Luke is an avid hunter and student at Appleton North High School.
A teen hunter's story
Giving thanks to grandpa and the hunting heritage.
It's the first day of a two-day youth gun deer hunt. We have just arrived at the land where we are going to hunt and I am rushing to get my blaze orange on and get to my stand so I can settle in before the opening...
My hunting chaperone for the day is my grandfather, Pat Hickey. I spray myself with scent blocker, pull on my backpack, throw my .30-30 rifle with iron sights on my shoulder and begin the short walk to my stand.
I am silent as a mouse, moving without a sound on the pine needles covering the forest floor. I look ahead and can make out the silhouette of my tripod stand 15 feet in the air amongst a thin layer of fog. I walk up to the stand and find the rope I will use to lift my gun into the stand.
I am greeted by cold metal on my bare hands as I begin to climb the stand's ladder. When I reach the top of the stand I arrange my backpack on the floor, pull up my gun, load it with seven bullets and take a seat in the swivel chair located in the center of the tripod platform.
My attention is focused on a thick area of small pine trees located to the west. During past hunts, I have had my back to this area and deer have appeared out of the area and then disappeared back into the thickness before I had a shot so this is why I am mainly focused on this area for this hunt. The area around me is covered with large pine trees. Some have been uprooted due to a recent wind storm. Since there are a lot of obstacles to shoot around, I only have a few small shooting lanes.
It is now shooting hours and the sun is rising rapidly, but there is still a darkness in my wooded area. As I sit, I begin to hear the forest come to life. Squirrels, birds and bugs are playing all around me. I search anxiously for any sign of deer. I look to my left over the top of a fallen pine tree and down a walking trail leading to a small field. I see nothing and focus my attention back to the thickness 30 yards to the west.
Twenty minutes after opening I look back down the trail to my left. This time I freeze. Every muscle in my body is tense and I begin to shake. Down the trail 70 yards walking straight at me is a pair of large antlers and underneath them is the silhouette of a large white-tailed deer. I get the chance to see it for about five seconds before it disappears behind the large fallen pine tree blocking the trail. It appeared at my last glimpse that the large buck had turned off the trail and was now walking west.
I estimated that the deer would reappear behind the fallen tree. I cocked the hammer of my rifle with my shaking hand, and waited for a good shot. It seemed like I had been waiting forever and there was still no sign of the buck. I quickly glanced back down the trail on which I first saw the deer. There he was. This time at about 70 yards away again, but walking away from me so that his tail was facing towards me.
I instantly realized two things: one, I had seconds before the buck disappeared around the corner of the trail; two, if I took the shot I would have to be very accurate in order to make a clean kill. I decided right away that I would take the now 75- to 80-yard shot. Resting my rifle on the side rail of the stand, I took my time, lined up the sights, held my breath and fired.
The deer froze, looking as if it was an exhibit in a museum, motionless, not moving a single muscle.
I missed, but quickly pumped the lever action and with a new bullet in the chamber took aim once more. This time I was much more careful. I did everything exactly the way my grandfather had taught me. I held my breath and very slowly squeezed the trigger.
This time I did not miss. By the time I pumped the lever of my rifle, the deer already lay still, not moving an inch from the place he was when I fired.
My heart was racing! I was shaking uncontrollably because I was so excited. My grandfather, who was positioned less than 100 yards from my stand, arrived quickly to the bottom of my stand. As I explained where the deer was, he climbed into my stand and looked through my binoculars at the large animal.
Grandpa seemed to be more excited than me. After congratulating me, we climbed down from the stand and approached the buck. I raised my gun and set my sights on the animal, which was growing larger every step closer we came. We quickly jumped over downed trees and silently approached the buck.
As I was less than a yard from the animal I touched it with the tip of my rifle making sure it was dead. It did not move so I set my rifle down, grabbed the deer by the antlers, and counted the points. It was nine points and had a 20-inch spread measured on the inside!
My grandfather and I quickly field dressed the animal. As we were field dressing it we discovered a broadhead arrow sticking out of the left hind quarter. We could tell the arrow was recently shot. We decided it was a good thing I bagged this deer, because it would eventually die from its injury and was suffering. After we finished dressing out the animal, we were able to back our vehicle right up to the buck and with a struggle, loaded him up, registered him and headed home.
Everything had gone exactly as I hoped for this hunt. It was the perfect hunt and I am very happy I had the chance to go on the youth hunt.
Wisconsin's youth hunt programs are very good opportunities to get out and enjoy some great hunts. I have taken part in the Wisconsin youth turkey, duck and deer hunts and have enjoyed all of these great opportunities.
Not only did I bag trophy animals, but I also grew a love for the outdoors while participating in these hunts. The youth hunt program is a prime opportunity to grow a love for hunting, the outdoors in general, along with an understanding of conservation.
If we can teach our youth about the importance of conservation of the outdoors, we will be able to have great hunting and a beautiful outdoor system for many generations to come. I am a youth. I am aware of the importance of these things, but being a youth I also know that many kids do not know the importance of these issues. Hunters give so much back to the environment through conservation and education programs. We must continue to educate our youth about these issues or hunting and the great outdoors will perish.
Luke Hickey is a 15-year-old sophomore at Appleton North High School. He lives in Appleton and has lived in Wisconsin his entire life. He says he loves to hunt and hunting is what he does whenever he has a free day and it is the season to hunt. His favorite game is waterfowl, but he also enjoys hunting deer, turkey and upland birds. His family hunts and he says that he has been hunting with his dad, grandparents, uncles and other relatives since he was 5 years old. During the off season he enjoys fishing, scouting out new hunting spots and playing baseball.