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Hunter’s Recruitment Project

My good friend Gabriella Hoffman, invited me on yet another Georgia experience. This time we headed back to Atlanta and traveled north a couple hours to the most peaceful and comfortable lodging experience at Strange Farms. Our mission was for whitetail. This was my first time actually putting all my energy into hunting. In the past, it's been more fishing and we'll hunt if time permits.

I have been anticipating this trip for weeks. The Hunter's Recruitment Project created a space where new hunters could pair up with a mentor for a weekend of learning.

Gabriella and I quickly made a friend in Tommy who gave us a lift to the farm. He was there as media to help capture the experience. We traveled north from ATL and settled in first as others slowly made their way into camp.

The first night was getting to know one another and planning our agenda for the weekend. We gathered over elk burgers grilled up by Tori and headed to rest up for a weekend of fun. Sydney passed out a gift for the hunters that her husband had crafted. It was beautiful.

The next morning, I warmed up with a cup of Black Rifle and we set out to do some practice shooting. We each took turns shooting a 308 and some practiced the bows they brought.

My mentor, Mike Herne took me under his wing and taught me how to load, hunt and shoot this past weekend. All was good. I hit my targeted area and multiple times and I felt pretty confident in my shot. It was time to layer up and head out for the evening hunt. I was ready to climb in the blind.

It wasn’t rifle season yet, so Mike and and took a crossbow with us. I had never shot a crossbow before. Mike assured me it was similar to a rifle and Megan reminded me just make sure I keep my thumbs down so I don't lose it.

My first whitetail harvest, best compares to tarpon fishing. You set out to hunt a majestic creature just to be humbled repeatedly before finally making it happen. Nothing ever comes easy for me, but that’s what makes the journey so much more satisfying and seeking for more.

Our first hunt Friday night was in a box blind with a crossbow as it was not rifle season yet. I watched as several deer came to the feeder. Fascinating as they come out the woods as the sun starts to set.

I managed to aggravate a doe more than anything, took a first shot at a doe only to later find my arrow with some meat and hair. No blood. I shook it off and got ready for an early morning.

The next morning I climbed into Redneck Blind with Mike. It's basically a Taj Mahal compared to the box we were in the night before. This cozy fiberglass box with windows sat up in a corner on a hill about 120yds from the feeder this time.

Traffic was a lot slower than the evening. Mike spotted three about 200 yards out, but they were suddenly spooked away by a coyote before they could get remotely close enough for me to shoot.

We finally had a doe come out the brush in the distance. I had to ask Mike what it was as it looked like a Jack rabbit f fry on where I sat in the wee light. I waited as she made her way to the feeder and gave me a broadside. My next shot was a 120 yd shot.

This one humbled me a bit. I was pretty confident in my breathing and aim that I just felt a bit defeated when Mike confirmed a clean miss. I later found out that my rifle had not been properly sighted. It was about a foot off according to Jamey, so I felt slightly better and I still had one more chance to harvest my deer.

We took a break during the day and Mike was generous enough to share his land navigation skills with our group, a skill I would love to spend more time learning. It's amazing how much we depend on electronics these days, but it's so valuable to know how to read a map when you love being immersed in the outdoors.

The afternoon came and it was my last chance to make it happen. We had seen so many over the last 24 hrs that I was hopeful to get a nice mama broadside within 40 yards. Instead, I got two babies who hung around until almost sunset. As they filled

their bellies with corn and trotted away, Mike spots in his binoculars three to my right. It was shortly after 6:00 PM Saturday. The sun was dropping over the trees and I knew my chances of harvesting my first whitetail were down to the last minutes.

We were back in the box blind which sits within 50 yards of the feeder. The next three came from behind us. I was losing light and these three did not seem like they were going give me a shot anytime soon. The big doe eventually disappears into the brush and Mike gave me the OK to take the next biggest one down. I aimed for the vitals and made my shot. There is something so tranquil and calming about the way I feel right as I pull the trigger. I felt the same when I went thermal hunting in the Soque in Clarksville , Georgia for hogs. I looked over at Mike ready for the worst and he raises his fist for a bump. “She bucked, you did it” Holy moly I did it. I’m still in shock as I was prepared for him to tell me I had a clean miss again. Also, for some reason I just imagine it dropping dead the second I made the shot, but that would take away the thrill of following a trail of blood. I tend to always prep for the worst. Not this time. We loaded up our gear and climbed out of the blind. I could hear her fall and kick in the brush.

I could not believe I managed to drop one in the dirt on my last hunt with minutes of visibility left. I have to admit, I thought I maybe the only one not going home with a kill. I trailed behind Mike as he pointed out blood drops. Within minutes we had found my doe. Wait, doe? As we each grabbed a leg to take her back to the road, we noticed something off. My doe had testis. I had taken down a button buck. My triumphant heart sank. This hunt was supposed to be for doe. We were not to shoot any bucks, that was the plan. Not that it was illegal, just wasn't the plan. We didn’t even see one the whole weekend, but somehow I managed to find one. Mike assured that it was ok. He wasn't able to spot this one even with binoculars as the nubs blended in. "It's on me, I told you to shoot and it's ok, the meat won't go to waste." He reminded me that it was something be proud of. We had worked hard together for three hunts to make it happen. If there's anything thing about me, wasting is not one. As a fisherman, a harvester and a now land hunter, that is one thing will always be true.

Some may kill for that trophy rack, some to fill a freezer for the season, whatever your reasons are, there is no judgement here. As a novice hunter, I have to say my reasoning to hunt was solely to fill a freezer of organically harvested, free range meat for my family. I never thought I would find joy in sitting in a blind waiting for something to walk by for me to take down, but after this weekend, I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed my first whitetail experience enough to look forward to the next opportunity.

This weekend was about learning, a thought I prepared myself in case I did not tag out. I had brought my camera gear and go pros like any other media trip, but I quickly decide to keep it all at bay and focus on the goal this trip. The only thing that could have made this trip a better experience was to have more time. I hope that I will continue to have more opportunities to hunt and share my experiences so that maybe someone else who never pictured themselves in the sport can also be curious and intrigued enough to learn.

Special thanks to Jamey Shiroh and his family for hosting us, Baker and Jessica along with our sponsors for make this possible.

  • Strange Farms

  • Black Rifle Coffee

  • Eberlestock 

  • Mountain Primal 

  • Yeti 

  • Protekt 

  • Bubbs naturals 

  • Battle Bars

  • Tacticalories. 

  • Leupold 

  • Mossberg 

  • Kill Cliff 

  • Eastmans 


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