By DAN DURBIN
While many freshman girls were shopping for dresses for their first homecoming, Hannah Hellesen, of Slinger, was making sure her camouflage was scent-free and ready. She was preparing for the youth hunt and hoping that she would get the buck that eluded her the year before, or at the least, hoping for some venison to occupy the freezer.
“Honestly, I had some friends going to homecoming,” she said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I was going to go to the dance or to the youth hunt but elected to hunt.”
Hannah is no stranger to the woods. She had been going since she was barely able to walk, with her dad, Randy, and brother Scott.
Although Hannah has spent a lot of time in the woods with her dad, and in fact hunted last year, she had never pulled the trigger. Like last year, she would be taking advantage of using the mentored hunting program, which allows her to hunt with a mentor despite not having had a formal hunter education course.
“I had hunted the weekend before and had seen 26 deer in one field while I was bowhunting. I decided to set up a ground blind in the area, but down a ways that offered Hannah greater visibility," her dad said.
Things were looking up. The wind hadn’t changed from the week before, although the weather was a bit warmer. All she really needed was one deer out of the 26 the week before to present itself.
“We got up in the morning and was all set up in the blind and ready to go,” she said. “I could see a long ways and was sure that at any minute a deer would pop out.”
Oh, haven’t we all been there before? One week the woods have deer coming out every trail just as your brain had imagined, and the next it was like there was some sort of deer rapture and they all disappeared.
“We didn’t see one,” she said.
The gang headed back to camp, grabbed some grub and a little shut-eye, and got back after it in the afternoon. This time, Randy and Hannah set up in a different ground blind, while Scott hunted solo in a tree in a different part of the farm.
The afternoon hunt started pretty slowly, with a couple hours of dormant activity. The light began to fade. But just then, they noticed movement.
“We could see a small buck start to work its way to us,” Randy said. “We were really beginning to run out of time and I knew he’d have to hurry.”
Hannah had a shot at a buck the year before, but elected not to pull the trigger because the angle was suspect. Would lack of light prevent the shot this year, too? Meanwhile, Scott had a couple small bucks walk right by his stand. While Scott had shot deer before, he’d never shot a buck with his bow. Still, he did not let an arrow sail.
“Scott told me he knew it was Hannah’s day,” Randy said. “He wanted the focus to be on Hannah if she shot one so he let the deer walk.”
Hannah's small buck "was about in range,” she said. “Dad told me to shoot whenever I was comfortable. I had to adjust a bit in the blind and wait for him to offer the best shot.”
She pulled the trigger and asked her dad if she got him. Randy just smiled, and said to look closer – that the buck was down.
“I’ve been so lucky in that I was with both of my kids when they shot the first deer,” he said. “It’s amazing.”