Like Hunting Father, Like Daughters

When my two youngest grand-daughters sent me an email attachment announcing they'd each shot a buck (their first) -- and with photographs to prove it - a sudden notion came to mind. Here was a golden opportunity to turn the tables - let the youngsters play the role of storytellers before a captive audience of adults.

Meet Jodi Thomasian (age 12), her sister Piper (9) and their parents, Connie and Craig. The girls were interviewed separately at their home overlooking the Columbia River outside The Dalles, Oregon.

The recollections that follow - as might be expected - speak of innocence and discovery. Plus a fleeting moment of remorse, followed by redemption. So let's pull up a chair and listen to ourselves - as once we were - and as yet untarnished by the passage of time.

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HAVE YOU EVER BEEN QUESTIONED LIKE THIS BEFORE? I MEAN, OTHER THAN IN THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE FOR HAVING SKIPPED SCHOOL TO GO DEER HUNTING?

Piper (wide-eyed): "That's never happened to me..."
Jodi (emphatically): "I've never been to the principal's office !!!"

OK - GOOD -- THAT'S OUT OF THE WAY. NOW....YOUR DAD. HE HAS NO SONS TO TAKE HUNTING. HOW DO YOU THINK HE FEELS ABOUT THAT?

Piper: "I asked him about that once. He said he didn't care if he had either girls or boys. Just so they loved sports - that's all that mattered." Jodi: "He never said anything bad. He said he was glad he had daughters that loved sports as much as a son would."

HOW DID YOUR DAD CONVINCE YOU THAT HUNTING WAS SOMETHING ENJOYABLE - THAT YOU'D BE GOOD AT IT? WAS HE PATIENT WITH YOU?

Piper: "I always asked if I could go hunting with him. So sometimes I went, but I didn't shoot. I wore one of his camouflaged shirts, and my sister's pants. And the sleeves and everything, they hung way down to here (gesturing with her hands). But I looked like a real hunter." Jodi: "We started shooting guns when we were age four - shooting .22s. And when we actually went out hunting with dad, we didn't have guns. Later on, he was very patient with me. Like at first, I couldn't pull the hammer back. So he'd do that for me until I learned how to do it right."

SO EVENTUALLY HE OUTFITTED YOU WITH ALL THE NECESSARY GEAR AND HUNTING CLOTHES. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF LEARNING HOW TO PROPERLY HANDLE A GUN AT THE RIFLE RANGE?

Piper: "Well...probably...because I couldn't make the gun fit on my shoulder. So dad always looked close to see that the gun was up tight against my shoulder." Jodi: "When I got older and started shooting bigger guns, I had to learn the right way to put the gun to my shoulder, because it really hurt if I didn't."

SO THEN OUT YOU WENT IN PURSUIT OF MR. MULEY. WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THEY'RE CALLED MULE DEER?

"I don't know..."
Jodi: "Because....they're boys??? (laughs). I don't know why."

DO YOU RECALL YOUR DAD'S INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT WHAT TO LOOK FOR? DID HE EMPHASIZE WHAT YOUR AIMING POINT SHOULD BE?

Piper: "He was getting my gun out, and loading the bullets for me. While he was doing that, I was thinking of all the gun safety rules. He said to aim for a heart shot first time. And look close to see if the deer limps away.
Jodi: "He told us to keep looking around, and what to watch for. Like - look for ears, because sometimes the horns look like branches. And to look over the entire area real good so you remember what it looks like. And slso to aim behind the shoulder and a little bit down, so you'll hit the heart."

DESCRIBE HOW YOUR BUCK CAME INTO VIEW, AND HIS BEHAVIOR.

Piper: "When we first saw him, he was walking on private property. So my dad did a deer call. And that made the deer come off the property, only he was going further away from us. But then he stopped and started eating grass. So then dad got my gun and handed it to me. He braced his hand under the barrel so I had a gun rest. I looked through the scope and thought - this is my chance. I also thought how mad my sister would be if I got a deer before her. Then I pulled the trigger when the scope was on the heart. But I hit him in the leg."


Jodi
: "We hadn't put our blind up yet, and were walking along a barb wire fence when dad spotted the buck. I had to use my binoculars to find him. He was with three does, and never spotted us. They were eating the grass, maybe 150 yards away. So I used the fence to brace my body against, and a shooting stick to rest the gun barrel on."

THEN YOU TOOK CAREFUL AIM AND FIRED. DID YOU BLINK? MOST SHOOTERS DO, YOU KNOW.

Piper: "No - not really. I saw his left hind leg jump up when the bullet hit it."
Jodi: "I blinked when the gun fired. Then I saw the deer lean forward with his head down and his front legs bent over. So I levered in another bullet, and when he started to turn away at an angle I shot him in the side. The first bullet hit him in the lungs."

WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS AT THE MOMENT? AND WHAT DID YOUR DAD SAY OR DO THAT YOU RECALL?

Piper: "Well...the deer had to be shot again. And then we waited a while before going over there. I think it was about thirty-three yards, or maybe fifty. And I started crying a little because I saw blood, and he was moving a little. And my dad said that every time I eat a hot dog or a hamburger - something dies. And that helped calm me down. So then we both got down on our knees and said a prayer together. My father never went to church but he's the most Christian man I know. He always knows right from wrong."


Jodi
: "I was happy and excited, but I was nervous, too. Dad was calm, and he told me to wait for a while to be sure the buck laid down or he might run off when he saw us coming. And that's what almost happened. The deer stood up when we walked over and he tried to get away, but he was staggering real bad. Then he died."

SO NOW YOU'VE BAGGED YOUR FIRST BUCK. WHO WAS MORE EXCITED --- YOU OR YOUR DAD? HOW MANY HIGH FIVES?

Piper: "My dad said: 'Good job!' And he hugged me."
Jodi: "Afterwards, he said: 'Good job!' "

DID YOU HELP YOUR DAD DRESS OUT THE DEER? MAYBE CARRY THE LIVER BACK TO THE TRUCK? THAT'S IMPORTANT TOO, YOU KNOW.

Piper: "I helped hold the deer up so dad could get at it better. Or I'd go get something from his hunting pack. Mom helped drag the deer to the truck. But somehow the liver got awful dirty dragging the deer, so my dad just left it."
Jodi: "No - but I helped -- like holding the deer's legs apart. And I held the bag open for him to put the deer heart in. So dad dragged the deer and carried our guns all by himself, and I carried the blind and two chairs back to the truck."

DO YOU THINK MAYBE YOUR FATHER EXERCISED HIS BRAGGING RIGHTS WHEN HE WENT TO WORK THE NEXT DAY?

Piper: "He did. He told everyone - my daughter got a three-point buck yesterday."
Jodi: "Dad put my picture with the deer on Facebook and he told all his friends at work. He said how he bragged on me."

DO YOU THINK HE MIGHT BE JUST A LITTLE BIT JEALOUS OF YOU?

Piper: "No - he was proud of us."
Jodi: "I don't think he was jealous, because he's shot so many other deer before. But if I had shot a big elk...then maybe he would be."

WHEN YOUR DAD IS OLD AND FORGETFUL, DO YOU THINK YOU'D BE WILLING TO HELP HIM GET OUT IN THE WOODS AND SETTLED IN HIS DEER STAND? AND MAKE SURE HE DOESN'T FORGET ANYTHING - LIKE AMMO AND TOILET PAPER?

Piper: "He's already asked me to take him hunting when he's old. I told him: 'I promise I will.'
"Jodi: "I hadn't thought of that before, but it's something I'll do when dad gets old like you."

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Written by: Tony Welch

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