You could say from a young age I always had a desire to hunt yet was never given the opportunity. My father hunted when he was young and the stories that he, my grandfather and uncles would tell me about their bucks, rabbits and ducks always made me wish I had my own story. While I always hoped I could have the same experience, my youth unfortunately did not offer me hunting opportunities.
Flash forward 20 years, where I found myself heading to Georgia for my first hunt, for whitetail. Through an organization called The Hunter Recruitment Project, I was paired with an experienced hunting mentor whose goal was to introduce new ‘recruits’ like me into the world of hunting. It was a life changing experience that I’ll never forget.
Keep Calm and Get Your Camo On
The day I arrived I was expecting to be able to settle in and get familiar with the environment and learn what the schedule would be; however, my mentor would have different plans. Only a couple of miles away from camp, he called me and the only words I heard come out of his mouth were, “You're hunting this evening,” My heart rate spiked, my vision turned to tunnel vision, and my senses were heightened. This was happening.
As I arrived, my mentor urgently requested that I change faster than I have ever changed in my entire life, I put on my Eberlestock technical apparel, put on my boots, grabbed the Mossberg Patriot Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor and got in his truck. Before I knew it, we were quickly on our way to the blind. I honestly don’t remember much of what was said in the car but what I do remember was the still, deafening silence that seemed so loud. We started to walk quietly to our blind and with every footstep I could hear my heart rate increase!
At about 75 yards away my mentor quickly pointed to the ground, signaling me to get down, saying, “We have two deer in the field, one by the feeder the other in the open. I think they are both shooters.” Once again, this was getting real, and fast. We very quietly closed the 75 yard gap, sneaking into the blind successfully to get situated in position.
The Moment Arrives
Both deer had walked off by this point and I felt a decrease in my heart rate and a sigh of relief to be able to relax. Not 10 minutes later another deer showed up. My heart rate spiked again from hearing the words of my mentor, “that's a shooter, get ready.” The deer closed in from 100 yards to 40 yards from us rather quickly. As the glass window was raised by my mentor, I steadied the Mossberg Patriot Rifle onto the window frame, aligned my sights for the perfect shot, took a deep breath, took the safety off and squeezed the trigger. The deer dropped dead on the spot which completely shocked me but what I never would have expected was the emotions I felt of accomplishment, success, and respect for this incredible animal.
While taking in all these emotions and being fired up with my mentor, low and behold here come two bucks. At this point I don’t even want to know what my heart rate was. I hear from my mentor, “same thing but you'll have to be very quick on these guys. When you’re ready, take the one on the left.” The bucks both moved in rather quickly, however I was able to stay hyper-focused on my buck. He moved within 10 feet of the deer I had just shot moments ago. I nodded to my mentor, he lifted the glass window, and as before, I rested the rifle on the window frame, aligned my sights for the perfect shot, took a deep breath, took the safety off and squeezed the trigger. This time the buck took off running for about 15 feet before it fell over. My mentor and I celebrated; our minds blown over what we had just accomplished. Once we were able to calm down, my emotions came back tenfold. The gratitude, successful feelings of accomplishment and and ultimately respect for these incredible animals is what I realize hunting is all about.
The rest of my time hunting over the next 2 days were not as successful as my first 37 minutes of my hunt, but I was able to make lifelong memories and celebrate the success of my fellow new hunters as, one by one, they also all got their first deer. We came in as recruits - we left as hunters.
The skills I obtained from this experience will resonate the rest of my life, as I hope to someday pass the tradition that began with my grandfather along to my own children and grandchildren.