Bucky Hauser from Claudville, Virginia, is a longtime deer hunter who primarily bowhunts.
On November 28, 2014, 2 days before Tillee’s, my youngest daughter’s 8th birthday, she and I went deer hunting to try and take Tillee’s first deer. We have 100 acres right behind my house, and that’s where Tillee and I planned to hunt.
In Virginia, to hunt deer, the rifle has to be .24 caliber or larger. Tillee previously had shot .22 and .22-250 rifles, but to get the rifle that I wanted Tillee to shoot and to have, I built a 6.5 Grendel on an AR platform. I don’t really build rifles. I more or less tinker with them, but this gun was going to be special. I wanted Tillee to have a gun that her daddy built for her. I have a cerakoting business – a process of covering a rifle with a ceramic type coating. I put a splash of pink on that coating to make the rifle special for Tillee. As a manufacturer’s representative for Leupold (https://www.leupold.com). I purchased a Leupold VX6 riflescope, and I had Tillee’s name engraved on the scope.
I decided on the 6.5 caliber, because it uses a round good for deer hunting – for velocity and retaining energy. Most importantly, it has very-low recoil. The gun delivers plenty of knockdown power to take a whitetail deer out to about 300-yards plus. While the gun was still in a vice, we adjusted the eye relief. So, when Tillee shouldered the rifle and put her cheek on the stock, she had a full field of view, and I sighted the rifle in for her. We zeroed the rifle at 300 yards, and it was dead zero at 50 yards. At 100 yards, the bullet only would be 1/2-inch high.
The farm we live on has been in my wife’s family forever. We leave the corn standing in the field, and I’ve put out several game cameras to learn of some of the bucks to put on our hit list. I know we have a big 10-pointer on the property, and a 6-pointer that has been a 6-pointer for the last several years. Both of these deer are on our hit list. My older daughter, Taylor, took a buck off the property that scored in the upper 130s. But for Tillee, in my opinion, any deer would be a trophy for her first rifle hunt buck
Tillee and I went to what we call the Graveyard Stand – a high hill on our property that contains a family cemetery. We went up the backside of the hill, lay down in the prone position and could see the entire cornfield. We were about 30 yards above the field, and the fartherest point from the graveyard to the end of the field was 425 yards. We’d sat for a little while when Tillee looked up and said, “Daddy, I’m tired.” So I said, “Go ahead, and go to sleep. If I see a deer, I’ll wake you up.” When I saw deer starting to come out into the field, I nudged Tillee and told her, “Tillee, there’s deer coming out in the field.” We have specific doe days when hunters can take does, and this hunt took place on one of those doe days. One of the deer that stepped out in the field was a doe. When I checked the distance with my range finder, I saw the deer was at 300 yards.
Tillee is right handed, but she’s left-eye dominant. So, she continually wanted to move her head over to look through the scope with her left eye, though the rifle was on her right shoulder. I pulled her toboggan down over her left eye to make her aim with her right eye. The reason I built this rifle on an AR platform was because it had a six-position, moveable stock. Therefore, I could adjust the stock to fit her perfectly, and I had a bipod on the front of the gun to give her a steady rest. “Daddy, I can’t do this. I can’t shoot that far,” she said. I told her, “Listen, Tillee, we’re just here to go hunting. Whether you take the deer or don’t take the deer is okay. We’re just enjoying hunting together today.” Tillee got back on the rifle, started looking through the scope, looked up and asked, “Will you shoot it for me?” I said, “No, this is your hunt. That’s why we’re here, and that’s the reason I built the rifle for you. It’s time for you to take the shot. Aim right behind the shoulder, and take the shot.”
Tillee’s scope was illuminated, and she was having a problem seeing the deer. I reached up and turned the light off in the scope. Tillee told me, “That’s much better, Dad.” I said, “Okay, Tillee, remember what I told you. Just squeeze the trigger.” I ranged the deer again, and she was at 286 yards. When Tillee squeezed the trigger, I heard the bullet hit the deer. The doe started running after the shot, and Tillee cried out, “I missed her.” I told her, “No, Tillee. You hit that doe, and she’ll be right over there on the ground when we get to it. First we have to find the blood trail. Then, I’ll call your mother and sister to come down here, so they can be with you when you find your deer.”
We went down to the cornfield, turned on the flashlight and discovered the blood trail. Tillee was so excited that you would have thought it was Christmas Day. We went back to the house and brought Tillee’s mom and sister to see Tillee recover her first deer. I don’t know who was more excited – me or Tillee – but then Tillee said something that really surprised me and the folks at Leupold. She announced, “If I hadn’t had that Leupold scope, I don’t believe I could’ve taken this deer.” I told her, “Tillee, you’re a marketing fool.”
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, available in Kindle, print versions and Audible, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” (http://amzn.to/2bYwYOK). You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of this book for free).