George Henry started the 2017 Ohio deer season with a specific goal in mind. His goal wasn’t measurable by inches of antler. It wasn’t related to a specific buck or a specific age class of whitetail. His goal wasn’t even about his own hunting success. His goal was simple: continue grooming his daughter to be a whitetail hunter.
The 2016 deer season was the introduction to whitetail hunting for Alexa Henry. The 14-year-old asked her dad why he liked deer hunting. “Dad, how fun can it be just sitting in the woods waiting for a deer?” she asked. George told her it was a lot of fun and encouraged her to embark on a hunt with him. “Alexa, imagine sitting in everything God created and has given us to enjoy,” explained George.
Alexa decided to give it a try and went out whitetail hunting for the first time. They set up on the ground in a spot George knew had good deer movement. Trail cameras told George that the deer moved through this area in the evening and they positioned themselves to intercept. They saw three fawns moving in and out of the brush. While the hunt didn’t end in a harvest, Alexa was hooked. Upon returning from her first hunt, Alexa declared, “Dad, we have to go every weekend until I get a deer.”
George and Alexa continued hunting the 2016 season without a harvest for the young hunter. They did have encounters with deer each time out and George saw the excitement build in Alexa with each experience. She did have a shot at 30 yards but the excitement of the moment got the better of her and her shot was low. “She took a shot at 30 yards but the bolt went right under the deer, she was not deterred though,” said Henry.
Fast forward to the 2017 Ohio deer season. George, knowing how important getting a deer was to Alexa, chose to put his season into making it successful for his daughter. George harvested a respectable eight-point buck early in the year so he could turn his focus to the young huntress. “I took the first decent buck that came in because I knew how important this season was to Alexa,” Henry said.
The new year also meant a new parcel to hunt for the Henry family. This piece of ground is a 30-acre plot of woods just outside of town. It is so close that it can be considered an urban setting. There is good bedding cover on the property and George put his trail cameras to use to pattern deer movement. Understanding how the deer were moving, George put up a ground blind the week prior to the hunt and waited for the deer to acclimate.
The day of the hunt, the two entered the blind early to get ahead of the movement. They were not seeing deer at first and Alexa was on her phone in the ground blind. The year before they sat on the ground behind some brush. This season the enclosed blind afforded Alexa the opportunity to keep focused on her phone when the action was slow. At 3PM, George caught movement behind them and alerted Alexa that they had deer on the way. “The deer caught us both off guard a bit because it came in from an unexpected area and was moving early to the food,” said Henry.
Alexa shouldered her crossbow and took aim as the deer walked into range. Again, a bit of panic set in as the deer was not stopping to offer a good shot. “Dad, it is not stopping,” Alexa whispered. George then gave a mouth bleat and stopped the buck. Alexa settled behind the shoulder and fired. The bolt found its mark hitting both lungs before exiting left to right. The buck kicked, whirled, and ran out of sight.
Alexa and George were filled with excitement in the blind. That excitement was short-lived; soon after the shot, it began to sleet and rain. Knowing the effect on the blood trail, George elected to exit the blind early and look for the bolt. The found the bolt, covered with light pink lung blood, confirming the shot and they had a deer down. After waiting an hour, the duo took up the blood trail. The trail was good for a while, then the blood just stopped. “We waited an hour and when we started there was a lot of blood to follow, then it just stopped,” said Henry. They began to grid search and it was Alexa who spotted the buck first. “Dad, I found my deer,” Alexa exclaimed, “And it is looking right at me!”
The buck was a five-point but the trophy value goes beyond the size of the rack. After recovering the deer, Alexa was quick to tell her dad, “Now I know what I have to beat next year.” With the decline in hunters over the past 6 years, Alexa’s excitement and conviction are a testament to the importance of introducing our youth to hunting.
Alexa has big plans for next season telling her dad, “Next year I want my own bow and you can go to your spot and I will go to mine.” Congratulations, Alexa, on your first deer! Great job, George, on passing on the heritage to our youth. This is a fine example of the selflessness needed to bring more hunters into the lifestyle and continue our tradition for years to come.