abby to put a Grim Reaper broadhead into his pumphouse. The buck didn't go more than 40 yards before he was down.
Surprised by what had just happened we looked at each other and cheered. Together we packed everything up and went to look for Abby's BEA Executioner. The BEA bolt was easy to find since it had a red GloryNock on it. Abby grabbed her blood-soaked bolt and we slowly made our way to her buck. She was so excited to have killed her largest whitetail with her crossbow.
With archery season over and her buck tag punched, Abby was hoping to fill one of her doe tags during the PA Rifle Season. Abby and I went out a few times with no success. We did see many deer but none of them presented a shot. With only a few days left in rifle season, Abby was getting anxious.
Friday, December 13th was the second to last day of the rifle season. Abby and I had school all day and we rushed home to get into the treestand. It was almost 4:00 pm when we finally settled into the stand. Abby had her Savage .243 with her and she patiently waited for any sign of movement. The wind and weather couldn't have been more perfect for an evening sit.
The full moon in the sky was already bright and Abby had commented on how pretty she thought it looked. While she was looking at the moon I saw movement in the distance. I got Abby's attention and she saw the two deer heading our way. Abby readied her Savage rifle and waited for the deer to stop.
Slowly the deer closed the distance and finally stopped 15 yards away. Abby was ready and the .243 barked. The deer dropped on the spot and hardly moved. She had made a perfect and ethical shot. Ejecting the shell carefully she grabbed it and placed it in her pocket. This was only her second deer with a rifle. She wanted to keep the shell casing and put it on her dresser. She smiled and began to tear up!
As Abby fought back tears I asked her why she was sad. She explained that she was sad because the deer had kicked a few times. This was a great teachable experience and I took full advantage of the moment. As I explained to Abby that her feelings were natural she felt better. I reassured her that it was fine to feel the way she did. She saw it as a weakness and I told her it was a natural way that we show the animal respect.
As the sun set and the full moon got brighter we descended the ladder stand and went to her deer. In the remaining light, she tagged the deer and then I took a few pictures. As we walked back to the truck, dragging the deer, Abby decided she wanted to donate her harvest to the local VFW Game Dinner. I told her that she could donate the deer if she wanted.
Abby's 2019 hunting season was a huge success and I am extremely happy to have spent every minute with her. I love watching as she learns something new each time we head out to hunt. The conversations we have are great and I soak in each moment. I know in the blink of an eye she will be all grown up and heading off for greater adventures. The 2019 season is one I won't soon forget!