Girl’s 8-point buck tops dad, grandfather
SHAWNEELAND — Her father and grandfather are both hunters, which may be why 11-year-old Kaitlyn Bennington is attracted to the sport.
But the Frederick County girl is already ahead of both the senior hunters in her family.
Last year, on Virginia’s fourth Youth Deer Hunting Day, Kaitlyn bagged an eight-point buck that weighed close to 185 pounds.
“It’s the largest ever in our family that I know of,” said her father, Robby Bennington of Shawneeland.
He’s so proud of his daughter’s accomplishment that he had the head mounted for her. It now hangs in her bedroom.
Lee Walker, outreach director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, is also proud of Kaitlyn’s buck.
“My hat’s off to her doing it. In anybody’s book, that is a huge accomplishment.”
According to Walker, 1,977 deer were checked in on Youth Deer Hunting Day last year in Virginia.
“Not everyone got a deer,” he said, so the department estimates that at least double that number of young people, age 15 and younger, went out with a mentor to try the sport.
Youth Deer Hunting Day — which according to Walker began in 2009 — will be held again Saturday.
“It was a recruitment effort for youth, to get new people to try hunting,” Walker said. It also is a mentoring opportunity, since young people need an adult to take them out.
This year, for the first time, the state is opening Youth Deer Hunting Day to “apprentice” hunters. This can be a person of any age who is new to the sport of deer hunting. The apprentice can get a temporary license, good for two years, but must go out with an adult who is a licensed hunter and stay in that person’s company while hunting.
“That person can show them the ropes,” Walker said. “It’s an opportunity to ‘test drive’ the sport before making a big investment in all the stuff you need to hunt.”
Youth and Apprentice Deer Hunting Day is scheduled before the fall hunting season begins, he said, to give young and novice hunters a chance to bag a deer.
Archery season begins statewide Oct. 5, muzzle-loading season Nov. 2 and general firearms Nov. 16. For more information, visit huntfishva.com.
Kaitlyn’s trophy buck isn’t the first deer she has bagged, thanks to Youth Deer Hunting Day.
Two years ago, at a friend’s farm in Mountain Falls, she brought down her first deer at age 9.
It was a smaller “button” buck, a youngster with only a little antler development.
To make that shot, Kaitlyn had to overcome one fear. She and her father perched in a tree stand, about 15 feet above the ground.
“I’m scared of heights,” she admitted.
But once into the tree, “I like sitting out in the woods and looking around. I don’t get bored. I look at something and I imagine it’s something else.”
Her father agreed. “You don’t realize how busy it is in the woods.” Squirrels and owls and raccoons can put on quite a show.
“Daddy always walks me through the steps” of firing her shotgun, Kaitlyn said. Her father is her coach, she said, in shooting her shotgun and in learning to shoot a bow and arrow.
Last year, near Shawneeland, father and daughter went out to the woods. About three hours later, Kaitlyn’s prize buck made an appearance with two other deer.
Bennington said he could see the deer was large but its antlers were hidden behind tree foliage.
Kaitlyn would have taken a shot at the other deer, but her father whispered, “No.”
“I’m glad you told me to wait,” she told her father.
Kaitlyn said her father had to cock the shotgun for her, as she isn’t strong enough to do that herself.
Bennington also extends his arm so Kaitlyn can balance the barrel of her shotgun on it, to keep it steady.
But she waited and followed her checklist.
The big buck ran about 30 yards, Bennington said, after it was shot.
“With something that big, I didn’t know whether her shotgun would bring it down,” he added, but it did.
“After I shot, I was screaming!” Kaitlyn said.
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org