By Cody Nienstedt I learned how to shoot when I was 5 years old from my dad who taught me with a 12-gauge shotgun. Believe it or not, it didn’t knock me on my backside. Most people think that hunting is easy, but one must put a lot of sweat and hard work into shooting a deer. Every year I find a deer that I would like to shoot, and my goal is to shoot that deer. During the summer months my dad, my brothers, and I plant our food plots. We plant oats, clover, soybeans, and English peas over the span of an acre, sometimes two. First, we till the plot of land, then we sow the seeds and put out the fertilizer, then we plow it to make sure the seeds are buried, and then we wait for God to water it. Planting during the summer months can be extremely hot and exhausting. Plus, it’s hard to get the plot to grow if there is no rain for the plants. (We do live in Texas.) This means that a sprinkler is sometimes needed, and that means even more hard work. It only takes a couple of weeks for the plants to sprout, then the deer follow soon after. This is when we start watching. Once we’ve seen that deer are starting to use our food plot, we put the game camera up to see what kinds of deer are in the area. This area draws white-tailed deer. Normally, we see a bachelor group of bucks wandering around. Usually there are around 10 bucks. This area also draws doe herds, and we usually see a couple of them. They often contain around five does per herd. We do take a few does out per year in order to control the population, but usually I focus on one specific buck. Once I look at the pictures on the camera, I pick out the biggest buck, and he will be my goal for the year. Hopefully, at the end of the year all my hard work will pay off. Last year all my hard work did pay off when I took out an eight-pointer that weighed approximately 150 pounds. We had some meat for the freezer! Once I choose a buck, then I start the real work. I start going out every morning an hour before daylight and every evening around two hours before dark to scout. Once I get a pattern on the buck and find the trails that he uses, I start hanging my treestands. Whichever trail he uses, I hang a treestand next to it. Once I get the stand in the tree, I start cutting shooting lanes that I can shoot through. Starting in August I sit in my treestand and watch my prey and learn his movements and patterns. By September he has figured out his daily routine, and so have I. Hopefully, he will come down that trail when I’m sitting there during deer season, which starts the first Saturday in November. But that’s not soon enough! I think about deer season all summer. The week before it does start, I can’t focus on anything else, especially my schoolwork, my teachers would say. Sometimes I like to hunt with a compound bow. Even though it’s more difficult to use than a crossbow, I like the challenge. However, if I use a bow, I have to hang my treestand closer to the trail. When using a gun, I move it farther back. After I get my treestand hung, I range the shooting lanes to see how far away they are. Normally, if I am bowhunting, I like to shoot between 15 and 25 yards; that’s where I feel most comfortable. About a week before the season I get my bow out and start shooting it. I keep shooting it until I can hold a group of three arrows at 20 yards. Last season, when opening morning came, I sat in my treestand. I had been waiting there two hours, playing fishing games on my cell phone. I was real excited the night before like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come, and I was so tired! Just as I was about to give up, all of a sudden, I heard something in the brush. I looked up and saw the big buck coming. The buck I had been stalking all summer was walking towards me. This was my buck! The one! I stood up and drew my bow back, thinking all my hard work was about to pay off. All I had to do was make a good shot. I put the sights right on the deer and released. The arrow hit behind the shoulder. I was so happy! All of my hard work paid off. I got the big buck! Last year was a very successful season, not to mention unforgettable. Between my dad, my two brothers, and me, we shot seven deer. Even with all that deer meat in the freezer we still ran out before summertime, which has only increased our motivation for next season. We have already begun to plant new food plots. We will start putting protein in the feeders. My friends and I are already talking about next season and who will get bragging rights. Usually I’m the one who gets bragging rights, maybe because I go hunting more often than they do, or maybe because I start preparing and scouting way before they do. Deer season is a big part of my life. I get such an adrenaline rush from the second I see a big buck walk out of the brush until long after I shoot him. Sometimes I still feel my heartbeat racing the next day. Hunting is a tradition passed on in my family from generation to generation. It keeps us close and gives us something to do together, a common interest. Even my mom likes to hunt with us whenever she gets a chance. Someday when I have my own children, I plan to teach them to hunt, too, and carry on that tradition.