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1 Cor. 16:9


May 15, 2021

Florida's Last Doe

By: Mike White

May 25, 2021

I lost one of my best friends 5 years ago. He was one of my partners.  His name was Collin "Florida" Hawkins.  He got the nickname "Florida" from his buddies at school after moving back home to Texas from Florida.  I am pretty sure it was a combination of his coming from Florida, his sun bleached hair and his laidback personality that got him the nickname.

Collin and his little brother Cameron came into my life when they were both very young and I began dating their mother. After several years of dating, I married their mom and they became my "stepsons". I put quotation marks around stepsons because long before they legally became my stepsons, I already thought of them as my sons.  I still do.

Collins real father is an aerospace engineer who designs boats. Collin inherited his dads intellect, curious mind and pragmatic thought process.  Collin would have made a great engineer.  He applied his inherited mental traits in almost every aspect of his life while growing up. I remember one day we were fishing on a large pond at our deer lease in northeast Texas.  Normally this pond produced high numbers of what I call "Buck Bass" but on this day the bite was worst than just slow.  This frustrated Collin.  I could see the wheels turning in his head and ask him what he was thinking. He replied that based on the water temperature and clarity we were throwing the perfect baits and should be catching fish.  He then said, "it's just not logical that were not loading the boat".  I almost fell in the water laughing when I told him, "well Dr. Spock, fish are not often very logical".

Collin applied his smarts to hunting as well.  I can't tell you how many times I came home to find him on the porch, pellet gun in hand and a coke can tied to a limb of a tree. I always ask the same redundant question, "what ya doing boy?" and he always replied, "working on my breathing and trigger pulling".  Few men and fewer 10 year old's practice shooting as hard and as methodically as that boy. His practice paid off too.  At 12 years old, he was a better shot than most grown men I know.

I have always believed that a man has to earn the right to privileges. No one simply gets to enjoy the spoils without experiencing the toils. This applied to hunting as well. Back in the day, I had a job that afforded me access to hunt some of the premiere ranches in Texas, ranches that had some monster deer.  I took the boys with me as often as I could. It would have been easy to let the boys pick out and shoot a big 8-point for their first deer but I felt that that would deprive them the pride in working for a buck and it would ultimately hinder their hunting ability by not having spent time watching and learning deer. I wasn't very popular when I told them they had to shoot 6 does before they could shoot their first buck.

Collin already had his first doe down when I told him of my rule. I expected his response of, "that's not fair!".  He would later come to understand my reasoning.

By mid-season the next year Collin only need to harvest one more doe and he would be on go for his first buck hunt.  He was more than ready after spending so much time in the stand watching some nice bucks and not being able to take a shot.

Collin pulled the trigger on his last doe just before sunset.  We were sitting in a box blind on the Broseco Ranch. A beautiful 10,000 acre ranch sitting on the Sulphur River in northeast Texas.  There was no feeder to attract the deer, only a draw in the land that funneled deer into a field where they fed. We had been watching a group of 5 doe chewing on grass.  They had come out in the pasture at about 400 yards an hour or so earlier and had been moving slowly in our direction. When I say slow, I mean watching paint dry slow.

We were running out of sunlight when I ranged the deer at 300 yards. I told Collin, "I think you can make the shot".  He replied a little cockily, "I know I can". He steadied the gun, clicked off the safety, exhaled and pulled the trigger. I watched as the doe jumped straight up, what seemed like 10 feet into the air, and then fell to the ground.  She never twitched after she hit the dirt.

We hooted, hollered and high-fived as we celebrated his shot.  I pulled my rangefinder back out and put it on the doe, 297 yards. What an amazing shot for a 10 year old boy. To say I was proud of him is an understatement.

Collins shot wasn't an accident or a fluke.  He wasn't born a natural sharp shooter, no one is born with these skills.  He had put in the time and work to make just such a shot. Collin had sat on the back porch for untold hours and shot a pellet gun at an aluminum cans. swinging in the breeze and took every opportunity to shoot his deer rifles.  He read magazine articles and watched YouTube videos on shooting. The boy was a student in the fine art of Riflery.

No, his 297 yard shot was no accident, it was simply the results of the investment he had made in himself.

It has been a lot of years since that hunt but I can still play it in my head like it was yesterday. Sometimes, I feel  like I can smell the grass in the field, feel the breeze on my face and hear Collin excitedly say "Bubba look!!".

Man...I miss that boy.

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