Brodie Hignight thought he was going to miss the shot when he killed his first deer.
“The gun (a youth .30-30) has a big kick to it,” he said. “My dad saw (the deer) and thought it was something else at first.
“Then he told me, ‘Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet.’
“I put my cross-hairs on his shoulder and I got him — right on the jackpot.”
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The 145-pound doe, said dad Brad Hignight, had its spinal cord severed by the shot. She was dead when she hit the ground on a friend’s hunting lease near the Stone County-George County line.
Hignight and his sons Brodie, 8, and Braxton, 11, have been hunting together for several years. Braxton also killed his first deer when he was 8 years old.
Both Gulfport boys have a certificate to commemorate their first deer, provided by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Just fill out the form on the agency’s website and they send a certificate complete with an uploaded photo.
Hunting in Mississippi
There are 147,570 hunters between 16 and 65 licensed in the state for the 2015-16 hunting season. And although there are no hard numbers on youth hunters, Steve Parham, the hunter education specialist for the state, said 10,060 hunters went through the hunter safety program in 2015 that is required before being licensed.
“A majority of them were hunters coming of age to be licensed,” Parham said.
“One of the things about Mississippi is that we have not seen a decline in the hunting numbers other states have seen,” said Chad Dacus, the director of the state wildlife bureau. “We have stayed pretty constant.”
Dacus also said the number of licensed hunters rose by 9,000 over the previous year.
In 2011, there were 469,466 adults involved in deer hunting in the state, generating an economic impact of $911,458,270, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those figures include all hunters, including those not required to carry a license, including those over 65, have a handicap or hunt on their own land.
Nationwide, 13.7 million people 16 or older went deer hunting, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. And about 2 million nationwide are under the age of 16.
Brodie says he wanted to go hunting because he wanted to bag his first deer. He practices, he says, on a target using a pellet rifle. Hignight said he practices with the boys a lot. He wants to make sure that when they take a shot, the deer doesn’t suffer.
Brodie says he enjoys walking in the woods and riding on his dad’s four-wheeler. He’s seen wild turkeys and rabbits and squirrels while out in the woods.
He’s also 8 years old. He said it’s “boring sitting two or three hours in a deer stand.”
‘It’s like an adrenaline rush’
Braxton, the older brother, said he didn’t really like hunting at first, although he did enjoy getting to shoot his gun. His first deer was a 125-pound doe on Nov. 17, 2013. Even more special than that, Braxton was sitting in his late grandfather Dwight Braxton’s deer stand.
“It’s like an adrenaline rush,” Braxton said. “It feels a lot like baseball. You have to be patient and wait for (the deer) to come to you. And then shooting it is like hitting a home run.
“If I have kids, I’ll probably take them hunting, too.”
Braxton and Brodie have learned how to shoot and clean and deer, how to be quiet. They’ve learned respect for their weapons.
“Don’t ever point a gun at anyone,” Brodie said.
Conservation part of the lesson
But their parents, both hunters, also are trying to instill in them the idea of conservation.
“We eat what we shoot,” says mom Jodé, who remembers going hunting with her dad and says she’s a pretty good shot herself.
“I know I shot squirrels when I was little, but never a deer, so I want to shoot a deer with the boys.”
Hignight said his father, Royce, was a hunter growing up and introduced his son to the sport.
“I also learned conservation and respect and how to be outdoors and how to survive in the woods,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to teach them.”
Jodé Hignight said hunters are important to help keep the herd healthy.
“If the hunters didn’t go out and weed out the deer, there’s going to be disease and overpopulation and starvation,” she said. “Hunting is a win-win.”
“The ultimate goal of what we teach our boys is one shot, one kill and how to make the correct shot so it’s a humane kill.”
Tell us your story
Remember your first deer? Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll compile them for a feature on our Outdoors page. Don’t forget to include a photo!