Whitetail Hunting photo

I’m as ate-up with hunting big deer as any man I know. I think about it year-round, hunt every chance I get, and lose sleep over big racks. But in the midst of that obsession there has to be some balance. So, last week I took a break from my obsession to share what I love with Emma, my 5-year-old daughter.

Emma is a spitfire. She is curious about all things, but especially things outdoors. “Where do deer eat?” “Where do deer sleep?” “Where do deer poop?” “Why don’t does have antlers?” She often helps me put out corn and hay for the deer on the ranch, and rides in the truck with me on evening scouting trips. But she’s never really “gone hunting” with dad. So I told her when she turned five, she could.

My wife Amy packed a pink Little Kitty backpack with everything a girl would need: a coloring book, markers, an I-Pad, snacks, lemonade, tissues, paper towels, and of course B-B, the pink blankie she’s had since she was born. Wardrobe was important, too, including zebra-pattern pants and a leopard-print jacket? I packed her pink Fuse bow and two arrows.

Out in the field, Emma and I packed all our gear a whopping 60 yards from the truck to our ground blind. Once inside, she dug into her snacks. First, a fruit roll-up. Next, Reese’s candies, followed by potato chips. She washed that down with some lemonade between peeks out the blind’s window to check for deer. “Where are the bucks?” she asked me.

Next were chocolate pudding and finally some SpongeBob gummies. The snacks were gone within 20 minutes. I did not get any. “Dad, my stomach hurts.” Imagine that? But she toughed it out and forgot about the pain when I told her it was prime time and she could shoot her bow. Emma lobbed a perfect shot out the blind’s front window and just a yard short of the intended bush. Then she climbed out of the blind to retrieve her arrow.

“When do I get to shoot a buck?” she asked me 20 times. I told her we had to be patient and wait for the deer to come. (Of course I would not let Emma shoot a deer with her 15-pound bow, but don’t tell her.)

Unbelievably, despite Emma’s coughing, loud whispering, and shuffling in and out of her backpack, I heard something walking behind the blind at sunset. “Look out the back window,” I whispered. With eyes as big as saucers Emma reported, “Dad, there’s a buck!”

The young 4-point and a single doe walked around the side of the blind at 25 yards. Emma tracked their every step, reaching for her pink bow in the corner of the blind and telling me to be quiet. But the two deer bounced away. I told Emma it was late and we should pack up and see what Mom had waiting for us for supper.

“Good, cuz I’m real hungry,” she told me. Really, after 3,000 calories of junk? I thought to myself. That kid is a bottomless pit.

So we trudged back the 60 yards, me toting a backpack, bow, I-pad, purse, and all the other essentials of her first hunt. Emma carried her blanket.

As we loaded things in the back seat, Emma asked me, “Dad, when do we get to hunt again? And when can I shoot a big buck?”