Although days removed from the crisp Dec. 2 evening, my husband's good friend, Steve Gerlach, tells me the story with the same initial amazement.
This, after all, is the kind of hunting experience that brings tears to any father's eyes.
The Lindsborg-area rancher has four children — specifically four daughters: Makayla, 12; Lindsey, 11; Cassidy, 8 and Laney, 4. All have an interest in the outdoors.
But this story is about Lindsey and her first deer on her first hunt on the first day dad could take one of his daughters to the blind.
His three older girls wanted to go deer hunting this season. He considered drawing straws to see who would go first.
It came down to the two oldest. Older sister Makayla went rifle hunting for the first time last year and shot a doe. She told Lindsey she could go first this time.
Thus, just a few days into the Kansas rifle season, Steve trekked to his McPherson County deer spot with Lindsey beside him. They got into the blind about 2 p.m. and began to watch as a few does and small bucks wandered by.
With it being just the first day, he told her they would wait for a while and see if anything bigger would come into the area.
Then, for a while, nothing came into view. Lindsey wondered aloud that maybe she should have shot one of the smaller deer. However, as the father and daughter watched a raccoon and a possum walk out of the trees, she told her dad, "Even if we don't get a deer today, it's been the greatest day of my life," It was a sentimental moment, Steve said.
Lindsey wasn't going to be skunked on this afternoon. About an hour before dusk, a 130-inch 8-point walked into range. He told her to take a breath and concentrate before pulling the trigger.
"Dad," Lindsey said. "There's a bigger one coming."
Steve, however, couldn't see it from where he was sitting in the blind.
"I asked her how big it was and she said 'Dad, it's as big as your mule deer.'"
"I thought to myself, whatever," he said, noting his mule deer scored 185. "That would be huge. That would be a world-class deer."
Turns out, Lindsey wasn't too far off. Steve, however, kept as quiet as he could until he could finally see what she was talking about. He didn't want Lindsey to get all excited about what would most likely be the buck of her lifetime. Moreover, he said, Lindsey probably didn't comprehend just how big of a deer she was about to shoot — a trophy 8-point buck that unofficially scored 180.
His daughter stayed calmer and more collected than dad.
"I was so excited that I had a hard time finding the zipper," Steve laughed, adding that Lindsey had to point it out to him.
After all, this buck is much bigger than Steve's biggest whitetail, which scored 174. The bow hunter's deer this year was a 154-inch 8 pointer.
Finding big bucks runs in the family. A few years ago, her grandfather took a non-typical buck that scored 220.
"It's one of those deals you really wish you had a video camera," Steve said. "It was a cool father/daughter experience I'll never forget.
Steve's work wasn't done, however. After successfully guiding Lindsey to a deer, two other girls in the family were jumping at the bit to get into the blind. He recently helped Makayla get her first buck, a nine-pointer that scores 140.
And, of course, he's equally as proud.
"It is a great, great experience introducing youth to the outdoors," he said.
Information from: The Hutchinson News