Local Youth Keeping Hunting Traditions Alive

Jarrod E. Stephens

The Ashland Beacon


   For as long as I can recall, I have always had a strange fascination with the outdoors and hunting. Most of my favorite childhood memories revolve around a rabbit or squirrel hunt because my dad made sure that I had every opportunity to follow him and learn how to become a great hunter. Some would likely tell you that I can even be a bit obsessive about hunting at times. I really can’t get enough.

   It seemed only fitting that once my wife and I had children that I would pass the fire on to them and keep the tradition alive. With four sons, three which have actually harvested wildlife, I am quickly learning that teaching someone to hunt is more rewarding than actually hunting itself. Seeing a child getting to harvest their first wildlife and sharing in the experience can’t truly be put into words. 

   Fortune has smiled upon my two oldest sons as both of them have harvested many turkeys, deer, and squirrels. My third son, Gatlin, or G3 as we call him, had been waiting for his time to hunt for quite a while. After a lot of practice and hunts alongside me, in the fall of 2018 Gatlin was finally ready for a hunt of his own and he successfully harvested some squirrels. This past spring Gatlin harvested his first turkey and at nine-years-old he felt that it was time to go after something a little larger. 

   “I wanted to try to see if I could get a deer,” he said. “I wanted some deer jerky and deer meat to eat and feed my family.” 

   Gatlin practiced shooting his 20-gauge shotgun and shot well just prior to the season. The first hunt was going to be his since he had not yet harvested a deer. November 9, 2019, the first day of deer season proved to be one that he wouldn’t forget.

   Here’s the story in Gatlin’s words.

   “When the evening came my daddy and me decided to go hunting. We took a few minutes to decide which deer stand to go to. Once we decided we walked up the hill. At the top of the hill we spooked something and heard some shuffling. It was an 8-point buck. When I moved to see it, it ran away. Then we got up in the deer stand and daddy called for the 8-point buck, but it didn’t come. About five minutes later a 6-point buck came rolling in and walked into the open and was about to go into a holler. Daddy put the gun off safety and told me to shoot when I was ready. Just a few seconds later daddy stopped him with a grunt call, and I shot. He jumped and ran down into the holler.”

   Immediately after shooting Gatlin turned to me and said, “What just happened?! Can you believe that I just got a buck? I just got a buck!” 

   Gatlin continued his story: “After about 20 minutes we went to where the buck was standing when I shot to find the trail. We followed it down into the holler and I spotted the deer. I told my daddy, ‘Look! I found my buck!’” 

   Of course, I had to take a thousand photos to save the moment. After finding the buck, Gatlin couldn’t wait to get it home to show everyone what he’d harvested. We drove to every house on our road and Gatlin retold the story each time. It was an awesome evening. 

   A few weeks have passed since the day of the hunt but Gatlin is still in awe of his success. “I just can’t believe that I got a buck on my first hunt,” Gatlin recalled. Sounds to me like a fire has been lit. 

   Gatlin’s future hunting plans are quite clear. “I want to go hunting more and actually teach my kids to hunt one day.” That makes me smile.  

   In the back window of my truck there is a sticker that reads, “Take your child hunting and you’ll never have to hunt for your child.” I’d never heard that statement as a child, but I can vouch for the fact that the draw of the Creation was certainly enough to keep my parents from having to search for me when I had free time. They knew that I was somewhere on our little farm pursuing some wild game for out table. My hope is that Gatlin and my other sons will continue to carry on the tradition of hunting and just as Gatlin wished, they get the opportunity to pass it on to their kids as well. Keep the tradition alive, boys!

   Congratulations, Gatlin Stephens, on harvesting your 6-point buck.