FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The young sharpshooters harvested 70 bucks and 11 does during the weekend of hunting. The heaviest buck harvested weighed 179 pounds and the heaviest doe weighed 107 pounds. Weights were taken from field dressed deer. The harvested buck with the most impressive rack had 14 points.
Hunters are encouraged to harvest deer on post because reducing the installation’s deer population can help maintain the herd’s overall health, prevent disease and reduce conflicts with humans, said Jonathan Mills, wildlife biologist, Fort Campbell Fish and Wildlife, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works.
In the wee hours of Nov. 12, Ava Stagner, 9, harvested her first buck. It weighed in at 140 pounds and had eight points.
“We didn’t go out until about the beginning of sunrise because of the snow and rain,” Ava said. “We didn’t want to get wet because then we would be freezing the rest of the day.”
Ava, who has been hunting for about a year, said she is used to the colder temperatures so she wasn’t bothered by the dreary weather.
“We walked right in and sat up against a tree in the woods,” she said. “As soon as we walked in my dad did some grunt calls and a buck walked in. It was about 5 yards away from us. I shot it once and it dropped.”
Ava used a 20-gauge slug shotgun to harvest her deer. Hunting is one of her favorite things to do, she said.
“I don’t know any other 9-year-old girls who know how to hunt and that makes me feel special. My sister, who is 12, and I hunt with our mom and dad and papa,” Ava said. “I like hunting because I get to spend quality time with my dad and get to look at the deer.”
There were quite a few young hunters out in the field for the first time during the Youth Deer Hunt, including Noah Williams, 9.
Noah also harvested his first buck that morning. It weighed 130 pounds and had eight points.
“When we were hunting, I think there was a doe that was running out first and the buck came running after,” Noah said. “It jumped out of the wood line and it was facing right toward me and I shot it once right through the neck.”
He said it felt good to harvest his first buck with a single shot and plans to have the deer processed and use some of the meat to make snack sticks.
Noah also enjoyed spending time out in the field with his dad, Robert Williams, an Army retiree and range planning specialist, Range Branch, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
Williams said a lot of preparation went into making Noah’s first hunting experience a success.
“We had to do the National Rifle Association hunter education course, which was challenging, but we also learned about how we are supposed to act and be responsible out in the field,” he said. “We also took several trips out to the range to practice and make sure we could make an ethical shot when the opportunity presented itself.”
Williams said he is proud of his son’s accomplishments and he hopes to instill in him a love for the outdoors.
“I’ve been deer hunting for about 30 years myself. I have a lot of good memories and I’ve had a lot of good experiences,” he said. “I want Noah to be able to take advantage of some of the same opportunities I had to be out here in the field and enjoying hunting.”
Brody Ryan, 14, also braved the cold weather to pack home a 157-pound field dressed buck with a 9-point rack.
Brody usually hunts with his father, Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Ryan, 129th Division Support Sustainment Battalion, 101st Division Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). This year however, his father is deployed to Europe. Scott Bauer, a wildlife officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, stepped in to accompany Brody on the hunt.
“It makes me feel proud to see Brody carry on a tradition in the Family,” Ryan said in an email response. “It’s important to pass it on to the younger generation, because they are our replacements in life. It gives them a way to provide food for their Families and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. That in itself is gratifying.”
After spending nearly eight hours out in the field during the hunt, Brody grew tired and started dozing off. Bauer woke him up and suggested they try their luck at a different location.
“As we were standing up and packing all of our stuff up, a buck walked out of the woods and it wasn’t looking at us. It was broadside,” Brody said. “We were standing up with all of our gear on us and Mr. Bauer told me to get down. We got down on our knees and put everything down. He put up his tripod and I had literally less than a minute to get it or else it would have been gone. I aimed down the sights and the second the crosshair lined up with the deer’s shoulder, I pulled the trigger.”
Brody said his dad started taking him hunting when he was about 8 years old. He said it has always been a special way to spend one-on-one time with his father.
“It feels awesome to have something to do together and bond just on our own without anyone else around,” he said. “Hunting is a nice way to get out and enjoy nature. It’s even better if you do get to see a deer and harvest one.”
Mills said he participated in many youth deer hunts as a young hunter and it laid the foundation for the love of the outdoors he has today.
“Getting a chance to pass that along to the next generation makes all the hard work and long days of preparation worth it,” Mills said. “Seeing the look on kids’ faces when they are showing off the first deer they harvested or telling a story from the day’s hunt is priceless.”
Mills said the Fort Campbell Fish and Wildlife team received positive feedback from the hunt’s participants.
“For some, this was their first-time hunting, while for others it was their last Fort Campbell Youth Deer Hunt. The one thing that was clear was that the kids look forward to this event all year,” he said. “For the ones who participated for the last time, they will certainly miss the hunting opportunity, but we hope they will return as adult hunters.”
This is the 21st year Fort Campbell Fish and Wildlife has partnered with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to host this event.
“State wildlife agencies are important when it comes to managing the wildlife in our state,” Mills said. “Partnering with them gives both of our agencies the opportunity to work together to share common goals all while doing great things for the wildlife and sportsmen of Tennessee and Kentucky.”