Traveling Accufit Youth Deer Hunt
With Savage Arms & Powderhook
By sending a single rifle around the country, hunting different animals with different hunters, Savage Arms hopes to answer a question that’s stirred debate in hunting camps and gun clubs for decades: If you could own just one gun, what would it be? Savage Arms and PowderHook will prove that the Traveling AccuFit can really be Fit For All one hunt at a time.
Mentor Brittany Waldman and youth Cantanilla (Nia) participated in the #FitForAll campaign during the Kansas youth deer season. With the help of our friends at The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), we were able take Cantanilla out on her first deer hunt.
Preparing for the hunt
Many youth in our program do not have the opportunity to practice their shooting accuracy. Before our hunt began, Brittany and Nia partnered with FTAC LLC to partake in a rifle training session. “Instruction and education is very important for anyone that is going to get into hunting. From big game to bird hunting, being able to achieve good shot placement is critical to being able to cleanly harvest the game you are pursuing.” said Shannon Selstedt, PIO volunteer and FTAC co-owner. Nia had shot shotguns comfortably in our program, but shooting a rifle was going to be a first for her and it was our responsibility to make sure she felt confident to make the shot when it presented itself. Shannon continued on to say, “Cantanilla was a natural right from the start shooting a fairly tight group with the open sight rifle. Once we made the transition to the scope she placed 5 shots within a quarter size group. She then put 25 rounds in a group about the size of a 50 cent piece. Very impressive for a new shooter to make those kinds of groupings. We use a target in our training that simulates deer at ranges from 50 to 300 yards. She successfully placed one shot in the 50, 100 and 200 yard deer simulations. I had no doubt at all that if presented with the proper shot on her deer she would be to cleanly harvest that animal.”
Planning the hunt
Native Kansas deer hunter, and QDMA member, Tim Donges arranged land access for our young hunter. Mentor Brittany spent time with Tim scouting the land, reviewing blind placements, developing a day of hunt plan, and more importantly discussed the importance of ethical deer hunting. “We use shot placement software, Cyber Deer to demonstrate good and bad shots on deer. We also use videos that explain hunting ethics and fair chase hunting. QDMA as a group provides social support through mentoring that follows a high standard of ethics with regards to the American Sportsman. Without a High Standard of behavior hunting becomes routine, less meaningful, less memorable, and the game taken less appreciated.” said Tim Donges. “The future of hunting truly relies on our youth population. Now, more than ever, there are fewer youth going hunting because they were not brought up hunting and they do not know anyone who does hunt.”
Tim Donges is a land owner and hunter that recognizes the opportunity he has to change that. Getting youth outdoors is something that he looks forward to and knows that it is necessary to do if we want the great sport of hunting to have a future. Donges said, “It takes me back to a time when I was a kid going on my first hunt. The purity of it is unmistakably refreshing, it can be seen in the eyes, the nervousness, and the excitement of the new youthful hunter.”
day of hunt
Naturally, in Kansas, when you plan a hunt, Mother Nature tends to sit back and laugh. That morning, there were clear skies and sunshine, but by the time the noon hour rolled around, there were rain showers that lasted for about 5 hours. This gave Brittany and Nia ample time to review their hunt plan, walk through appropriate shot placement, learn to use a range finder, and build excitement for their evening hunt.
The fundamental point behind the Traveling Accufit is to demonstrate how easy it is to fit the gun to a number of different hunters. The 110 Long Range Hunter in .280 Ackley Improved rifle is designed with the intention that any hunter that picks the rifle up can make it their own customized rifle. While waiting out the rain, it was time to fit Nia to the rifle to ensure she was comfortable shooting and sighting in the gun. The length of pull was adjusted and then the height of the comb. It was the perfect fit for her.
It was a muddy hike to the blind in complete stillness after the storm. Once in the blind, a shooting lane was established. This was determined by checking the yardage of certain markers in the field. If a deer were to cross paths within those markers, a shot could be taken. It began to rain off and on and the girls started to lose some hope that they were going to fill Nia’s tag that evening. A curious fawn found it’s way into the field and spooked quickly out of sight. Later on, a doe, off in the tree line thought about making an appearance, but decided to turn the other way. In the midst of jitters and longing for a deer to appear, Brittany happened to gaze up with her binoculars and there a beautiful buck lifted his head up through the recently harvested corn field. “I started shaking and all I could say was ‘Big buck! Big buck! Get on your gun.’ said mentor Brittany. This buck was on a mission. He moved in from about 75 yards out to about 25 yards dead center of the blind in the matter of 30 seconds. “In between coaching Nia to scope in the buck, take the safety off the gun, and breathe, I encouraged her to take the shot if she had it. She hesitated for a moment and said ‘I think I need to wait’. Naturally, I was bursting inside, but she had never been more right." Brittany continued. Within another 20 seconds that buck turned broadside and Nia squeezed the trigger. BANG! The blind filled with smoke due to the high humidity and rain and that buck shot straight up in the air -- a sign of a clean shot. It was as if time stood still and Nia began to shake as she realized what success she just had on her hunt.
After letting the buck lie for a while, the girls ventured out to find their deer. With the thick crop coverage, and the setting sun, it was difficult finding him and you could hear the concern fill Nia’s voice. Eventually the girls stumbled upon the buck about 40 yards away from where he was shot. What lay in front of them was a healthy, 11-point buck, 150 pound field dressed buck aging around 3.5 years.
A little overwhelmed and running on adrenaline, “Look! My deer!” were some of the first words that Powderhook representative, Ian Burrow heard from Nia after the hunt. Planning and facilitating a youth hunt will take time, hard work, and you will have frustrations, but that is the reason why we should take kids hunting. Our youth, no matter how privileged and educated, can't swing by the store and buy a hunting license, a shotgun, and go hunting on their own accord. Ian commented, “The key to success to working with new, youth hunters is consistent and accessible mentoring. Very few groups or programs are able to succeed at this. There's plenty of one-day, youth hunt opportunities out there. Don't get me wrong, those are great but... those are only the beginning to introducing hunting to the next generation.”
Ian continued, “I think Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors is the exception to the norm here. Look at Brittany and Cantanilla. They've spent time together in multiple environments over the years and, from the outside looking in, I can really see the positive impact this relationship is having on Cantanilla. Not just in terms of hunting, but in youth development. It's incredible! But, unfortunately, this exact scenario is difficult to replicate to scale given the volume of opportunities and commitments today's youth have in conjunction with the legal and safety limitations that hunting innately presents. I truly think that we need more Brittany’s in this world. What I mean by that is that the future of hunting needs mentors, guardians or friends, that are willing to work with youth consistently and over a long period of time.”
Behind THe SCENES
If you know Ian Burrow, then you know he has a boundless passion for hunting and an unbridled devotion for mentoring new hunters. If you don’t know him, then he is just your guy to inspire you into becoming a hunter and owning that heritage. When asked what it was like to be behind the scenes of this hunt, Ian could barely contain his excitement. “This hunt was a lot of fun for me. I tagged along to help the hunters but primarily I was there to help document the story with my camera. I'll admit, I didn't quite know what to expect. I've never left my gun or bow at home before. The thought of hunting, but not being one of the hunters, felt questionable to me. I don't mean that to sound selfish, and maybe it is, but it was definitely an odd feeling for me. That feeling of confusion about not hunting immediately dissipated the moment we stepped foot into the woods. I felt like I had discovered an entirely new dimension of hunting. I was tearing through the woods and the fields, jumping high and low, trying to capture every moment of Brittany and Cantanilla's journey but, at the same time, I couldn't forget where I was. I couldn't let my actions of capturing a certain photo hinder the progress of the hunt itself.”
Ian continued, “And the shot? I mean the shot? It was incredible. Old deer hunters will regale anyone with a lonely ear about the feeling of "buck fever." Well, that really is a thing folks. I just didn't think it was going to be a thing for the guy in the back row with a camera (me) - boy, was I wrong. Picture yourself at the 50 yard line, watching your all-time favorite team at the Super Bowl, they're the underdog of the century, and there's just a few seconds left on the clock. You're not on the field but you're right there. I mean, you can feel the passion and grit. Your blood pressure is up, your fists are clenched, and then it happens. Touchdown. That was Cantanilla’s shot for me. I loved every second of it.”
“Ultimately, this was a maturing moment for me in my own personal journey as a hunter. I realized how much fun and satisfaction I can have by simply being a part of a hunt. Don't worry, I'm not throwing away the key to the gun safe and giving up on being a hunter, but it's fun to realize that there's a whole new aspect to our natural heritage that I've come to really love. So to Brittany and Cantanilla, thank you for teaching me that,” stated Ian.
The hike home
Like in all successful harvests, one of the final steps before leaving the field is field dressing your deer. This was a powerful and educational experience for young huntress, Nia. Through the field dressing, she was able to see that the heart and lungs received her shot. She was able to see what meat would be turned into burger, and what other parts of the deer that would be utilized for food for her family. After the field dressing was done, it was time to pack the deer out of the field. The field filled with chatter from Nia as she began replay and reenact the hunt over and over again. “As a mentor, I challenge you to be selfless with your time outdoors. I challenge you to take your time and give it to someone else. I challenge you to pour into others and watch them become more of who they already are. I promise that you will not only alter a life, but your life will be altered as well.” said mentor Brittany. “You know that you changed a life when you drop a youth off at home after a 17 hour day and she asks ‘when can we go again’…and to me, that is what it is all about.”
what is next
Follow the #FitForAll Traveling Accufit campaign closely and you will soon see a short film of this hunt.
Cantanilla will fill her family’s freezer with an abundance of meat from her hunt. She will also receive a full mount of her deer in time. Special thanks to Richard Tilson at Richard Tilson Taxidermy for making sure she can cherish this hunt for a lifetime.
Log your harvest, observation, and mentor reports on the PowderHook app. Find a mentor and be a mentor using the app!