11-Year-Old Hannah’s First Deer With A Bow

Hunter's Journal January 2011

Reader Contributed | January 16, 2011

By Mike West 

On Oct. 10, 2009 I took Hannah, my then 11-year-old daughter, on her first deer-hunting trip to Clybel WMA. It was a yearly adult/child hunt that in the past had been enjoyed by three of my sons. The boys were older now and above the age limit. It was time to take Hannah.

The weekend was shared with my hunting buddy John Stanley and his two sons, Austin and Andrew. Time was spent scouting, sighting in rifles, good times and laughter around the campfire. Hannah hunted hard for three days without seeing a deer. Then on the last day of the hunt with 15 minutes remaining of the time we had left to share a blind, a beautiful doe appeared on the opposite ridge. Hannah’s practice paid off with a 60-yard shot with a borrowed rifle from John. Hannah had made good and harvested her first deer at the age of 11.

Fast forward to the middle of the school year. I made a promise to Hannah that if she kept her grades up, I’d get her a .243 for next year’s hunt. With that kind of inspiration, Hannah finished the year with high grades. I was a little surprised when Hannah announced she’d rather have a compound bow instead of the rifle.

I found just the right bow, a Diamond Edge youth bow from Bow Tech. A trip to the store a few days later to buy some arrows and a few hours spent adjusting her new bow and Hannah was ready to start Bow Boot Camp. Time is not always our best ally when it comes to playtime. During the next few weeks, Hannah and dear old Dad were limited on the amount of practice but managed to become proficient at 10 yards by the opening of the Georgia bow season.

During Hanna’s first hunt, she had two does and a beautiful little spike buck feed in front of her stand while I whispered directions from a perch above her. Unfortunately for Hannah and fortunately for the deer, the trio never traveled that last 5 yards to step into Hannah’s 10-yard limit. Still, Hannah sat patiently with a pocket full of mini pretzels until it was time to leave.

Hannah was bound and determined to increase her range and practiced until she had extended it to 20 yards. Another Sunday morning came and went without a shot for Hannah. 

A week or so later I decided we should hunt a food plot tucked in the pines with a single crabapple tree 20 yards from the stand. I had never hunted this stand, but it had already produced a deer or two for others, so our hopes were high.

Never having been in the stand on an afternoon hunt, I had no idea the sun would be burning a hole in my face at 5 p.m., but it was. We spent the first hour wiping sweat and praying for a cloud.

Finally at 6 p.m., the sun dipped behind the pines, casting a shadow across the plot and two weary hunters perched in the stand. Sometime around 6:30, Hannah heard a deer behind us. As soon as she whispered the news to me, a young doe walked under our stand and into the plot, headed straight for the apple tree. It happened so quickly that the deer caught us sitting down. As we watched patiently, the doe finally turned away and gave Hannah time to stand, turn and get ready for a shot.

The doe fed back and forth and around the tree before eventually turning broadside at 20 yards. Hannah was ready, but the emotions of the wait, the excitement of the moment and the anticipation of the shot had her knees shaking. The first shot went wild.

To our thrill, the doe had no clue what had made the swishing sound beside her and returned to feeding. A few minutes later, a second arrow was launched with the same results. It was clear to me that my daughter, who was hitting the bulls-eye earlier in the day, had her first case of doe fever, and I needed to calm her down.

The doe still had no clue what was happening and began to feed once more. With her last arrow on the string and me whispering calming instructions, I saw my daughter focus intently as she begin her last draw of the bow. When she released the arrow, it sailed and hit a little far back and high but sufficient enough to drop the doe to the ground below.


I’m a man blessed by a large family with four fine sons and a beautiful daughter. The boys are older now and in-between school, work and the military, hunts together have been sparse. To see my youngest, my daughter, grow to enjoy the outdoors with her dad and to harvest her first deer with a bow, “The Crabapple Doe,” exactly one year from her first deer, has not only been a joy but a memory I will cherish the rest of my days.

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