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On the early Rhode

Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill .

You may know Kim Rhode as the woman who medaled in four consecutive Olympics in double trap and more recently, skeet. But before she took home her first gold medal in 1996 at the age of 17, she had already bagged a massive mule deer.

Though Kim has taken a big bite out of life — doing everything from developing an iPhone hunting/shooting game with designer genius Ethan Nicholas, to attending college and practicing for the 2012 games in London — she admits she wishes there was more time for hunting now.

No wonder. It was a huge part of her growing up years. From the time Kim was three months old, her parents bundled her up so she could tag along to hunt camp with the rest of the Rhode clan.

Like most young hunters, Kim started off trailing along behind her dad. What she lacked in hunting savvy when she was a nipper, she more than made up for in enthusiasm. On one occasion, Kim recalled how she "helped" dear old dad while they were hunting muleys in Utah.

"I was just following along, not really paying attention when suddenly I looked up and saw a deer on the side of the hill in front of us," she said. "I screamed out, 'I see a deer, dad. There it is!'

"As it ran away, touching the ground only about every 20 feet, I yelled out, 'It's getting away,' not realizing my dad had been stalking it. He did get that deer, though. And I'm lucky he's never done that to me. I've come a long way since then."

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Several years later, after she learned to operate more covertly afield, Kim graduated to toting her own firearm, a .30-06. On a crisp day in the mountains of southwest Utah, Kim, then about 14, and her dad were hunting in their old stomping grounds, known as Robinson's Sheep Camp.

"We were walking along ridgelines, spotting and stalking," she said. "Out of nowhere, this big buck came out of a ravine, stopped and turned broadside. My dad dropped to his knee so I could use his shoulder as my rest.

"I can remember him saying to me 'Take your time. Place your shot in the pocket and squeeze the trigger.' My knees were knocking, and I was shaking all over. I was really nervous. It was my first time to shoot on my own."

You'd expect a shooting star like Kim Rhode to make a good shot and indeed she did, dish ragging the buck with one well-placed bullet.

"The most amazing thing about the hunt was how magnificent this animal was. My first deer was a 4 x 4, a massive mule deer. Normally we see 2 x 2s, smaller deer. By luck, I happened to get this monster my first time."

Kim will never forget her victory lap into camp, excitedly telling mom, grandparents and uncles, "I got one! I got one!"

"All my family members made a big deal out of it, congratulating me," she said. "That made it so much more fun."

Turns out, Kim took one of the biggest deer at their family camp that year. While they didn't score it, she reports it was taxidermy worthy. It hangs in her parents' game room to this day.

Kim has had the great fortune to hunt in some incredible places, including all over the U.S., New Caledonia and Africa. She has taken bigger deer than her first one, but she never forgets the good old days.

"I started off hunting in Utah, but I don't take that for granted," she said. "What was incredible about that moment was it was with my dad and the rest of my family. Beyond the deer hunt, the time we spent outdoors, telling stories around the campfire, were precious moments."

Rhode said she's as excited about hunting now as she was the first time she pulled the trigger. However, for the time being, she has to squeeze in hunting trips between family, marriage, school, hobbies and shooting 500 rounds a day, which will double as she gets closer to the Olympics. She intends to medal in her fifth straight Olympic games, a feat that has never been accomplished by an American in any sport.

With as much confidence, talent and determination as Rhode has, it's easy to see her succeeding, whether it's at an Olympic skeet range or the wild terrain of southern Utah.