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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hunting: It's no longer just a man's game

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gene Black and his grandson, Anthony Dickerson, heading out to their deer stand last fall.
The image of a deer hunter has changed over the years. The orange clad hunters aren't just the grizzled men bent on killing a trophy buck.

Today, the deer hunter might be a grandmother or grandfather, hunting with one of their grandchildren. Women and children are a growing part of the deer hunting community.

One of the grandmothers who'll be in a tree stand with one or two of her grandchildren this season is Cheryl Ahlers, Humansville. This 55-year-old grandmother has taken most of her 14 oldest grandchildren with her on the hunt for turkey and deer. She is expecting her 15th grandchild in November.

Cheryl Ahlers' grandsons, Micah Short and Cody Watkins (standing), after a successful turkey hunt with their grandmother.
Ahlers started hunting more than 20 years ago by hunting rabbits with a .22 rifle. "All we had to hunt with was the rifle and the only ammo we had were hollow point shells, but we have improved a lot since then," she said.

After moving to the country near Humansville, Ahlers said they have seen an increase in deer numbers so she started hunting them with a gun as well as with a bow. She bagged her first deer the second year, a spike buck at 135 yards out.

Ahlers started taking her grandchildren hunting when they reached eight years old. "She said, "They could legally hunt at 6, but I think 8 is a better time because they better understand and rationalize and a little more aware of what death is and it is permanent.

"And you are taking its life. I don't want that to be traumatic for them. We watch a lot of Knight and Hale videos. Those guys are real classy, real pros and let you know they are human. They let you see their mistakes, as well as their accomplishments. You get to see the turkey killed on the video and, of course, the kids like to eat the turkey," she said.

Most of her older grandchildren have gone out with her. One granddaughter goes with her, but doesn't want to kill a turkey, even if it is ugly. However, she loves to target shoot.

Cheryl field dresses and butchers her deer. Her husband, Gene, doesn't hunt, but he said "If she kills it, cleans and cooks it, I will eat it."

Hunting is something he doesn't really enjoy. He thinks it is too much work. Farming isn't work, it's a hobby and pastime for him.

Although the youngsters like to hunt deer, they like turkey hunting even more. Ahlers recalled her first hunt with her grandson, Micah, who was 8 years old at the time.

She said, "We went down to the bottoms where, at daylight, I called a nice tom in within 13 yards and he shot over it's head. We got up and found a feather, which we taped to the empty shotgun shell and that was his trophy.

"On the way back along a creek, we found some mushrooms. The next morning we went to another spot where I had built a ground blind. We were walking in and it was still dark except for a little moonlight. Micah stopped in the path and picked something up saying grandma, what is this? It was a five-point deer antler shed, which seemed to be a good omen.

"We set some decoys out and got into the blind and within 20 minutes, turkeys started gobbling all around us. Soon, two big toms flew down from a tree, strutted around a little while and then moved off, but they turned and came back as another big tom flew down and we witnessed a big fight. They were spurring, flogging and jumping 4 to 5 feet in the air. We were mesmerized at the sight and never thought about shooting. We were just enjoying the fight. Micah didn't get a turkey, but he had a great experience."

Like most spring turkey hunters, Ahlers enjoys just seeing nature come alive including small migrating songbirds that come close to her hunting spot. "I have seen some birds up close that I didn't know what they were until I looked in a bird identification book. You never know what you might see while turkey hunting in the spring," she said.

When Ahlers' grandchildren recall the special memories of their hunts with grandma in the years to come, might well rank at the top. They will never forget those days.

Another grandparent that has taken his grandson deer hunting for the past 10 years, all with success, is Gene Black, 58, Goodson, who said, "Taking your grandson deer hunting helps provide lessons for life. I feel sorry for those who have never experienced the disappointments as well as the victories that give both grandson and grandfather vivid memories that last a lifetime."

Black's grandson, Anthony Dickerson, Halfway, now 16, went deer hunting when he was 6 years old and shot his first deer that year, a big doe. In each firearms deer since that first hunt, he has taken a deer each year.

"I was really excited on that first hunt and now that I am 16, I still get just as excited when the deer season opens," he said.

Anthony recalled an unusual sight while hunting from the tree stand. He said, "We were in the stand when a flock of turkeys walked under us and then, all of a sudden, a bald eagle swooped down and flew off with a turkey in it's talons. You never know what you might see from a tree stand while deer hunting."

Although he is also an archer, he has yet to get a deer, but not for the lack of trying. "You can get a deer at a much longer range than with a bow," he said.

This team of deer hunters do most of their hunting in Polk, Dallas or Hickory counties. Black said, "There are a lot of deer in those three counties, so we never have to go very far to get a deer."

Recalling that first hunt with his grandson, Black said, "The thing that got me about Anthony is that we started target shooting really early and I took him over to the stand the first year. We saw the deer at about 200 yards out. We watched the deer for awhile he kept saying he wanted to shoot, but I said, 'No, it's too far away.'

"He had never shot a deer before, but when it was about 150 yards out, he said, 'I can kill it,' but I said, 'No, you can't.' Anthony replied, 'Yes I can.' I told him, 'Well, go ahead and we will see,' and he did. It amazed me and after that, he just got better."

"I am really looking forward to this season and hope to get a big buck. I plan on passing any does that come by our stand," Anthony said. "I got my interest in hunting because of my grandpa, he has had a big influence on me, I don't go hunting without him."

Black said, "I feel very fortunate to have him, it has made hunting more enjoyable to hunt with him. He loves to hunt just as much as I do and he loves wildlife just as much as I do also."

Anthony jumped in and said, "He taught me everything I know about hunting."

Both of these grandparents have set standards in hunting with their grandchildren. They do things fair and square, no trespassing, no road hunting and no quest. Good ethics makes for a much better hunt.

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Ken White
Outdoor Living