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Muzzle Blasts Online
Muzzle Blasts Online Cover
Oct 1999/Nov 1999 Volume 4, Number 5

Hooked on Hunting

A lady competitive shooter makes the leap from harvesting medals to harvesting venison.

"I'm not going to miss out on this again." These words kept going through my head after attending the 3rd Annual Iowa Governor's Deer Hunt, in Centerville, Iowa in December of 1997. I have been a competitive black powder shooter for close to fourteen years now, and have missed only one of the National Shoots in Friendship, Indiana during that time. I compete in round ball bench, slug gun, and offhand matches, and occasionally shoot silhouettes with the ladies, but I had never hunted. I went out to the Iowa hunt as an observer and discovered that observing meant watching everyone else have all the fun!

When I arrived in Iowa I didn't know if I would be allowed to go on the hunt, but the Iowa DNR representatives told me that I could go out with a hunting party as long as I didn't carry a gun or any hunting accessories, and stayed behind a hunter. I was with my husband, Branch, who was one of the registered hunters for the event, so he walked me through the process. Hunters were divided into groups of six or seven, and were placed with area land owners who served as guides. Several groups combined, and were then split up to serve as either drivers or standers. One guide took the standers and placed them in fields, or at the base of a small piece of woods, where the deer were expected to be jumped. The guide would give you the whole picture: where the drivers would be coming from, different areas the deer could pop out, and the location of the other standers. Another guide would take the drivers and place them at the top of a small piece of woods, telling them where to walk, what to expect for terrain, and where the standers would be located.

Let me tell you what I saw. In the first deer drive I was with the drivers. We walked a small piece of woods, coming down a hill, and came across a total of sixteen deer beds in the snow. There was evidence of deer everywhere! We moved a lot of deer in that one area. The standers said a half-dozen does came out with seven or eight big bucks behind them. Shots were fired, but no deer were taken.

Holly with John Probasco, guide and landowner.

Now it was our turn to be standers. Our guide placed us at the bottom of a piece of woods that opened up onto a flat field with drainage ditches running through it, where we waited. Soon a couple of does popped out and loped across the field in front of us. A couple of minutes later another doe came out with a huge buck behind her. He was a big-bodied deer with at least ten points rising and extending over his nose. But once again, no one downed this animal.

Later in the day Branch and I walked another area of fields. We spotted a single deer moving towards us along a hedgerow, from about 600 yards away; it was a small six-pointer. We were in an open area, and knelt down in the snow. We kept still, and he actually came to within thirty feet of us! He stopped and looked at us for fifteen or twenty seconds, and then continued up the hill; what a sight he was!

The overall hunt was an wonderful experience. The hunting terrain was ideal, the guides were outstanding, and there were plenty of deer. I set my sights on participating as a registered hunter for the 4th Annual Iowa Governor's Deer Hunt.

In October of 1998 I took a hunter safety course. There were sixty to seventy people taking the class, including eight other women besides me. I was pleased to see so many women involved. During our breaks the women congregated together. All of them wanted to know what brought us there, and the general response was, "I'm tired of getting left behind!"

In November I went with my husband on his annual Virginia deer hunt. We did not see many deer from early morning and late afternoon tree stands. As in many parts of the country it was much warmer than normal, and the deer were just not moving around much. My last day there we decided to hunt on a couple of islands. (It was quite an experience going over via boat and hunting in hip boots.) We saw a lot of deer there, and things happened fast. I ended up shooting two does, and had good shots so that they either dropped immediately, or went only twenty or thirty yards before going down.

Now that I had my first successful hunt under my belt, I was ready to head to Iowa, hoping to see some big bucks. This Iowa Governor's Deer Hunt, sponsored by Knight rifles, had close to ninety registered hunters, including nine women. There were celebrities from the music industry in attendance, Mark Farner from Grand Fork Railroad, and L.D. "Rick" Wayne, who is the lead guitarist for Randy Travis and Porter Waggoner; outdoor writers Jim Zumbo, Jack Atcheson, Larry Weishuhn, and Brenda Valentine were present, along with sports star Daryle Lamonica, the retired "Mad Bomber" Oakland Raider. Many more people associated with the hunting industry were also present. It was exciting to have a chance to talk with these people, and everyone was really enthused about the hunt.

On one of our early morning drives I was on a hillside in an open field, when five deer - four does and a small buck - ran in front of me to a small piece of woods on my right. I waited a few moments and kept glancing back up the hill, expecting a large buck to follow the does, but nothing appeared. I walked down towards the wooded area where the other deer had disappeared, intending to move them in case one of the other hunters wanted to take a shot. That was when I spotted him: a big buck, with an impressive rack. He was walking slowly along a grass line leading into the woods. I immediately dropped to one knee and raised my rifle. He was looking towards the area where the other deer had disappeared, and he never even saw me. I whistled to him, hoping to make him stop. He never heard me, but turned and started to enter the woods. I was afraid I would miss my chance, so I squeezed the trigger. He dropped right there! I stood up, and immediately started to reload my rifle, trying to keep an eye on the area where he dropped, since I could not see any part of him in the tall grass. (My hand was shaking badly, but I think I got most of the powder down the barrel; I hadn't been nervous until that point.) I started to walk up to the deer when my husband, who had heard me shoot, came over the knoll. We approached the deer, and were so excited when we saw him up close.

I was thrilled! It had all happened so fast: I don't think more than fifteen or twenty seconds had passed from initial sighting to the moment of the shot. I dropped that 180-pound, eleven-point buck (the twelfth point was not long enough to count, I was told) from 140 yards with my .50 caliber Knight MK-85, using a 260-grain lead hollow-point.

That afternoon I heard a lot of "my first buck" stories. It seemed that everyone was reliving their own special moment, and the feelings that accompanied their experience. It was a day of sharing. All my fellow hunters were excited for me, and so supportive. Now I look forward to the time when I can be one of the "seasoned hunters" and go out with some newcomers to share in their fist buck celebration, and have that feeling of my own triumph return. I had truly had the hunt of a lifetime.

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