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Kembria's Turn (Our Epic Fall Part 3)

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2019 continues to be a pretty fantastic year for our clan. Part 3 of our fall story brings us to my little girl’s (Kembria) unit 33 youth whitetail hunt.

Some of you may recall that last year she shot a beautiful 170+ inch muley buck a couple weeks after turning 10. She then followed that up with a javelina in January. Little by little, my girl is getting better and better and having a blast doing it. I have found taking Kembria out and teaching her to be an entirely different experience than the first go around with Draysen. She loves the hunt and everything that goes along with it, but isn’t picking it up quite a quickly as Draysen. Her deer hunt last year may have been a little too easy, because javelina hunting with her was rough, but I learned some lessons in patience and being a good understanding dad that I hope to never forget. Kembria is a great shot and steady as a rock on the rifle. The challenge is getting her to that point. I think we have finally overcome her difficulties in properly shouldering the rifle and using the correct eye. Her biggest remaining obstacle is target acquisition in the scope. Like a lot of new hunters, finding the target in the scope is challenging for her. We have practiced shooting hundreds of rounds and she is improving, but she is impatient and gets flustered very quickly when things aren’t going her way. In the days leading up to the hunt it dawned on me to set up my Phone Skope “Skoped Vision”. This would allow me to see what she was looking at and give her a little extra help. This helped tremendously, and I highly recommend it if your youngsters are struggling with target acquisition. We were going to hunt an area in 33 that Draysen and I have hunted many times before. It tends to hold a lot of deer, but it is a transitional area where they are traveling at a decent pace, so you have to be fairly quick on the trigger. I knew this might be a challenge for us.

Kembria is a bit of a social butterfly, so when I noticed that the Arizona Mule Deer Organization Region 5 was holding a youth camp in the unit, I decided that this would be a fun opportunity for her to get to meet and hang out with other youth hunters, and add to her overall experience. We headed out around 4:00 PM Thursday evening for the camp. Draysen had a football game that night, but I was anxious to get to camp and set up before dark. So my wife offered to drive him down to meet up with us on the mountain early the following morning. We arrived, set up camp, got Kembria checked in with AMDO and crashed. It was a cold night. We woke up the following morning around 4:30 to 42 degree temperatures. We were hunting on a full moon, so I knew the deer would be headed to their beds early after the sun was up, and wanted to be in position well before it got light. For Draysen and me,  it is normally about a 25-30 minute hike into our area. Kembria’s little legs don’t move quite as quick. To date, this was probably her longest steepest trek. But we made the moonlight hike in about 45-50 minutes and managed to avoid the cactus and rattlesnakes that have been a problem for us in the past. We got into position with just a couple of minutes left before glassable light. Within our first 10 minutes we were watching a number of does sidehill the canyon across from us, and waited for a buck to show. Leading up to the hunt, I had talked with Kembria about deer expectations, knowing the shots she might have to take could be challenging. We both felt good that for her first Coues deer, she would shoot the first buck that gave her a good shot.

About 30 minutes in I glassed up a spike side-hilling in the same direction the does had gone. Unfortunately, I also noticed a couple of other hunters (a dad and his son) on the same hill as the deer. They were working their way to the top of the mountain, were about 500 yards from our buck, and were slowly closing the distance. I knew they were oblivious to the buck. Having hunted this spot many times in that past, I have seen this play out in this very spot before. These other hunters had failed to get in position before it was light. They were headed up the hill in broad daylight on the east facing side of the hill. They obviously could not see the deer below them during their hike to the top. Worst of all, they were minutes away from blowing our buck out of the area. I knew we had had to move quick before our buck bolted, so I threw the rifle up on the tripod and had her jump in the rifle. She did well and found the buck pretty quickly at 350 yards. I adjusted her turret, and flipped the safety. We just needed a few more seconds, then it happened. The buck noticed the oncoming hunters and bolted down into the canyon bottom below and out of our lives. Flustered we watched the hunters blow the does out as well. Eventually they took up a position at the top of the adjacent hill from us skylining themselves. At this point, once they hunkered down to glass and stopped moving, I wasn’t overly concerned about them. They hadn’t done their homework, and they were out of position until much later that afternoon, if at all. As long as they didn’t make a ruckus, they wouldn’t be a problem. I was confident this buck was just the first of what would be multiple opportunities that morning. I made a quick call to my wife and Draysen. They were now about 30 minutes away. I instructed Draysen to head up to a different canyon several hundred yards away once my wife dropped him off and to keep me updated on what he saw.

It wasn’t long (maybe 45 minute) before we had another opportunity. Kembria had decided to take a break from her binoculars and play on her tablet. At her age, I just want her to have fun, so don’t push her to stay in the binos. I had walked about 20 yard up the hill to get a different angle and spotted a buck moving almost straight down the hill across from us at about 300 yards. I rushed back and again got her in the rifle. But as expected the buck was traveling to his bed and dropped too far below us before she could acquire him in the scope. I gave Draysen a call. He had seen a couple of does, but no bucks and wanted to join us, so I told him to hike over and up the backside of the hill. I was also anxious for him to join us to have the second set of eyes watching the deer as I was working with Kembria on the rifle. About 20 minutes later, we found our third buck of the morning. This one was traveling sidehill, but moving VERY fast. As I was watching him Draysen showed up and got him in the binos. Unfortunately, this buck covered about 500 yards in a couple of minutes and despite our best efforts, Kembria couldn’t track him in the scope as fast as he was moving. Eventually, he dropped out of sight and I could tell Kembria was started to get upset. Draysen decided he would walk 100 yards down the ridge to watch a spot where we had killed a buck on a past hunt. I noticed a tear coming down Kembria’s cheek as he walked off and asked her what was the matter? She said, “Daddy, they are moving too fast, I don’t think I am going to be able to shoot one.” I put my arm around her and assured her there would be plenty of opportunities, we just needed the right one. After reassuring her and taking a couple of minutes to have a candy break with her, I got back into my binos. First thing I saw was two bucks walking up hill SLOWLY, directly across from us at 250 yards. Again, I threw the rifle on the tripod, got her in the rifle, and within seconds, could see on my phone screen through the “Skoped Vision” that she was on one of the bucks. I encouraged her to shoot as soon as she was ready, but after a few seconds, no shot. I asked why she wasn’t shooting. She said. “I am waiting for him to turn.” She has been taught to take broadside shots and the buck she was on was facing uphill straight away. But he was giving us the break we needed. He had paused momentarily to eat some fruit off the top of a barrel cactus. I said, don’t wait for him to turn, he may start moving fast and not give us a shot. His whole spine was exposed to us at the steep angle, so I told her to shoot for the middle of his back between the front shoulders. Seconds later “BANG”, followed shortly by the unmistakable thump of a bullet impacting flesh. Her buck flopped and rolled downhill till it stopped rolling at a bush. Draysen came running up as we were hugging and high fiving. We showed him where the buck had rolled. You could just make his head out to the side of the bush. He was still moving, but was clearly not going anywhere.

We were going to have a pretty decent and steep hike down the mountain and up the next to the deer, only to be flowed by the reverse hike back. So we stashed all non-essential gear under a bush to pick up on the return trip and left Draysen to guide us into the deer if needed. As we hiked down we found a nice 3 point shed and eventually made it to the deer. Kembria had blown his spine out, but he was going to need another shot to finish him. She put a round in his chest at close range and it was over. As Draysen made the hike over to us, I tried to find a good spot for pictures, but everything was too steep, so I dragged him down to the bottom where hundreds of pictures where taken. Draysen, eager to learn, asked if he could quarter out and get all the meat off the buck himself. So with a little coaching, big brother broke down Kembria’s deer, I piled all the meat in my pack, and we headed back for the truck, stopping to pick up our gear on the way out.

We had decided to stick around for the rest of that day and the next. Draysen has a unit 33 whitetail tag for the end of December, so we turned the rest of the trip into a scouting trip to expand our knowledge into additional areas of the unit. Poor Kembria wasn’t used to the level of hiking we were doing, so asked us to keep the long steep treks to a minimum. It was her hunt and making sure she had a great time was the top priority, so we never strayed to far from the truck and also managed to make lots of stops at convenience stores for treats. Saturday afternoon we broke camp so we could head home after dinner. Tim from AMDO told us that they were going to be raffling off some prizes for the kids after dinner, so of course Kembria and Draysen wanted to stick around. I am glad we did, both kids scored big time. Draysen took home a pair of Nikon binos and Kembria took home a camp chair, a rifle shoulder harness, and the grand prize, a new rifle! It was a pretty great weekend.

I want to give a big thanks to the Arizona Mule Deer Organization group from region 5. They put on a great camp for the kids! They fed us excellent food, made sure that any kids needing help had mentors, and all the kids took home goodies.

Stay tuned for part 4 of our fall adventure. I head up to 3A3C this weekend for my mule deer hunt!!!

Here is a look at the "Skoped Vision" setup. It was a bit cumbersome, but helped a lot!



Kembria's Coues Hunt Camp Setup



Night 1, getting ready for bed.



Who doesn't need a break from the binos at times.



Post kill shot. Her buck is on the hill in the background, just before we hiked over.



The victory shot!



Kembria's crew.



Big brother processing his sister's deer.



Picture break on the hike out.






Little afternoon nap after getting back to camp. Draysen wouldn't be happy about this picture being posted!!!😂



Bedtime on night 2.



Scouting for new spots. As usual, dad does all the work!🙄



Time to break down camp.



Dessert just before the raffle.



Getting our money's worth out of the grinder this year.



The new raffle rifle.


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That is just awesome.  Congrats to you and Kembria.  You guys are setting the bar pretty high for the rest of us out there.  Good luck this weekend.  I'm sure you won't disappoint us.

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42 minutes ago, CatfishKev said:

Awesome job guys! What kind of rifle and wheres the pic of the shed?


The rifle is a Tikka T3 stainless barrel in 7mm-08 with a Shrewd muzzle brake. It isn't a super aggressive brake, but perfect for that rifle in that caliber. Both Kembria and Kursty love to shoot it. I would compare the recoil to that of a 22lr. She was shooting off of a Triclawps tripod combo. 

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the shed. But it is at home with our collection. 


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