Although there was never any question as to whether my two girls would hunt, my first step was teaching them how to shoot a bow. However, a problem developed when they stepped up from shooting a kid’s bow to a hunting bow.
My home state of Maryland requires a minimum draw weight of 30 pounds. For both girls, the 30-pound draw weight was way too much at nine years old.
Instead of missing out on bowhunting opportunities, I decided to start them out with crossbows. Now, before anyone stops reading this because of the crossbow debate, let me explain what happened. Both girls shot their first deer with a crossbow when they were nine years old. I’m convinced this foundation in harvesting a deer with a crossbow cemented their desire to hunt, rather than get involved in some other activity that took up our limited time together.
Then, something caught me off guard. Although the girls were three years apart in age, at 14, both of them independently asked me the same question, “Daddy, I think I can shoot a real bow. Can we go to Cabela’s and get one?” At this point in their lives, I knew they were going to be diehard, vertical bowhunters just like their dad. Obviously, the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Fast-forward 10 years, and yes, both girls are still hunting. As I now reminisce on their hunting careers, it wasn’t too long ago when the girls and I were on our first deer hunt in a ground blind playing rock, paper, scissors and some handheld computer games. Watching each of my daughters mature as hunters and harvest their first deer is something that will forever be etched in my mind. This special bond we share is something none of us takes for granted. Like many kids, my girls love the outdoors, and spending time hunting with their dad.
Both girls have now taken their fair share of deer, and I’ve sensed their need to move on to something new in advancing their bowhunting careers. The answer was clear — bears and antelope. Since both these hunts can have a high success rate, the girls were super pumped about the opportunity to hunt something besides deer.
My oldest daughter, Hailee, is in college, so we needed a hunt that would fit her schedule. Although there are many wonderful bear camps, we decided on Jeff Downing, owner of True North Outfitters in northern Alberta, Canada. The previous year, Bowhunter TV filmed me taking a 400-pound black bear with them. Could lightning strike twice?
This hunt was conducted out of wall tents, and transportation to the bait sites was by boat. Downing’s camp is located so far north, sunset actually comes at 10:30 p.m. Each day started with us getting up around 9 a.m., eating breakfast, and helping re-bait all the sites.
After two days, Hailee had passed up several small bears. It started to rain on Day Three, and Downing explained to us that this would most likely reduce the number of bear sightings. Sure enough, after two days of rain, his prediction was dead on.
Before we knew it, we were down to the last day of our hunt. A bear Hailee had originally passed on came in from behind her treestand. With the bear only 12 yards away, she drew and anchored. Once the bear stepped over a log at the bait, she watched her Lumenok-equipped arrow bury deep behind the bear’s shoulder. As the bear ran out of sight, uncontrollable shakes took over Hailee’s entire body.
As luck would have it, I happened to be with Downing when he received a text…