As two does crossed the cut cornfield well within range, the hunter watched, but decided not to take the shot. Experience and intuition indicated that those deer soon could have company.
Passing up an ideal opportunity to put venison in the freezer wasn’t a reckless gamble, because this hunter had made the determination days earlier that a buck would be the target this season.
That significantly limited the options, and made for a much more challenging hunt.
About 30 minutes passed and again, the does were on the move. They bounced through the woods and angled across the open field a second time. The hunter patiently maintained position and let the scene play out, with nature as the director.
The return of the does, and the pace of their flight, told the hunter that a buck was likely forcing their somewhat frantic actions. The hunter was ready when the stout 10-pointer finally made his appearance.
He charged into the cornfield, but did not stop until he was a football field and a half away. That presented a very difficult shot at what, for most hunters, would be a prohibitive distance.
But this hunter raised the Harrington & Richardson Ultra Slugger Single Shot 20 gauge shotgun, locked on the target, and without so much as a twitch, gently pressured the trigger. The big buck ran about 40 yards and dropped. The field inspection showed a perfectly placed shot.
The hunter in this textbook case was not some 30-year veteran of the woods. It wasn’t Ted Nugent or someone with a couple lines in the Boone & Crockett Club record book, that journal of wild game trophies.
The hunter will be in class at Anthony Wayne High School Monday morning, after chores have been completed and her two horses cared for. Katelyn Spalding is a 17-year-old junior at AW whose classmates are no longer shocked by her hunting exploits.
“When I showed them the picture of my latest buck, they said it was cool, but I didn’t get the eyes-popping-out reaction you might expect,” she said.
Maybe they are just used to it by now, since this is the fourth buck for the young hunter from Whitehouse, who last year took an 11-pointer with a bow.
“I think most people at school who know me also know that I love to hunt, and the teachers, the principal — everybody is really supportive,” she said. “If I miss a day for a hunting trip, I catch up and make sure all of my work is done.”
Katelyn took her 10-pointer during the state’s special two-day youth hunt in mid-November. This was the 10th year for Ohio’s youth gun season, one of four youth-only hunting periods set up to provide hunters age 17 and under with both a safe and productive early hunting experience. There are also youth hunts for upland game, wild turkey, and waterfowl.
“Offering special youth hunting seasons encourages families to spend time together outdoors,” said ODNR director James Zehringer.
The format for the special hunts allows the young hunter to be accompanied and assisted by a nonhunting adult. In Katelyn’s case, her coach and companion on these youth hunts has been her father, David.
“Ever since we were little, my dad has had my sister and I out in the woods, showing us the different plants and trees and really letting us learn all about the outdoors,” she said. “We’ve had a good teacher and a good guide as we were growing up.”
David Spalding and his wife, Kathy, have reared two daughters in a strong outdoors tradition. Katelyn’s sister, Jessica, now 22, shot her first deer when she was 10. Jessica has a 600-pound black bear taken with a muzzleloader in Quebec to her credit.
Katelyn started hunting at age 9, and her first deer came when she was 11. She took a button buck on a solo archery hunt in Wood County.
“She has come a long ways in just a few years, and a lot of it seems to be that she just has really good hunting instincts,” David Spalding said. “Katelyn typically sees and hears deer before I do. A lot of people seem amazed that this young girl is able to do all of this, but she’s been farm-taught and been around big animals all of her life. She’s also strong-willed and determined to do everything just right.”
Spalding said he grew up in South Toledo, on the edge of the city limits, and spent a lot of time hunting and trapping as a youth. His parents were both hunters, so it seemed natural to pass those skills on to his two daughters.
“When I was a kid, our approach was that whenever we could make use of something Mother Nature had provided, we did,” he said.
“I thought it was important to pass these things along to my daughters. My kids have camped all across the U.S. and have learned to respect the outdoors and have a deep appreciation for everything it has to offer.”
Spalding, who estimated the weight of Katelyn’s most-recent buck at about 200 pounds, with an 18-20-inch spread on its antlers, said he and his daughters have spent most of their time in the woods hunting side by side.
“I come from a long line of hunters, and we like to hunt as a family,” he said.
Katelyn said she considers the outdoors a sanctuary that offers a welcomed break from the noise and fast pace of our society.
“I do a lot of thinking when I’m out there,” she said. “The time I get to spend outdoors means so much. I think it cleanses the soul.”
“I am really proud of both of my daughters,” David Spalding said, “because they have learned the value of the woods, the wildlife and everything in the outdoors. They know that even when you don’t bring something home, it’s still a great day.”
The elder Spalding is in the process of putting together a five-tag hunt for Katelyn for the fall of 2013, which will involve packing deep into the mountains of British Columbia on horseback. She will have the opportunity to hunt moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear and wolf, all on the same trip.
“That’s really overwhelming to even think about,” Katelyn said, “and I’m so grateful to my dad for giving me that opportunity.”
One could make the case that David Spalding is the big winner in this famly hunting saga, as it continues to play out in the woods of northwest Ohio, or the distant wilderness of the Canadian Rockies.
“The time we’ve spent together outdoors, my dad and I, has been great. He’s done so much to show my sister and I the way,” Katelyn said. “My dad and I have grown a lot closer and really bonded. He’s been a great teacher, and he’s also my best friend.”
What hunting dad wouldn’t give up a thousand trophy bucks to hear those words?
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.