Courtesy Benjamin Flores
Becoming a Deer Hunter
Texas youth hunt participants learn to carry on the legacy.
I was excited and nervous when my mom told me about the deer hunt. Excited for the experience and the joy of the outdoors because I love doing stuff outside, but also nervous about what to do on a hunting trip. This stuff is new to me.
I took hunter education certification training and went to the shooting range to learn how to shoot a rifle. I took lots of shots to get comfortable. I wanted to be good at shooting a rifle. I did pretty well for my first time. Now, I was starting to feel like a hunter, more confident.
Finally, the weekend came. As we drove to Stonewall, my mom and I talked about where to shoot the deer and safety procedures; my mom is ex-military. When I first saw the campfire, I became mesmerized and it calmed my nerves. The other kids were very cool and encouraging and welcoming. I felt at home. I wasn’t the only first-time hunter.
At 5 a.m., my huntmaster, David Baxter, a school administrator from Houston, woke us up by blowing a horn and singing a song (Pass It On).
“Benjamin, are you up?” he yelled.
“Yes, I am. I’m ready!”
I hoped I was.
After breakfast, we got ready to go. In the blind, Mr. Baxter and I practiced how to search for the deer with the binoculars and how to get the proper sight picture in the scope.
I wanted to take a practice shot, but he said he saw me shoot the day before and I didn’t need it. He told me I was ready. I believed him!
Mr. Baxter kept whispering to me about how lucky I was, how smart I was to be able to hunt, how quiet I was being and how to make a good harvest. I was afraid I wasn’t going to see anything, but after about an hour of daylight, here they came!
Mr. Baxter and I looked to see which deer was best to shoot.
“OK, that’s the one!”
I looked in my scope and focused on the vital zone.
“When you’re ready, shoot, but only if you want to,” he whispered.
I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger.
“Yeah, man, she’s down!” Mr. Baxter yelled.
I watched the downed deer through my scope. I was excited and a little sad for the deer. My mom had this big smile on her face. I think she did cry, just a little, but I could tell she was happy for me.
Once we were able to go out and tag my deer, I said a little prayer for her and thanked her for feeding me.
Back at camp, we started dressing her. I was a little hesitant, but Mr. Baxter taught me that my hunt is not done until my harvest is processed.
I’m usually very shy and like to be by myself, but, on this hunt, I felt at home. I felt safe and comfortable enough to explore and talk to people and ask questions and just be myself.
I am truly grateful to Mr. Baxter and TPWD and the Texas Youth Hunting Program for teaching me good values and showing me the proper way to hunt.
My next hunt, a turkey hunt, was canceled because of the virus. But as soon as I can, I’m going back.
Benjamin participated in theannual Super Hunt, held for 60-plus youth at Cave Creek Schoolhouse near Stonewall/Fredericksburg.
Earl Nottingham | TPWD
A GUIDE TO WHITE-TAILED DEER
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