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  • By Ken Perrotte

If You Think You Made a Good Shot, You Probably Did -- Search Diligently

You never forget your first deer. I remember mine like it was last week instead of decades ago. I’ve been blessed to coach my two oldest grandsons as they took their first deer. I recently got to hear the story of another boy’s first deer, delivered with an interesting mix of zest and professionalism by the hunter, a

10-year-old boy.

My young neighbor, Colton Josselyn, has had the outdoors bug since he was a toddler. Already an accomplished fisherman before kindergarten, he can throw a cast net better than many adults. When it came to hunting, his dad Daniel brought him along slowly. Colton tagged along on a couple trips and then his dad began teaching him how to handle pellet rifles, .22s, and, eventually, shotguns.

Once he started shooting, I began quizzing him on the three most important rules of firearms safety nearly every time I saw him. He could recite them before ever setting foot in his required hunter education course. He zeroed his youth model 20-gauge slug gun in my yard, capably shooting 2-inch groups at 50 yards.

Colton understands proper shooting form and technique. He routinely head-shoots squirrels with his .22 rifle, proudly noting, “I don’t like to waste any meat.” Under his mom Jennifer’s guidance, he cooks the squirrels into tasty family meals.

Caledon State Park in King George, Virginia, hosts an annual youth deer hunt. Colton was one of four lucky hunter education course graduates selected for that hunt.

Colton and Daniel set up in a stand and…oh, heck, I’ll let him tell the story.

“We brought a ground blind and set it up at about 6 in the morning. At about 9:30, I saw two deer, first when they were about 150 yards away; then they started coming toward us. When they were about 50 yards away, I got ready to shoot. Just as I was going to shoot my dad said, ‘Hey, hey, hey, look over there’ and he moved my gun barrel toward the bigger deer,” he said.

Withdrawing a shotgun barrel from a blind window and then moving it to another window is always risky. The deer were close. Any movement would certainly alarm them. Colton said he moved quickly and stealthily. “It was hard. I kind of slid my shotgun between my armrest and bottom of my chair and pulled it back out the window and pushed it though the other window,” he explained. He used the semi-rigid base of the blind’s window as a rest to further ensure a stable shot.


“When I looked out, a tree branch was right in my way. My dad went, ‘Mmmehhpp,’ (imitating a doe bleat) and the deer took two steps forward into the clear. I took a deep breath and slowly let it out, and then slowly squeezed the trigger. Pow!” he said.

The deer ran off with the doe kicking up leaves and hurdling a brush pile while fleeing.

“About 30 minutes later, I saw a deer walking out where we had first seen them. We thought that must’ve been the other deer. We had a celebratory cup of chicken noodle soup, then walked over to where the deer was when I shot. We saw the turned-up leaves, but no blood, no hair. At all. So, we went back to the ground blind,” he said, adding that hunters were advised not to pursue wounded deer until hunt assistants arrived.

Help arrived around noon. Another quick search ensued. The lack of any hard evidence of a hit was making it appear the logical next step was to call it a morning. “Well, at least you got to shoot,” Colton was told, in a seeming effort to let him down easy over his miss. The problem was, he was sure he didn’t miss.

The forest floor had been heavily scratched up by wild turkeys, making tracking difficult. As the party was about to leave, Colton made one more swing around the far perimeter of the turkey scratchings. “Hey, what’s that over there?” he called out.

Of course, it was “his” deer. It had traveled only about another 50 yards from where it stood when it was shot.

And the moral is…”

The moral of the story is obvious. If you think you made a good shot, you probably did. And just because you don’t see a deer fall, it doesn’t mean you missed. We owe it to the game to give it all we can, and then some, after the shot. Colton understands that at age 10.

“I was pretty confident I’d hit it. My gun is a tack driver and it was only 50 yards. I wasn’t going to go, ‘Hey, I missed and I’m not going to go look.’ You don’t do that. You go look, even if you feel you hit it bad,” he said.

Colton seasoned and cooked the backstraps from his doe, using a little balsamic vinegar reduction sauce and some South African chutney on the side.

Maybe a hunter and a wild game chef is in progress here. I’m optimistic he’ll become a fine conservationist someday.

A variation of this article ran in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. To see that online versions, go to

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