My No. 1 Whitetail Deer Story of 2023

With all due respect to those bowhunters who have killed giant bucks this deer season, my No. 1 whitetail story for 2023 is a public land doe.

My No. 1 Whitetail Deer Story of 2023

On Oct. 31, 2023, Beka Garris stalked with shooting distance of a big doe, and her girls Elsie (in the pack) and Isabella were with her every step of the way.

If your Facebook timeline is anything like mine, it’s stacked with pics of giant bucks that have been killed during 2023. Every fall I see FB posts detailing Booners that hit the ground during early muzzleloader seasons, young kids killing named giants with a firearm over a food plot or bait during a special youth season, and diehard bowhunters filling their tag with private land monsters from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and the like.

I congratulate all of these successful hunters. These megas were killed fair and square, and in truth, at times I’m envious. But then I run across a post like the recent one from Beka Garris, and it reminds me of why I love to bowhunt.

On Oct. 31, 2023, Beka posted this on her Facebook page:

As a kid I remember my dad always saying that Halloween is one of the best days of the year to hunt. That has always stuck with me. I shot this big doe with my longbow today, mid morning with my girls in tow . . . and still can't believe how it all played out! Dumb luck.

I hunted some public land this morning, and the first area was pretty quiet. It was beautiful, COLD and frosty and I knew deer would be moving. After hiking for a bit there and seeing nothing, I decided to try another spot. I was sitting in the truck feeding Elsie before we got out to hunt, and looked up to see a doe on the other side of the road. She was on a posted "no hunting" property, and looked like she would cross into the public land. Isabella and I sat and watched her for a while and sure enough . . . she crossed! 

I waited a few minutes and said, "Isabella, let's go shoot that deer!" I tried to be as quiet as possible, but honestly figured we'd mess it up before we even got relatively close. Completely winging it, I got Elsie situated in the pack and Isabella layered up and hands full of snacks. We snuck down a little trail, thankful for wet leaves, and when we got to the field edge, I had Isabella tuck down in some brush. I told her, "Don't move, I'll stay where you can see me." (Really proud of her)

I carefully worked my way up to where I could see the field (maybe another 15 yards?) and sure enough, there was the deer. I don't think she heard us because she was not paying attention, and I had a great side shot. I knew it was perfect when I released the arrow, and the adrenaline was pumping. I turned to check on Isabella and she said, "SHE WENT THAT WAY!"

This was the first time that Isabella's really SEEN it ALL go down, and it was fun to see her reaction and appreciation for the process.

It seemed very surreal with how it all happened so suddenly. From wandering aimlessly around the woods to suddenly getting a golden opportunity. It's early enough in the season that I'll get another tag and see what else I can find. I would love to get an opportunity at a buck, but who knows when that will happen.

Beka Garris’ doe ran about 30 yards after the shot. “She circled back towards the truck,” Beka said, “which was good for me!”
Beka Garris’ doe ran about 30 yards after the shot. “She circled back towards the truck,” Beka said, “which was good for me!”

Who Is Beka Garris?

A wife, mother (two young girls), hunter, writer and foodie, Beka Garris shares her experiences on social media (she has 150k followers on Facebook). I’ve been a fan of her content for at least 5 years. Why? Check out her post below from October 24 about taking your kids with you into the woods:

"Why bring your kids hunting?"

Those of you who have been here awhile have already heard my story. And while I know I don't have to explain my actions, some of you are new here and genuinely curious.

I started taking my eldest daughter along on hunts when she was 6 months old. My husband's work schedule made it very difficult for him to watch her while I hunted, and she was also exclusively breastfed and refused to take bottles. I knew if I REALLY wanted time in the woods, she would be joining me. To be honest, I didn't want to leave her with anyone anyway, so taking her with me was the best choice for us. 

Most of my hunts over the past few seasons she was with me, and I have been successful every year in filling tags. 

Fast forward to the present day and I'm taking my second daughter on hunts. Same scenario, but at this point I love taking them along anyway. There have been a few times this season that Isabella has gone to run errands with my husband etc. and it's just been Elsie and me.

I don't hunt every day. It's a lot of work to get in the woods this way, particularly if I decide to leave our property. But I do get out fairly often, and we've been doing awesome with squirrels this year. No deer yet, but I'm hoping to continue the lucky streak I've had the past 5 years.”

Degree of Difficulty

I’ve been hunting with traditional gear, specifically recurves, off and on for the past 45 years. Today, I also own a couple of compounds with all the accessories, and also a scoped crossbow. I enjoy pursuing deer with all three hunting tools, but the one I love shooting most is my recurve (no sights).

Getting within 15 yards of a whitetail (no box blind or pop-up blind) and drawing my recurve without being spotted is extremely difficult. I’ve killed more than my fair share of deer with all three hunting tools, and in my humble opinion, getting the job done with traditional gear is a monumental accomplishment.

For Beka to experience success on Halloween, with not one young child with her but two, on the ground, on public land . . . well, it’s simply off the charts in terms of degree of difficulty. She claims “dumb luck” in her FB post, and while luck certainly plays a role in any successful hunt, it’s her dedication to her craft and willingness to take on such a challenge that is inspiring to me, and her many other FB followers/fans/friends.

Beka and Elsie honoring traditional bowhunters of the past by wearing their red plaid.
Beka and Elsie honoring traditional bowhunters of the past by wearing their red plaid.

The Story Behind the Red Plaid

As you can see in Beka’s doe pic, she’s wearing red plaid. Members of the traditional bow community recognize October 29 as “Red Plaid Day.” Why?

As Beka noted on her Facebook page:

The Mel Johnson Buck: On Oct. 29, 1965, Mel shot this massive buck with his 72-pound Damon Howatt recurve. He was ground hunting that evening near his hometown in Illinois, and knew that the buck was in the area. Mel had 6 years experience and about that many deer to his credit when con­fronted with his golden opportunity.

“It was just luck. That’s what it amounts to,” said Mel. “I guess the whole thing is being able to hold your compo­sure when you get such an opportunity. That’s the difference between getting a big deer and not getting one.”

Mel’s buck net scored 204 4/8 typical points (photo below) and, at this writing, remains the only North American big game animal ever to receive both the coveted Ishi and Sagamore Hill awards, the highest recognition bestowed upon big game hunters by the Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett clubs, respectively. It still ranks as the No. 1 typical whitetail killed by a bowhunter.

Social Media Backlash

Of course, not everyone appreciates Beka’s love of hunting, and because she puts herself out there on social media as a mom who is teaching her kids an outdoor lifestyle, she’s a prime target for anti-hunters. One of her recent FB posts drew an especially large number of hateful messages. It showed Beka with her recent success killing a squirrel, and of course, many haters attacked her. (Yes, she eats everything she shoots.)

Beka's Facebook post: Apparently the best squirrel hunting is in my own backyard, and no camo needed! I need to stop because I lost the arrow, but squirrels are just too tempting lol.
Beka's Facebook post: Apparently the best squirrel hunting is in my own backyard, and no camo needed! I need to stop because I lost the arrow, but squirrels are just too tempting lol.

As Beka always does, she responded to her critics with calm and class. She wrote in response to those who commented, “I could never eat that!"

Many non-hunters see a photo or video of wild game being cleaned/butchered and are instantly grossed out. Small game in particular seem to get that reaction. It was interesting reading some recent comments on social media.

Yet in reality, if you eat meat, those animals also had to be killed. Then they are cleaned and butchered before being neatly wrapped up to be displayed at the grocery store. You didn't have to see the process — but the end result is the same.

(Note: Beka also provided a video on how to skin a squirrel, in under a minute, on her Facebook page.)

Beka’s Book: “Field Guide Feral Parenting”

If you want to learn more about Beka’s experience as a hunting and fishing parent, check out her e-book, “Field Guide Feral Parenting.” In a Facebook post describing the project, she wrote:

My e-book "Field Guide to Feral Parenting" is now LIVE! Over 50 pages of tips, tricks and how-tos on backpacking while hunting and fishing, along with dozens of photos.

I was really nervous to make this and put it out there . . . simple fear of failure. However, I am proud of how it turned out, and I truly put my heart into it. Ironically I spent 90% of my time designing and writing it while walking around my kitchen with my baby sleeping in her carrier. 

I hope that this e-book can help some of you feel brave enough or inspire you enough to take your little ones on a hunt or two this season. It's really a special experience. 

And while most of the photos featured are of moms who hunt, I assure you that this ebook is for moms AND dads.


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