Congrats are in Order!

Blog reader Paula Smith is on fire this season! After getting a bird a few weeks ago, last Friday she called her boss asking if she could leave early to hunt for her buck. He told her, "Go get him, Smitty!" Although Paula certainly deserves a big congrats for her harvest, she's quick to share the credit with someone else. Here's the story of her recent success, and who she believes is to thank for it. -K.H.

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I headed out bundled up to the hilt and with lunch in my pack, got to the farm and began the dreaded climb up the mountain. I never hunt this area because it is such a bugger to climb especially when you're winterized, but I felt it was the best place to hunt for a buck. An hour later (got a little lost) I finally found the spot on the other side of the mountain where I wanted to sit and plopped down, scaring a deer out of the brush below. Okay, good start. I pulled out a soda and saw movement down below so I stopped what I was doing and watched a deer, going from bush to bush along the side of the mountain. I couldn't tell what it was so I just watched as it was slowly making its way up the mountain towards me. Finally I got a good look at about 100 yards and saw it was a buck. I got him in my sites and saw he was a legal shooter to boot (first legal shooter I have ever seen hunting). Yahoo! I aimed, pulled the trigger, nothing. Then I was like, safety dumb ass, and I released the safety. He came out from behind yet another bush and I fired. He kept walking like I never shot. Huh, what the heck is going on?! Then at about 10 yards he stopped, dropped and rolled, right down the mountain. I sat there, jaw hanging open, thinking is this some kind of fire safety video shoot or is this a whitetail escape maneuver that no one has ever told me about? Then it occurred to me that I might have hit him and he died.

Now the shaking and crying begins. I pulled out my cell, called my hunting buddy, my boss, my oldest son and got voice mail for all of them. My message was the same to each, "I just shot a buck, I don't know how big, I think he's dead because he just rolled down the mountain." After about 15 minutes I walked to where he dropped and saw that indeed he was hit and most likely deceased. I found him about 200 yards down. I field dressed him and then started calling everyone I could think of who was local. There was no way I could drag him a mile up hill. I got a hold of some friends, dragged him to a logging road and then out to the dirt road where they were waiting. We got him hung (my hunting buddy put up an electronic hoist for me, it's awesome!) and then I waited for my youngest son to get home from school so I could get this picture. What an absolute blast I have had this season and am so proud of my "Tri-Fecta" Triple Crown: doe -archery, gobbler-shotgun and buck-rifle.

In reflecting on my season, I know that I owe all of this to one person, my hunting buddy; kind of like the hunter behind the huntress. Two years ago I showed up at his camp in my street camo and carrying a borrowed rifle. The only thing I knew about hunting was what I learned at the safety class and a week's worth of the Outdoor Channel. When I shot and missed a stampeding herd of whitetails and he asked what I aimed at and I gave him that deer-in-headlights look, he took me to the shooting table and taught me how to shoot a rifle. Then he put me in a spot and drove some deer my way. I had one in my sights and fired and nothing happened. I pulled the gun down and looked at it like it failed me. The deer gave me the middle finger whitetail style and then I realized I had the safety on. When he met up with me and asked if I saw anything, he didn't get mad when I told him about the safety being on. He just said "geez, we thought we were having fun before at camp and then you came." I took it as a compliment; my Dad wasn't so sure.

He then took me on countless hikes, showing me deer sign, trails, etc. When I missed 16 turkeys at 14 yards, we went to the shooting table with my shotgun. When I almost lost my left breast from shooting a borrowed bow that was way too big for me, he told me to wait for mine and then gave me archery lessons off my deck. Because he doesn't live nearby, his inbox was full of emails from me with questions: should I do this, should I buy this, etc. Even though I know I was a PIA he never let on that I was. He has 40 years of hunting experience and I needed to learn it. I listened, practiced and took his advice. We discussed where I should hunt for each and everyone of my harvests this year! So my utmost gratitude goes to my Hunting Buddy, this one's for you! I hope we are still doing this for the next 50 some years! -P.S.