My 8-year-old granddaughter Gracie and I have been hunting together for the last three or four years.

The first couple of years we spent several Sunday afternoons riding around in the country hunting for the elusive South Carolina unicorn. We never actually saw one, although we did manage to snatch the horn off one in the back yard in an old-fashioned rope trap.

Two years ago, Gracie decided she was ready to sit in a deer stand with me. She made clear her rules for deer hunting before we ever went. We couldn’t shoot baby deer because that would make the momma deer sad. We couldn’t shoot momma deer because then the baby deer wouldn’t have anyone to take care of them. We couldn’t shoot daddy deer because the baby and the momma deer would miss him. We could, however, shoot granddaddy deer because they were old and grumpy.

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Gracie's first deer

Wes Murphy’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Gracie, is shown with her first deer.

We went several times both seasons and while we saw several deer, none of them met Gracie’s criteria. So we didn’t shoot anything. Once as we were leaving, I said something about we didn’t shoot anything but I had fun anyway. Gracie replied, “We got to spend time together, so that’s what counts.”

I swear I’ve been blessed beyond anything I have ever deserved.

The two of us have been three or four times this season and while we had fun and saw and heard some interesting stuff, we didn’t see a deer, much less get a shot at one. I was worried she might start to get bored, but Gracie seemed to stay enthused about going, asking me every Friday, “Are we going hunting this weekend?”

We decided to hunt on Saturday, Nov 4. On the way to the club, Gracie said, “I think I’m going to shoot a Grandmamma deer today since they don’t have babies or a daddy deer if we see one.”

We made the short walk from the truck to the stand, pulled the empty gun up behind us and got settled in to wait. Thirty minutes later, I heard footsteps coming from behind us. I touched Gracie on the knee to get her attention and pointed in the direction of the crunching leaves.

Sure enough, here came a little buck. Thirty yards away, standing broadside, on the wrong side for Gracie to be able to shoot. It didn’t take long for him to figure out something wasn’t quite right and he trotted on off. Well shoot.

We got settled back down and talked about what we could have done differently. We pretty much decided it was just his lucky day and if he was dumb enough to come back, he wouldn’t be so lucky next time.


Wes Murphy’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Gracie, is shown with her first deer.

Thirty minutes later, just as the shadows were creeping in, I saw a deer easing through the hardwood bottom out in front of us. It was a doe who started feeding directly in front of us about 75 yards away. A minute later a cow horn-buck joined her. Both were completely unaware we were there, feeding and wandering around.

I asked Gracie if she wanted to shoot, which is when we realized I had left her hearing protection in the truck. She said she didn’t want to shoot because of the noise. I told her we could just watch them and if she changed her mind, she was welcome to shoot, but it was up to her.

Twice over the next 10 minutes we would ease the rifle up to the shooting rest and Gracie would change her mind. I guess she was having to build her courage up because she finally said, “I’m ready to do this.” I eased the rifle up to the rest; she made herself good and solid and touched it off.


Gracie, is pictured with the horns from her first deer.

A perfect shot. Right in front of the shoulder and Gracie’s first deer was down. She looked up at me and said, “Papa my heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest.”

Truth be told, so did mine.

Outdoors writer Wes Murphy is a periodic contributor to The Times and Democrat.

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