By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
For Brad Mikels and his children, deer hunting has become an avenue to shared adventure that goes well beyond the quest for a nice buck, though that outcome has a way of happening on its own.
Mikels, originally from Ohio, had hunted a time or two but says he wouldn’t have called himself a hunter before moving to Tupelo a few years ago, where local friends helped interest him in new facets of the outdoors.
“I shot my first deer on Christmas day in 1991,” he said, “and it’s something I’ve been enjoying ever since.”
Today he and his wife Emma Kate have three children: Reed, 13, and twins Caroline and Garrett, 9. One of their favorite traditions involves an annual dad-and-youngsters deer hunting trip, typically to some friends’ land in Texas, where they spend a few days sharing the cooking, cleaning, game handling and other standard chores of hunting camp among themselves in a small ranch house. The close quarters combined with the removal of most technological conveniences and all distractions has made the annual trip a special bonding time for the group. Still, the chance to harvest a deer is a key part of the draw.
All three youngsters enjoy hunting but, even as the only girl, her dad says Caroline more than holds her own.
“She has a very steady shooting hand, both in practice and in the field,” Mikels says. “She and her twin brother have been hunting with me since they were 5. In fact, there’ve been times when all three kids and I have been in a shooting house together, watching deer and just enjoying the time outdoors.”
Late last month, their Thanksgiving-week trip to the Lone Star State had already been a great time for the four before paying off on the third afternoon, when Caroline took a great deer, her first buck, with her dad at her side.
“I try to make sure to spend at least one hunt with each of the kids during the course of the trip every year, and the third afternoon was my turn to hunt with Caroline,” Mikels said. “We dropped her brothers off at their stands and were almost to the one we were going to hunt when we saw the biggest buck we’d ever seen crossing the road.”
The buck bumped off into the mesquite but reappeared an hour later in front of Caroline and her dad at their shooting house, where the young lady promptly dropped him with one shot at 125 yards.
“When I shot, I pulled the trigger really slowly so I wouldn’t pull the scope off of it,” Caroline said.
The heavy-antlered 14-point buck weighed in at 200 pounds, a real stomper for that part of Texas and one that would have made any hunter proud. For a 9-year-old’s first buck, it was a defining experience for what promises to be a lifetime of outdoor memories.
“It’s definitely something I want to keep doing,” she said, noting time in the stand is only part of the experience. “We go ride around and look at the land. We may coyote hunt for a while or hang out in camp. It’s a lot of fun.”