“Little Britches if you are going hunting with me you better get up,” I said to my oldest daughter Lauren. With a groan, she put her feet on the floor asking, “Do you think we will get one today?” With a smile I said, “ Maybe.” She put on her hunting clothes and came into the kitchen and got some cereal. We got her gun and sunflower seeds and went to the truck to start, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life.
Our journey began when Lauren was two and a half years old when she got her first rod and reel. She would practice throwing it in the living room and by that summer was catching bream by herself. When she was four, she was helping me to skin squirrels. She was hunting deer and squirrels when she was six. Her first year to carry a gun deer hunting was when she was nine, and that was a good day. We were making a deer drive and she and I were overlooking a draw waiting for a deer. She asked me if it was going to be like on the hunting shows where she would have plenty of time to make the shot. With a light laugh, I told her they would be here and gone in a hurry. She had her 4-10 resting on a shooting stick and was the one who spotted the does coming right at us. They came within 20 yards and when I grunted to stop them, they split and ran like rabbits. Lauren never got a shot. After a few moments I heard her say, with a very shaky voice, “Daddy that was fast, wasn’t it?” I had to laugh and give her a big hug as I took the gun from her shaking hands and said, “ Yes baby, that was fast.” That day was like throwing gas on a fire. She was pumped up, and ready to go anytime I would take her, which brings us to this year.
This year was the first time Arkansas had a youth deer hunt for those under the age of 16. So I called my very good friend, Greg, who also has a young daughter who was 11. He has a great place to hunt which is down in southwest Arkansas, around De Queen.
Lauren didn’t know it, but I was in the process of getting her a rifle this year for her tenth birthday, but I couldn’t make up my mind what to get her. The season was getting mighty close and I had to make up my mind what to get her. I went with an H&R New England Arms 7mm08 that shot a 140g bullet, and man does it do the job. When we loaded the truck on a Thursday afternoon she had no idea that the gun was there. I told her that her 4-10 was in the front seat and she needed to put it in the back. She opened the door and I heard a squeal. She ran to me and gave me a very big hug and a kiss. She couldn’t keep her hand off of it all the way to De Queen. We spent all day Friday getting her and the gun ready to go to the woods. After we finished, we went to Greg’s to spend the night. I think I got less sleep that night than she did, but when the alarm went off, she hit the ground running. Needless to say, we spent the whole day, and I do mean the whole day, in a stand not seeing a deer. However, we did sight in on a number of squirrels and armadillos. We ate with Greg then hit the road for a three-hour drive back home to Morrilton.
The next weekend was opening day for Arkansas hunters. Just about everyone here heads to the woods with the expectations of killing a big deer. My only goal was to get Lauren a shot at a deer. So like the start of this story, I kicked her out of the bed and off we went to a nearby farm of a good friend of mine. He had food plots, corn feeders, and real nice box stands set up all over. We set up overlooking a plot and a corn feeder. The sky began to lighten up and the woods began to wake up, and so did the deer. I looked over at the feeder, the place Lauren was supposed to watch, and there were two does eating their breakfast. I said, “Lauren there is a deer under the feeder.” She looked over and the shaking began. I turned my chair and set her in my lap. I could see other deer in the 30-year-old pine plantation and told her that by the way the big doe was acting that there was a buck out there close by. I blew my grunt call twice and here he came. I showed Lauren where he was and she just became as calm as an experienced hunter. I told her to aim at the big doe to get a feel of what to do when he got there. She said, \”Bang you\’re dead!\” to the doe. When the little buck got close, the doe ran off a little ways, but the yearling stayed put. I guess it didn’t want to leave that corn. The buck walked to the feeder that was about 40 yards and stood broadside to us. I asked her if she had him in her scope and she said,\” Yes.\” Then I said, \”Well, shoot that thang!\” Bam. He gave a mule kick and ran about 50 yards. Lauren looked at me with a grin from ear to ear and said, “I got him! I got him! I got him!” I told her to have a seat and let\’s give him a minute or two. I knew he was down, but my once calm little hunter was now a wad of shaking nerves in hunting clothes. I knew that if I opened the door to the stand she would have jumped straight to the ground. When she settled down, we went to go find her deer. It was a three point and I wouldn’t have traded it for all the records in the world. Her patience paid off. She had spent all day in the stand the week before and now had a deer down 20 minutes after shooting light. When we got it home I said, “ You know that you are going to gut him don’t you?” and she did. She also helped skin and cut him up. That’s my Little Britches.