Editor’s note: Rachael Baker, 12, of LaGrange won an antelope hunt in a contest sponsored by Elkhorn Outfitters with this essay on “What hunting means to me and my family.” Contest entrants were children of military families.
Hunting is family time. Since I have been old enough to walk, I have been in the woods with my mom and dad deer hunting. Although I have been old enough to carry a gun for the last two years, I have yet to actually kill a deer. Every deer hunting season my mom, dad, little brother and myself go out into woods to hunt. This is a very special time for me, because it means family time. Sometimes it is just dad and I or just mom and I and those are the most precious times. When we take my brother, Jake, whom is 8, we have yet to see anything. He likes to talk and move too much!
My name is Rachael Baker. I am going to be 12 on July 1st and will be going into the seventh [grade] this fall. I love to go out and hunt, although I am a little scared of being in the woods. I hope to get a deer this year so I can make my dad proud. I am told he is proud of me no matter what, but it would be sweet to send him a picture of my first deer. I told him I will have to find someone to gut it for me, though, because my mom won’t and neither will I. That is just gross.
My dad, TSgt. Joseph R. Baker, is being deployed in July to Iraq for six months. This is his first deployment overseas to a hot spot. He works in Liquid Fuels Management for the 101st Civil Engineering Squadron and has been in the Maine Air National Guard for almost 19 years. For the last five years dad has been on an MPA tour, stationed right in Bangor. This has helped our family out tremendously. His civilian job is a Juvenile Program Specialist at Mountain View Youth Detention Facility and he has to work weekends, holidays and nights. Being on an MPA tour has allowed dad to be here evenings, weekends and holidays, which has allowed dad and mom to be able to coach our basketball and baseball teams.
This hunting season is going to be very tough for our whole family. We look forward to hunting all year long and even plan a week of our dad’s vacation around our school schedule so we can all hunt together. My mom of course will take me this year, but it is nice to have that time with daddy by myself doing what we love.
Dad has taught me how to handle a rifle, where to stand when someone is loading and unloading, to be aware of my surrounding and most of all where to aim at the deer. My mom and dad both love to hunt and have taken the time to pass this on to Jake and I. We both have learned a lot about hunting and the need to only kill what you can use.
Last year dad bought a tree stand, in hopes that being off the ground I wouldn’t be so jumpy. We were sitting up there when we spotted a couple of does in the field. They were in tall grass and in a hollow. I had a doe permit and only one shot. I took my time and waited for a clear shot. Dark was approaching so time was running out and the deer weren’t coming any closer. I aimed and fired, they jumped and ran into the woods. Dad and I climbed down the ladder and ran to the spot where they had been. Nothing, no blood or hair. We went into the woods and looked around, but we didn’t find anything there either. My first shot and I had missed. Dad was proud anyways, though, because I had shot my gun. The first step in actually getting a deer is shooting at one, he said.