Late Morning Surprise
December 19, 2018
Editorial Staff (272 articles)
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Late Morning Surprise

A daddy-daughter whitetail hunt

By Scott Caudill

Hunting season represents a much needed break from the stress of a demanding job and children’s schedules as complicated as my own. My daughter Abbey and I treasure our time together in the woods each fall. Daddy-daughter time is a premium in my family, and each moment I count as a gift not to be wasted.

Last year we were able to upgrade the blinds at our deer lease. The worn and rotten home-built blinds were replaced with a new metal box blind and a Nature Blind. Needless to say the upgrades were much appreciated by my hunting partner. The new blinds do require a bit of practice and adjustment from a shooting position standpoint.

Our lease is just over 300 acres, but it’s filled with a variety of game and a healthy population of whitetail deer. The protein feeder we added had two years worth of impact on the animals. I was much impressed that our little lease outside of Medina, Texas, could be producing this good quality.

Mid December hunt

Mid December was our first real chance to hunt together. I had been scouting the week before and had spotted a couple of potential bucks that might fit the bill, but nothing particularly impressive. When we made our way to the blind that crisp morning, I noticed the clear sky and the constellation Orion the Hunter looking over our shoulders. I always take note of that and point it out to Abbey on our way in the darkness.

We hit the blind an hour before daylight, as is our habit. She settled in and spread out nicely in the new blind, with her feet up on Dad and a blanket covering her. I remember her first season just two years before and focused on watching the sun light the sky while she snoozed comfortably next to her daddy.

Antlers clash

Not long into our sit, we heard a fight. Antlers clashed, meaning the rut was in full swing. Enough light provided for silhouettes of several deer in our shooting lane. The clash ended quickly before legal shooting light. We spent the next two hours watching and guessing ages and sizes.

Abbey’s learning fast. At 11 years old, she can clearly age a buck into major categories. Time and observation will hone those skills and she’ll be able to age a buck accurately.

One thing that most impresses me with her is her patience. She’s not at all interested in just taking a deer. She’s looking for and hunting specific mature animals. I would not have had such patience at her age.

The morning hunt was winding down, and as I expected, Abbey passed on the only shooter in the neighborhood in favor for hunting other blinds that evening. I decided we needed some practice out of the Nature Blind in another area of the lease where we intended to evening hunt.

More practice

Abbey was used to a box blind and a gun rest at shoulder level. This new blind would require shooting sticks, and we would be situated differently in the round layout. We decided to go ahead and complete the practice before midday and drove the truck about 15 yards from the location of the blind.

We set up and began to practice. The nature blind has some advantages, but she would need to move the shooting sticks and rifle smoothly between the three windows. When I explained the vertical slot windows were ideal for archery, similar to those on old castles, she got the picture. I stepped out of the blind and went over to the truck to get a few things to sit in the blind for the evening.

Deer sighting

I heard her say, “DAD… there is a deer,” in a sort of loud whisper. I thought, no way; the truck is here, the blind door is open, and we are not being particularly quiet. I slipped back to the blind and she pointed out behind the trees and bushes the back of a whitetail moving stealthily along while trying to see what we were doing. I was a bit astonished and then I saw him turn his head. Antlers—big ones!

We were not loaded or honestly planning to hunt at this point. But the late morning had brought a surprise. I quickly loaded the rifle and placed it on the shooting sticks. The buck increased the gap between us and was about 80 yards away, behind brush and moving off toward the thicket.

I told her the rut was on and we had one chance. I grabbed a grunt call I always carry in my backpack, but frankly have never used. To my amazement, when I hit that call twice, the buck immediately did an about face. He started right back toward us and in a bit of a huff it would seem.

Setting up?

He was hot and looking for a fight. I told Abbey to choose a clear spot along the left window shooting lane, and she set up accordingly. The funny thing was she said, “But Dad, we’re not really hunting right now, just setting up.”

“Oh yes we are! Did you see how big he is?”

Under a minute had passed, and our buck emerged from the bushes in to the open shooting lane. His neck was full and he was prepared for a fight. Abbey’s patience came into play here, as she had to wait a few more minutes until the shot was just right.

“I’ve got the shot, Dad,” so I took off the safety. She breathed and squeezed the trigger on the .270 and dropped our late morning surprise right where he stood. Wow!

After the shot

The exhilaration was awesome. Abbey and I shook with so much excitement. We waited a few minutes and went over to inspect her trophy. Right away she noticed the deer had been fighting. His brow tines had hair and blood from another animal on them. I was absolutely impressed. She made a perfect shot on an absolutely gorgeous Hill Country buck. We took the usual time for hugs, and a lot of photos before field dressing this impressive animal.

As is tradition, we take the deer down to Schott’s deer processing. Mike always likes to see Abbey bring in her deer each year. That deer dressed out at 147 pounds, by far the largest taken so far in the area. She was extremely proud. We made our way to meet Mom for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, also a tradition.

I will remain forever grateful for these precious times we share together in the Hill Country. While her schedule gets more complicated in middle school, as does mine, we make sure to not miss our special time together hunting in God’s great Texas outdoors.

Neither of us could ever forget this particular hunt and how it all unfolded in a late morning surprise.

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