photo of a deer killed by Bridger Stephensphoto of a deer killed by Bridger Stephensphoto of a deer killed by Bridger Stephens

Hunter: Bridger Stephens

Points: 9 (5L, 4R)

County: Tift

Season: 2022-2023

Hunt Story

Several days before the hunt, Bridger practiced with his .223 to build confidence and ensure accuracy. He has successfully used this firearm in the past to harvest deer, excitement was in the air prior to youth season. We (father and son) arrived to the stand Saturday evening with hopes of harvesting a doe to fill our freezer. The wind was light and blowing directly from the food plot to the double lean-up stand we were occupying. The first visitors to the food plot were a couple of fawns and a mature doe. Bridger was eager to harvest the doe, but we decided to wait for a closer shot opportunity. The mature doe was familiar with the lean-up stand as she constantly looked at our direction for movement. Being still for a 9-year-old is nearly impossible to do, consequently the doe observed some movement from the stand and ran off, taking her fawns with her. Shortly after the deer left the food plot, a small 6-point emerged. "Daddy, do you want me to shoot that deer?" Bridger said. "No, Bridger let's wait for a mature doe, besides he is young and has many years of growing yet to do." Another young buck (7 pt) appeared on the food plot to dine. Even though both bucks traded hard glances at each other, they fed peacefully. The sun was close to setting when we heard deer running in a thicket to our left. We briefly saw a fawn and what appeared to be a large mature doe. "That doe will be a nice one to harvest" I said. Shortly after, the fawn appeared on the food plot around 50 yards from the stand without the perceived doe. The noise from the thicket continued and at one point I told Bridger I think that is a buck rubbing a tree. As the sun was setting, the noise-making culprit emerged onto the food plot scene at 70 yards. I immediately knew he was a mature buck, dwarfing his younger competitors on the food plot. "Bridger that's a good deer, it's up to you if you want to harvest it." That was when buck fever set in for Bridger as his heartbeat and heavy breathing could be heard for seemingly miles. After a few calm words and coaching him on how to steady his rifle, he pulled the trigger and, to our surprise, the deer dropped where he once stood. The bullet struck the deer behind the shoulder just below the spine. I suggested we wait for at least 10 minutes for the deer to fully expire. Bridger reluctantly agreed and as soon as the 10 longest minutes in the history of the world ended, he ran to the deer. He was happy to say the least and we were very lucky to have such an opportunity. The buck was a warrior, he was blind in his right eye and had a fresh wound in his left ear presumably from fighting. One picture is with his cousins Eland and Dakoda Stephens.
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