Bagging your first big game animal is an experience that a hunter never forgets.
Just ask 13-year-old Kingman resident Deborah Smith, daughter of Greg and Jamaica Smith, who recently returned from her first deer hunt on the north Kaibab.
After being one of the co-honor graduates from her Arizona Hunter Education class, her parents put her in for a special juniors’ only deer hunt on the Kaibab for 2017.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department uses hunters like Deborah to remove the excess deer in the herds in Arizona. This year the department issued 400 antlerless only tag for this hunt. Deborah got lucky and drew a tag.
It would be her first ever big game hunting experience.
Greg and Jamaica knew there was a lot of preparation to do with the young hunter before she went on her four-day hunt. Greg decided that his daughter would use a scoped bolt action rifle in the venerable 308 Winchester caliber.
Greg reloads and he knew that this caliber does have noticeable recoil, especially with heavier bullets, so he decided to start Deborah off shooting custom reloads that didn’t produce a lot of recoil.
Once the rifle was sighted in it was time to take the young hunter into the field and let her practice under actual field conditions and at live targets.
Jackrabbits are able to be hunted year around in Arizona and there is no limit on the number a hunter can take. These hares provided the opportunity for Deborah to get used to seeing a live animal in the scope. After each practice session Greg increased the power of the cartridge as Deborah got used to the recoil.
“There was a lot of preparation and time spent getting her ready to go on her hunt,” Jamaica said.
Now it was time to go up to the Kaibab, get camp set and go hunting.
They had received information from other sportsmen who had hunted the Kaibab in the past and were led to believe that there deer everywhere, and the hunt would be easy.
That is not what they found.
“We saw a few deer opening day but the only shot that Deborah could have had, was at a buck,” Jamaica said.
Day Two wasn’t much better, and the young hunter was getting discouraged.
Jamaica reached out on social media asking for some advice. I saw the post and told Jamaica where they might want to look.
Turned out to be some good advice.
The next morning Greg and Deborah were in the area I had told them about and it didn’t take them long to find some deer. They followed the four does over a couple of ridges but they seemed to give the hunter the slip.
But while hiking back toward the truck, they spotted the four does in a canyon. Deborah sat down and got settled in on her shooting sticks.
She picked out a doe and fired. The range was 200 yards. The 130 grain Barnes TSX all copper bullet did the job and Deborah had her first big game animal.
When the doe was brought to the Arizona Game and Fish Department check station, as required by rule, it was aged at 2 years old. Department personnel took a tooth and a section of the lymph nodes to check for chronic wasting disease.
Jamaica said the family processed the deer, making steaks, hamburger and even summer sausage.
“Greg said it was the best deer meat he has ever eaten,” Jamaica said.
Deborah said that she was grateful that she had made a perfect shot on her deer. She said she was thrilled for the experience and would recommend hunting to all her friends.
“I had a great time,” Deborah said.
Families that spend time together in the great outdoors make memories and form bonds that will last a lifetime.