As I’m sure everyone in the free world knows, last year the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, acting on a recommendation of the Game and Fish Department, decided to eliminate the December youth only muzzleloader deer hunt in Unit 16A.
That meant that a hunt that was coveted by many youngsters and their parents would be gone at the end of the 2017 hunt.
And for the 25 young hunters who drew the tags in 2017, they are now part of history.
One of those that drew a tag for the last hunt was 13-year old Kinsley Rupe. Kinsley lives in Mohave Valley, and the eighth-grader drew the tag with only her hunter education point and her application point.
This wasn’t her first experience in the great outdoors nor the first deer hunt that Kinsley had gone on. The young hunter had drawn a deer tag in neighboring California in 2017 but did not harvest a deer on that hunt. She also had drawn a general 18B javelina tag in 2017, and she bagged her first Arizona big game animal on that hunt.
The hunters could only use a muzzleloader on the juniors hunt, and Kinsley had never used one before. Under the auspices of her father Chris, she became proficient at using the scoped 50 caliber rifle.
Like most young deer hunters, Kinsley really wasn’t concerned at the size of the buck she was trying to take. To her, any buck would be a good one. When the hunt started Kinsley and her dad were joined by Chris’ brother and his daughter. They would help with the glassing, and hopefully a retrieval.
Chris decided to start the hunt in the area north of Wikieup, on the east side of the Hualapai Mountains. They found that locating bucks in this huge game management unit wasn’t an easy thing to do. They did have some success. Chris said they had found a big 3x3 buck, but were not able to get his daughter close enough for a shot.
Then, in a touch of irony, I had the opportunity to meet Chris and Kinsley while they were out hunting. Jay Chan, Joe Herrero and I were in the same area assisting a young hunter from California, Wyatt Hull, who also had the same tag.
Herrero had located a one-antlered buck and Wyatt decided to pass on it. I told Chris and his daughter about the buck and they immediately went after it. Unfortunately the buck ran off before the young lady could get a shot.
But in the end, it was probably a good thing she didn’t get that young buck, for Lady Luck was about to smile on this perky eighth-grader.
It was later on during the two week hunt, Dec. 27, Chris found a group of deer that consisted of four does, one spike and a mature buck. The buck was obviously in the rut and was chasing the does around. But he was out of range for the muzzleloader that Kinsley was carrying.
The father and daughter team moved closer and finally they got Kinsley within 140 yards. At the shot, the buck ran off but didn’t go far.
The buck the young lady had taken was indeed a good one. It would be one of oldest bucks taken on the hunt. It was a mature 4x3 with a spread that measured just under 24 inches wide.
Even though this father and his daughter won’t get to share the experience of a December youth hunt again in Arizona, the time spent in the field on this hunt will be remembered by them for years to come.
Hunting is a family experience with fathers like Chris being able to be a mentor to his young daughter and sharing the outdoor experience with her.