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Persistence Pays Off by Jamie Essner

December 29, 2011 by  
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Here’s a great story submitted by proud Dad, Jamie Essner of Scott City, MO. Read on about his hunt with his 6 year old daughter Jenna as she attempts to bag her first deer. We love to share and celebrate these stories about youngsters because they are the future of our hunting heritage! Congrats to Jenna and Jamie!

Today in the outdoors young boys and girls have the opportunity to participate in youth hunts provided by State DNR’s and Conservation departments.  It gives family and friends the chance to mentor youth on hunting and to help them be safe.  It also lets them show youngsters how to respect the outdoors.

As a father of three children, my oldest daughter (who is 6-years-old) had the opportunity to go deer hunting under youth programs for the first time this year.  Because I’m an avid hunter, this was not her first time in the woods.  Jenna Joy Essner has been on many archery and firearm hunts alongside me since she was 3-years-old.  The day I could take her hunting on her own hunt has been built up for a long time.

In preparation of her first hunt we first practiced with a 22-caliber Rossi with interchangeable barrels.  I made a deer target and began teaching her the kill zone.  Having watched different hunting shows on television it didn’t take long for her to catch on.  Now it was time for the .243 caliber.  Because she is only 6-years-old I made her a recoil pad out of foam for her shoulder.  We loaded the first shell, set the gun on the rest, she bore down on the gun, and then I wrapped my arms around her to help hold the gun.  I asked if she was on the target and she responded, “Yes.”  She slowly fired one shot off and it was on okay shot.  We did this several more times until she was comfortable.

Being from Missouri, we checked with the neighboring state of Kentucky and they offered youth hunting for kids as well.  The first weekend was October 8th and 9th.  I asked Jenna if she would maybe like to go and her eyes lit up and she said, “Yes!  And maybe I can shoot a deer.”  As her father, I told her that if the opportunity was there then maybe she would be able to take a shot at a deer.  We checked with family from the Bluegrass State and they gave us permission to hunt on their property.

We headed on over and set up our blinds on October 7th, the evening before the youth hunt in Kentucky.  Saturday morning came and we were in our blind at 6 a.m.  We were hunting over an uncut bean field in a blind on a set of scaffolding.  As the sun rose, we anxiously awaited but saw nothing.  Two or three hours passed by.  Then around 8:30 a.m. a doe and a yearling popped out to our left.  I got Jenna in my lap as she put the gun in position.  I asked if she saw the doe and she responded, “Yes, I am on her.”  At this point through the beans all that I could see was the deer’s neck at about 90 or more yards away.  So, as her mentor, I did not let her take the shot.  Even though she did not get to shoot, she never complained about it.

As the afternoon hunt approached, we again put on our camo and hunter orange and returned to our blind about 3:00 p.m.  As we hunted and the sun began to set, we saw one doe that ran out and away from us at about 120 yards.  At this time darkness was setting in and Jenna asked if she could sit on my lap.  I told her, “Sure, climb on up here.”  After sitting with me for a couple of minutes, I noticed the shrug of her shoulders.  With tears in her eyes and snubbing she said, “Daddy, I wanted to shoot a deer.”  “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I said.  I told her, “Jenna, it is not always about killing a deer!  Daddy hunted from age 12 until 21 before I got my first deer.”  At this point, I began feeling disappointed in myself, because I wondered-maybe I did not scout enough.  But as an avid hunter I knew her chance would come.  As the day ended and we were driving back to Missouri, I discussed our Sunday plans of going to church and thanking God for our opportunity to go hunting.  She added, “And for Him keeping us safe.”

Sunday, October 9th came and as we discussed we went to church. The weather was beautiful that day.  As we pulled into the driveway, I looked at Jenna and said, “It sure is a nice day. Would you like to stay home and play outside or head back to Kentucky for the afternoon hunt?”  Without missing a beat she said, “Deer hunting!”  So, away we went.

Our afternoon hunt provided much of the same.  In a different blind this time we saw a doe about 150 yards away.  As the evening closed, we packed our blinds and headed back home.  As we were driving home, I asked Jenna if she had fun and she said, “Yes!”  I told her, “Thanks for hunting with me.”  She replied, “Thanks for taking me Daddy!”  Being proud of my daughter, I made a promise to her.  As big of a promise this may have been, I felt confident I could do it.  I told her, “Jenna, I promise you that you will have the opportunity to shoot at a deer this year.”

The first week on November arrived and preparation began again from putting up blinds to practicing her shooting.  Jenna took two shots with the .243 Rossi on Thursday and she shot fairly well.  Since we were busy on Friday, the night before opening youth weekend in Missouri, Jenna did not get to practice anymore.

Morning came on Saturday, November 5th the opening day of youth season and we headed out for our hunt in the Show-Me-State.  As we rode the 4-wheeler down to our neighbor’s field, we noticed high fog.  We hoped it wouldn’t settle in, but as luck would have it, it did.  We were hunting a wheat field beside a thicket and the farthest we could see was about 80-90 yards in the fog.  Being beside a creek we heard something flop in the water and much to our surprise it was a beaver.  Jenna, being the kid that she is, decided to name the beaver Furry.   Later, she changed it to Justin Beaver.  We ended our morning hunt empty-handed once again.

As the afternoon hunt came, we headed back down to the field.  It was a slow evening again.  I began to tell Jenna about our Sunday agenda.  “We’ll go hunting awhile in the morning and then we will go to church.”  She then told me how she was going to pray to Jesus thanking him for keeping us safe, for deer to be able to hunt, for mommy, daddy, Gwen, and Bennett, and for the Cardinals so they have a baseball team.  I stopped her and asked, “Why the Cardinals?”  She said, “Because they won the World Series.” Anyways, at this point I felt she was beginning to understand hunting and the outdoors because I had stressed to her it was not about bagging a deer or just the kill, it was much more.

Sunday morning came and we decided to go with her PawPaw in his hunting hut in the woods behind the cabin.  As the sun rose again, we were left still waiting for the first sight of a Missouri deer.  I was overlooking a food plot and PawPaw was overlooking a swell in the woods.  Jenna was back and forth from both sides.  Around 8 a.m. PawPaw snapped his fingers and pointed in the woods.  We grabbed the gun and got into position.  Once in position we were looking in the woods for the deer.  I caught a small glimpse of the deer and then it walked out of sight.  We stayed in position for awhile, but then realized we were beat again.

By this time some kids would have been tired of hunting.  Just like we talked, we went to church as a family and prayed for safety and our hunting opportunities.  When afternoon approached I asked Jenna if she wanted to stay home and play or go hunting.  Again, with persistence she said, “Go deer hunting!”  We gathered all of our things and headed back out for the afternoon hunt.  I decided we ought to hunt in our neighbor’s field again but in our box blind about 180 yards away from our stand.  We got in our blind and settled in for an evening hunt.

About two hours went by and all of a sudden I caught a glimpse of a deer.  The deer was following the creek line.  Thinking the deer would cross the creek and into the field where we were hunting, I got Jenna into position.  Much to my surprise, the deer stayed on the other side of the creek about 200 yards away.  I was heartbroken because if we had been in our deer stand, Jenna would have had about a 20 yard shot.  Being let down, we sat patiently with only 30 minutes of daylight left in this early youth hunt portion.  I knew that I had a promise to fulfill, and I was beginning to second guess myself.  But, as luck would have it, with 10 minutes of light left, I looked out my left window.  “Jenna, there’s a deer coming!” I whispered.  I got her in my lap and gun in position.  I didn’t have time to scope the deer.  Which to me, Jenna being 6-years-old and being her first opportunity to shoot a deer, it didn’t matter what the deer was.  I asked her if she saw it in the scope and with excitement she said, “Yes, and it is a daddy deer!”  I asked her if she was on it as it was taking some steps.  She said, “Yes, I am on it.”   I then told her, “Okay, I am going to bring him closer,” as I dialed the scope all the way in.  I wrapped my arms around her and cocked the hammer back on the gun.  “Are you still on the deer?” I asked.  “Yes,” she said as the deer was still walking.  I told her, “When you’re ready, I will stop him.”  “I’m ready,” she said.  As I let out a grunt sound, the deer stopped and looked.  I told Jenna, “Shoot when you are behind the front shoulder.”  With the surprise of the shot, the deer turned and ran across the 200-yard-wide field and out of our sight.  With much excitement Jenna exclaimed, “I shot a daddy deer!”  With not knowing if she hit the deer or not, I stopped her and said, “Jenna, I don’t know if you killed the deer or even hit it.”  She then said still with excitement and a little tear in her eye, “Yeah, but I got to shoot at one and it was a daddy deer!”  At 80 yards and light fading, I still did not know if she shot at a buck or a doe, but she claimed she could see through her scope that it was a buck!

So, we gathered our belongings and set out across the field.  We headed over to where we thought the deer was standing and could not find any tracks in the wheat field.  So, I told Jenna to walk on across the field towards the ditch.  As we were walking, I saw some tracks about seven feet apart.  I shined my light down and to my disbelief there was a speck of blood.  Now excitement was beginning to build back up.  We called Jenna’s mother and Jenna told her the news that she hit the deer with her shot.  I then got on the phone and began calling for backup.  We had just a small flashlight so we needed more light to track the deer.  Jenna’s PawPaw, Uncle, and cousins come to the rescue.  When they arrived in the field, the tracking began.  At every track we found a small amount of blood.  We tracked to the ditch and blood from the deer picked up.  We crossed the ditch into the uncut bean field where there was still blood.  We carried on a couple of feet at a time.  Then we shined ahead and there it lay with a perfect double-lung shot.  Jenna ran up to the deer with tears in her eyes and me standing back watching her with tears in mine as well.  Not only did I fulfill my promise for her to shoot at a deer, she bagged a 3 ½-year-old, 8-point buck with a 16 inch spread.  Through tears of joy, she called her mother and told her the great news.  Before we knew it, Jenna’s mother, sister, brother, MawMaw, PawPaw, Uncle, and cousins were all standing in the dark night field overlooking what she called her “Monster Buck.”

My little hunter has learned a lot this deer season and I know that at age six and with the love of the outdoors, her persistence and unwillingness to give up paid off!

Jamie Essner

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One Response to “Persistence Pays Off by Jamie Essner”

  1. Ross says:

    Jenna and Jamie what an awesome hunt. For a six year old girl to have the oppotunity to take a deer like that is awesome.

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