11-year-old girl bags ‘the 1 all the men wanted’
On Nov. 26, the first day of the 2012 rifle deer season, 11-year-old Lillian Choate and her dad, Joe, awoke at 5:30 a.m. at his Proctor home.
Less than seven hours later, Lillian, a hunter in the mentored youth program, fired her .243 Winchester short mag and bagged a 10-point white-tail deer sporting a 19-inch spread.
The pair traveled up the side of the mountain by all-terrain vehicle, then hunkered down to sit and wait.
“We did not see any deer for the first two hours,” Joe said.
They moved to a different spot in the sunshine, more on the point of the mountain.
At the first spot, Lillian said, they heard noises, so they moved closer and found a good sign – fresh deer droppings.
“We were, like, ‘They have to be up there,’ ” she said. “We sat on this rock we called recliner rock” because it was kind of shaped like a reclining chair.
“We sat there for about 3 1/2 hours on the cliff edge, watching the ground below us,” Joe said.
“This is the good part,” Lillian smiled as she told the story.
She asked her dad if they were going to move again, but Joe wanted to hold out for another half hour.
“We were sitting there for an hour and kept hearing (a deer), but the first time it wasn’t just him. It was three turkeys, too,” she said.
The turkeys came down in front of them, and Joe told Lillian not to scare them off because deer probably were nearby.
“I heard the rubbing on the tree later,” she said. That was followed by what she described as big bangs.
“I was like ‘DAD’, and it started to get louder, and my dad was eating,” she said. “Then a little later my dad started to doze off and I heard this crackle in the woods.”
A buck was moving down the mountain.
“I was dozing off. Then she kind of whispered/yelled my name. I looked to my left and she was coming to attention and had her gun shouldered and had it fully trained,” Joe said.
“It stopped right in front of us and lifted his head,” Lillian said. “My dad said in like two seconds I shot him.”
Joe said that when she moved to aim the gun at the deer, it froze and looked directly at the duo.
“I just whispered, ‘Shoot him now,’ ” Joe said. “It was almost simultaneous. As I said that, she fired.”
No buck fever for Lillian. She said she has a technique that helps calm her nerves.
“The way I calm myself down is to say, “It’s just a deer,’ ” she said.
It clearly works.
The deer ran into a patch of tall rhododendron and Joe and Lillian could hear him moving through it.
“I knew, almost positively, he had gone down making a ton of noise. It just got quiet,” Joe said.
When they began tracking the deer, Joe found a piece of flesh and hair where the deer had been standing when it was shot.
Thirty feet later, there was blood spray, and Joe said he realized Lillian had made a near-perfect heart shot. It was “a nice, clean kill” at about 30 yards, he said.
“I shot the top of his heart off,” she said.
When Joe saw the 10-point’s body down in the bushes, he turned to congratulate his daughter on her first trophy buck.
“We took photos and admired him for a while and enjoyed the moment,” Joe said.
Then the work began to field dress the animal, and Lillian jumped right into help.
The deer weighed about 155 pounds field-dressed.
Luckily, the way home was down hill.
“My dad had to drag him. I couldn’t pull him a centimeter,” Lillian said.
Upon closer examination of the deer, they found it had a unique cluster of antlers.
“We call it ‘Claw.’ He has three points like this,” she said, bunching her fingers together. The “claw” formation was in the middle of the deer’s rack on one side.
Her big buck was captured on trail cameras a few times, and Joe and Lillian, along with their neighbors, knew he was around.
“Low and behold, it was the same one,” Joe said.
It is Lillian’s second deer. The first year she was in the mentored youth program, she was 6 and dropped a four-point while hunting with her dad.
“I got a half rack,” she said, explaining that the deer only had antlers on one side.
“After I shot my first buck, I wanted to hunt because it was fun and I liked tracking things and hiding in the woods,” she said.
“She is such a joy to take out in the woods. She never complains and she clearly has a rooted enjoyment of being out there,” Joe said, adding that she even talks up deer season weeks before it even begins.
Lillian also has harvested two turkeys since she began hunting.
The outdoors is a large part of Joe’s life and has been since he was a kid. He enjoys and lives the lifestyle of outdoorsman and said that it’s good for anyone’s mental or physical health. He wants to pass that all on to his kids.
“Being able to have time to go somewhere quiet and reflect” is a great lure of the outdoors, he said.
Lillian also spent time in the woods. playing with her brother, Triston, 15.
“This trophy buck is just the icing on the cake,” he said.
They plan on getting a shoulder mount of the deer and hanging it up with other trophies on the wall.
When Lillian got back to the house, she couldn’t wait to show off her buck.
She told those around, “This is the one. This is the one all the men wanted, and I got it.”