SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Kevin Sheat didn’t grow up hunting deer.
“When I got older I decided I needed deer meat when my kids were growing up,” Sheat recalled. “I bought a rifle and started hunting to put meat on our table.”
Fast-forward 39 years, and you’d find Kevin with his grandson, Kaden, 11, both of Lamar, Missouri, sitting in a pop-up blind on opening day of Missouri’s youth hunt a few weeks ago.
Cradled in Kaden’s arms was grandpa’s Remington Model 700 .243-caliber rifle — the same gun he had bought nearly four decades ago. What happened next got both of their hearts beating fast.
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“We saw a big deer coming across the neighbor’s pasture, so I started grunting pretty aggressively and he came back our way,” Kevin said. “He just happened to come by. I’ve got cameras back there but I’ve never seen him.”
Young Kaden watched the deer through the rifle’s scope.
He has killed four deer before — his biggest an 8-point last year — but never had a chance at a buck this big.
“I was very excited and shaky,” Kaden recalled. “I was trying to find a comfortable spot for the rifle so I could kill it.”
When the buck stepped out, Kaden tried to get the gun on it but couldn’t hold steady enough to make a solid shot since he was so excited. That made his grandpa proud that the youngster wasn’t willing to shoot without feeling confident in his shot.
They set a backpack up on a stool to help steady the rear of the gun and used a shooting stick on the front of the gun to help steady it.
Kaden squeezed the trigger; the buck bolted.
“I felt like it was a really good shot,” Kaden said. “It ran a ways and jumped a five-wire barbed wire fence. It took an hour and a half to find him.”
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The deer didn’t travel far, but it dropped in an area that was hard to see as the light faded.
When they located the deer, both grandfather and grandson were surprised to see how big it was. The deer had 22 points and had a green antler score of 210 5/8.
Kaden said the big buck will become a head mount for his bedroom or his family’s living room. He helped skin and butcher the deer and looks forward to his mom cooking up some tasty venison tenderloins.
Kaden said he didn’t hunt on opening day of Missouri’s fall firearms season last weekend. With that big buck in the freezer, he didn’t need to.
“I’m done for the year,” the youngster said.
Kevin Sheat said he loves taking his grandson hunting, as does Kaden’s dad, Kasey Sheat.
“I’ve loved hunting for years and just want our youngsters to enjoy the things we enjoy, like seeing the wildlife, the turkeys and deer,” he said. “That rifle that Kaden used is 39 years old and it’s killed a lot of deer.”
Follow Wes Johnson on Twitter: @WesJohnsonNL.