A chance meeting with a young hunter holding her first-ever mule deer tag inspires a lifelong outdoorsman
Sometimes the success of a hunt is measured in inches of horn or pounds of meat, but I believe it is more often measured by less tangible things like the thrill of early morning panoramic views, the camaraderie of a scouting session, the laughter of friends and family over camp chores, and, sometimes, the brief interactions with other hunters you meet out there. It’s certainly a success if you learn something, and I recently got my lesson from a young girl on her very first mule deer hunt.
I was elk hunting with my friends the morning that Nevada’s muzzleloader mule deer season opened, when a man and his daughter dressed in camo rode up to us in a side-by-side UTV. We had pulled off to the side of the road to allow them to pass when the gentleman stopped to talk to us and asked what we were hunting. We told him I had an elk tag and asked if he was hunting mule deer. “My daughter has the tag,” he responded, and the girl, who I guessed was 14 years old, smiled from ear to ear.
In Nevada, youth tags are allocated by hunt unit and set aside for kids aged 12 to 15. Young tag-holders are allowed to hunt for either a buck or doe during the archery, muzzleloader, or general season in their respective units. This was established about 20 years ago, when Nevada sportsmen and the Nevada Department of Wildlife recognized that recruiting young hunters was the best way to ensure that our sports could continue. In a draw state for all big game tags, there was an excellent opportunity to give kids a better chance of successfully harvesting a muley—and give the state a better chance at hooking a lifelong license buyer.
The girl’s father asked if we had seen many deer, and we shared what intel we could. We’d seen quite a few deer, but the bucks were mostly young forked horns. The girl gushed about wanting to hold out for something bigger and I had to smile back at her infectious enthusiasm. They described where they’d seen a couple of good bull elk that morning, and the man pulled out his phone to show us some pictures of a very nice six-point bull and one that was even bigger. “If I were you,” the girl said excitedly, “I would go there now! Seriously, right now!” We wished each other luck, and my group drove off to follow-up on her advice.
When we did, in fact, see some very nice bulls in that part of the unit, my mind wandered back to the girl with the big smile, and I wished I’d exchanged contact information with her dad, so I could have followed up on her success. What a remarkable kid—polite and kindhearted, willing to spend the day with her dad on public lands far away from social media and friends. If she’s anything like my kids—or me, the first time I went deer hunting with my dad—she’ll be forever changed by the experience of having a tag in her pocket and all the possibility in the world.
Wherever she is, I wish her happy hunting.