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Son’s First Deer With A Crossbow

Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.

Reader Contributed | February 1, 2020

By John Henry Spann Sr.

The opening day of the archery season was brutally hot. It was in the high 80s in Dahlonega when my 7-year-old son, Henry, and I set out to get his first deer.

He had been practicing with my crossbow since the end of last season and was making consistent shots at 20 yards. All he would need to do is get a deer on the ground in the thick blackberry brambles behind our hunting cabin in Lumpkin County.

As he enjoyed his customary “Cabin Coke Float” the evening before our first hunt, we talked about the plan for the next morning. We’d wake up early, sneak to the blind and cross our fingers. My only concern was that the acorns had dropped all around the cabin, and I hoped that the deer would still show up on our small food plot.

At 5:30 a.m., Henry woke me up to tell me my alarm had been blaring for a while. After a quick breakfast, followed by a shower and getting dressed and geared up, we snuck to the blind.

We were settled in by 6:30 a.m. The squirrels did their best to make us think that there were deer behind every tree, but after more than four hours in the blind, we only had those squirrels and a group of fawns to keep us company. They had almost lost their spots. Henry and I had discussed it in the days leading up to the hunt, and he was not going to take a fawn.

By 11 a.m., we decided to head in for lunch, a nap and a movie. We checked in with mom and Henry’s three younger sisters, all of whom were so supportive and happy for our boys’ hunting weekend but disappointed to hear that we hadn’t seen anything we were interested in shooting yet.

By 4:30 p.m., we were back in the blind, and within an hour, we were visited by the fawns again, fighting, kicking and chasing each other all over the food plot. A gentle rain had moved through, and we hoped that it would get some more deer coming in to munch of the green goodies we had planted.

By 7:30 p.m., Henry had taken a nap in the blind and was beginning to get frustrated with the lack of deer. Even more frustrating were the fawns, whose consistent presence 20 feet in front of us meant that we had to be very still and could hardly even whisper.

A few minutes later, a doe showed up and slowly made her way to within 10 yards of our blind.

Henry got into position, trying not to spook any of the deer. She spent a minute or two facing us, refusing to present a broadside shot. She continued to sniff the air, and it was obvious that she could smell something (probably us). Worried that she was going to spook, Henry was ready to make the shot. With his shooting stick stabilizing the front of the crossbow, Henry was calm, patient and ready when she turned to the side, giving him a solid quartering shot. The seven months of practice and studying shot placement paid off! He let the bolt fly and sent a broadhead between two of her ribs. We both heard a “thwack!” and tried to concentrate as she ran toward the back of the property.

Henry Spann, 7, with his first crossbow deer, a mature doe taken in Lumpkin County.

Then the emotions came flooding in. Henry shared that he was “shaking like crazy,” demonstrating this by wiggling his legs and arms. Fortunately, he was able to control these shakes until after he pulled the trigger. He felt good about the shot, but we decided to give her an hour or so before looking for blood.

At 8:40 p.m., we were in the dark, headlamps on and flashlights in hand, searching. We found some hair where she was first hit and then a nice trail of bright red blood. After a few hundred yards, the trail ran dry. We started to head downhill toward a small creek, hoping that she’d be there. A few minutes later, we saw her, bedded down and alive down a steep slope. We backed out and decided to look again in the morning.

After a fitful night, worrying about the deer and hoping that we would be celebrating in the morning, Henry was so excited and nervous that he couldn’t eat breakfast. We got back on the trail before sunrise, and to our devastation, the deer was gone. She had moved from where she had bedded the night before. My theory is that the bear that knocked over our trash can and pulled out all our garbage might have spooked her.

Frustrated, we continued our search down hill, heading along the path of least resistance to the creek. It was there that we finally found her. The excitement was immense. Years of hunting with me, helping with tracking, practicing with the crossbow and watching countless YouTube videos on hunting tips had paid off!

We started the long walk back to the cabin, eventually getting a friendly stranger to drive us the rest of the way. We packed up and took our prize home. We were looking forward to tenderloins and backstrap for dinner.

I have shot a number of nice bucks in my life, but this adventure is hands down my favorite. We said a prayer on the ride home thanking God for being so good to us. I am so thankful to have been able to share this with Henry, and I hope that it is the first of many, many successful hunting adventures I will get to share with him. God is so good!

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