Firsts in the field

2010 Firsts In The Field Archive

To accompany Deer Camp 2010, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first time afield or their first kill.

Kevin VanDam: Passing buck fever

For his first deer, Kevin VanDam made a bow shot on a running doe ... one he wouldn't take today. Or advise either of his twin sons tot ake.

Since that first deer, KVD has had notable success deer hunting and enjoys imparting his knowledge to his sons, Jackson and Nicholas.

The twins scored their first deer last season at 12, the legal age to hunt in Michigan with a bow. Both have a deer this season and will be going out for their second.

Introducing his boys to deer hunting has rejuvenated VanDam's interest in pursuing whitetails.


Hank Parker: Boated first deer

Hank Parker is a household name in the outdoors world, from winning two Bassmaster Classics and an Angler of the Year to his fishing and hunting shows over the past 26 years.

The all-around outdoorsman from Maiden, N.C., won Classics in 1979 and 1989 and for years has hosted "Hank Parker's Outdoors Magazine." His current show, "Hank Parker 3-D," focuses on his hunting exploits with his sons, Hank Jr. and Billy, nicknamed "Catfish." They also have a mini-show on ESPN2, "Hunt Like a Parker."

While he grew up fishing, he didn't boatl his first deer till later in life, but he fondly recalls one of his first hunting experiences that helped shaped his life and lead to his success in the field.


Spook Spann: Sound management

Born on Halloween, William "Spook" Spann has taken the Quality Deer Management Association methods to great heights, including his own show.

Spook became good friends with a QDMA biologist and began to practicing the methods to manipulate whitetails through habitat management. He has improved properties across America and owns deer land he works in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas and Iowa.

His dedication to deer management has led him to harvest more than 50 bucks scoring over 140 inches, 25 over 160 and six over 170. His largest trophy is a 230-inch buck he arrowed on his Kansas property, which is the highest-scoring deer taken by bow ever caught on video.

Derek Remitz: Fast asleep

After an impressive rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series that included a win on Lake Amistad, Derek Remitz went quiet for a few years. Remitz changed that in a big way in 2010, proving he can compete at the highest level, by finishing near the top in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

I was 14 or 15 when I killed my first deer, that's over 10 years ago already.

Back home in Minnesota, my grandpa had a bunch of hunting land. That was the first year I decided to go deer hunting and I just got a rifle and all that.

We went out scouting a little bit before the season and built a stand for me to sit in -- me and him or me and my uncle. I crawled up there the first morning, I think it was opening morning. I crawled up there and got to kind of nodding off a little bit when the sun was hitting my face. Story

Tommy Biffle: Up a tree

My first kill was a pretty neat deal. It was with a gun, a little ole 30-30, and it was a little ol' 6-point buck. I was hunting in the back of a cove over at Tenkiller Lake and it just started to snow.

I was in a tree that was really neat. It was a great big tree, but the top was broke out and it had a big hole that had grown over to where it almost made a real comfortable seat.

You had two branches there to put your feet on, somebody had put a stand in there years before and there was an old board up in there and it squeaked, so during bow season I took the board out and threw it out on the ground.

I got to messing with my raincoat trying to put it on cause it was snowing pretty hard and I dropped the top on the ground. I crawled down the tree and this guy goes, "Here," and handed me my top to my rain suit. Story

Edwin Evers: Second chances

Watching my brother-in-law Terry Butcher kill that buck bow hunting, he thinks there's nothing to it. He thinks, "Man, what's the big deal with this bow hunting?" I've been bow hunting a long time now and killed a few does.

As for my first hunt, I'll never forget my first buck. I think it may have been the first or second time I ever went hunting. I went hunting with a friend and I was in seventh or eighth grade.

I'm sitting there in the middle of this wheat field down in Texas up against a log jam, the sun is setting and here comes this deer. I mean it's silhouetted behind the sun and it's just got horns like this, but as a kid, I'm thinking it's just a monster deer and it was an 11-pointer.

It was about 150 yards -- no, it was 75 yards. I shot a .30-06, I just got it for my birthday, and I missed. Story

Alex Rutledge: Hunting brotherhood

The experience that really sticks out in my mind, the very first one, would be hunting with my daddy and my brother. We were walking -- we were actually going on a squirrel hunt -- and I had an encounter with a deer so I shot at it, but I missed that deer.

That was my first real encounter to shoot at one, but to actually sit down and hunt a deer and experience it was when I was probably 13. We were sitting on a crossing and we were making drives and my brothers let me out by myself.

I was at a very young age for this, but there I was at a crossing by myself, they were making their drive and a deer came out at the edge of the pond. I shot it twice with a 30-30 lever-action Marlin and dropped him right there in his tracks.

It was a spike buck. I'll never forget it. It was like the first step into manhood. I can reflect back to many memories with my brothers and my dad hunting. Story

Cliff Pace: The family tradition

With my first hunting experience, and anytime I think about any of the things I did growing up as a child, my father always comes to mind.

I was really unfortunate losing him when I was 18 years old, but I was really fortunate that he's what put me where I am out here in the world.

He spent a lot of time with me when I was a kid, hunting and fishing and doing the kinds of things that kids need to be doing. I think that's what helped jump start my career at such an early age, all the opportunities he provided for me to hunt and to fish.

But when you're talking about hunting, I always remember the first deer that I killed. I cannot remember the first bass that I caught, but I can remember the first deer that I killed. Story

Rob Keck: A trophy experience

In 1962, in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, I was hunting with my dad. You had to wait until you were 12 years old in Pennsylvania before you could hunt, but of course, I went on many hunts before as just an onlooker.

It had snowed that day. Doe season was two days long and followed the regular gun buck season. Dad placed me on the point below some grapevines in about 8 inches of snow, and there was a heavy crust on top of it. When you walked through the snow, it just crunched.

As was so often the case in the opening of that doe season, you could hear those distant shots starting and some of them were close. It was almost like a war and there it was in Pennsylvania.

All of a sudden, off to my left, which would have been to the east, I could hear the crunching of deer coming through that snow. As a kid waiting and wanting to have that very, very first deer, I thought, "Man, the first doe that's in here, I don't care how big she is, I'm gonna get her." Story

George Thornton: On his own

The first story that comes to mind -- I was a young adult and I was in Brady, Texas, with some friends having a quail hunt and deer hunt. I had never stalked a deer before.

We were sitting around at lunch and everybody was taking a break. I just decided to go walking, and I came across a trail. I stalked the deer for an hour and a half. I could tell I was getting closer because the tracks were getting fresher.

I had no idea what I was doing. I just decided to sit there. I had no idea where I was. I had totally lost any sense of anything but being focused on the trail. Story

Ryan Klesko: Scoring big

I've had several great experiences growing up. Hunting and fishing came to me at an early age, but I think my first deer hunt was probably not until the early 90s, about 18 years ago.

But I grew up fishing, hunting for pheasant, bird hunting and all the other stuff. My dad was in big environment clubs and stuff, so I have childhood memories of learning how to hunt.

At that time, picking up game and retrieving game for my father before I was old enough to shoot a gun was probably the most experience for me.

I remember long trips on the weekends to deer camp, which back in California was blacktail deer. I didn't take my first buck I was older.

Finally being old enough to get my first shotgun to go bird hunting was awesome because it took me several years of chasing wounded birds around, quail and stuff like that, to learn my stripes. Story

Terry Butcher: Too easy

My first deer with a bow was here about four years ago. I'm 39, but I've never bow hunted. Edwin [Evers] got me into bow hunting.

It was pretty cool, although the first one I actually shot I crawled up -- me and Edwin, my first day to go out in the woods with a bow. We went out there and Edwin, he got a big kick out of it.

I climbed up in one tree and he climbs up in another about 200 yards away from me. Within the first 30 minutes, here comes some does. Well heck, I'd never killed a deer before with a bow. She walked by me and I pulled back "thunk."

I knew I hit her. She took off from there and she went out there a ways and I didn't see where she went. I was inexperienced so I got down and I went trailing her blood, well Edwin he was trying to get my attention because he saw her lay down out there. Story

Brenda Valentine: Chasing ghosts

I don't even remember my first hunt. I started hunting when I was being carried in a hunting coat on coon hunts.

What I remember was going out in the bottom with my dad, building a fire, sitting there and listening for the dogs to tree one. Dad said, "You sit here by the fire and I'll go and shoot the coon and bring the dogs," and I would wake-up at daylight.

I'd go to sleep wrapped up in his hunting coat and it would be getting daylight. The dew had fallen on me. He would come dragging in two or three ol' coon dogs, we'd walk home and my mother would be up cooking breakfast. Story

John Crews: History repeating

My first deer kill I was, I think, about 13 years old and my dad would not let me go by myself. Obviously, he had taken me with him and I had shot at a few deer before.

Note: shot "at" them. I probably would have been better off throwing rocks at them, as I did that when I was 9, 10 or 11. But then, I was serious about it early on and I think it was 13 and I was hunting right behind my dad's house. We had a couple hundred acres with a lot deer running around in Amelia county near Jetersville, Va., where I grew up.

There were a couple of deer in the field right behind the house. I was out there, lined one up, put it in the scope, and pulled the trigger and "boom!" Story

2009 Firsts In The Field Archive

To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first time afield or their first kill.

Racing to woods and water

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr's stats indicate 2009 wasn't a great year, but toward the end things started to look up.

For one thing, Truex, 29, got his first top 5 finish of the season in November at the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 in Phoenix. Also in November, Truex killed his biggest buck ever while bowhunting in west central Illinois.

The 8-pointer weighed 255 pounds and green-scored 150. The cool part is the hunt was filmed, and it's expected to air next year on Mystik's Driven to Hunt on ESPN2, and Realtree's Monster Bucks.

Truex said he enjoys the relaxation that comes from hunting, a stark contrast from the pressures of racing, but it's the anticipation of seeing a buck-of-a-lifetime that makes his engine rev. Story

Passing on tradition

"Somewhere, Grandpa is smiling, " Doug Jeannerett, Vice President of Marketing for the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, said with a smile. "My dad died in 1977, but I know that he is proud."

The reason for the smiles is that the week before Thanksgiving, Doug took his 16 year-old son, Will, out deer hunting near Columbus, Ohio, and Will bagged his first deer, with one shot from his 20-gauge Beretta. That makes three generations of smiling Jeanerett's.

Doug grew up in Ohio and has been a hunter, trapper and fisherman for over 40 years, thanks to his dad's early instruction.

"I still remember my first hunt with my dad," Doug said. "In the 60s in Ohio, pheasants were the most sought after, and possibly the most abundant game. Whitetails were still a rarity in our neck of the woods. Story

Perfume instead of pee

On Christine Thomas' first deer hunt, she was ready for high adventure. What she wasn't prepared for was spending the night in what felt like a coffin but was actually the back of a pickup truck.

Now the dean of the Natural Resources College at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the founder of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, Thomas admits she was no country girl on her first foray to deer camp.

So, a week in a remote area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the 1970s was a dazzling experience. She saw deer, heard ravens calling overhead and witnessed the pristine beauty of November snow. And she fell in love with the tradition — plaid coats, classic rifles and endless solitude. Story

VP for SCI relates exciting first hunt on Vermont farm

Joe Hosmer, Vice President of Safari Club International and Safari Club International Foundation, grew up in rural Southern Vermont on a farm that raised standardbred race horses and springer spaniel grouse hunting dogs. From an eight-year-old Vermont deer hunt, Hosmer has built a career about hunting, though not just wildlife. Hosmer is the founder and CEO of Mountain Ltd., an east coast search business for staffing, telecommunications, telecom engineering solutions, remote area expertise, Third World and LDC experience, high end headhunting, for-profit and not-for-profit business development; as well as a business coach and development consultant. Story

Olympian Cogdell has adventurous season of firsts

You get a feeling that you don't want to be across the table from Corey Cogdell in her first-ever arm-wrestling match. Or her first-ever hand of five-card stud. Or her first-ever game of beer pong.

The 23-year-old Olympic trap medalist, who first stepped to the line in an international trap competition in April of 2006 at the age of 19, and just two years later won the bronze medal in women's trap at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, is one of those kinds of competitors.

First time vs. Cogdell, especially if it involves shooting or hunting, probably equals her opponent losing.

Her 2009 big game season is a prime example. Story

Canadian biologist recalls early days

The first year of big game hunting, 1955, was full of adventure for noted Canadian wildlife biologist Valerius Geist, professor Emeritus of the University of Calgary.

"I did not connect, but I saw the finest white-tailed buck I have ever seen race past me at some 100 paces," he said. "I was unsure on running shots and only watched him bound past on the snow-covered Saskatchewan wheat field. I will never forget that sight as the magnificent animal, illuminated by the setting sun, jumped the fence, and flag waving, dove into an aspen bluff.

"Just minutes earlier I pulled, and pulled and pulled the trigger, crosshairs on a young buck, then lowered the rifle, exhaled, fogged my glasses — and had to wipe these — only to discover that I had not taken off the safety. Of course the young buck, barely 20 paces off, vanished. I did fire one shot at a very long distant at a doe, late, in poor light, but underestimated the distance." Story

Tigers outfielder Raburn sleeps well in camp

Detroit Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn has a lot to be happy about. He's secured a spot on the roster of a perennial post-season contender, hit for a career-high average of .291 in 113 games during the 2009 season and hit two home runs in the final game of the regular season to lift the Tigers over the White Sox and force a one-game playoff for a spot in the post-season.

But Raburn, a south Florida native who made his major league debut in 2004, isn't just a baseball player. He's also a passionate hunter who spends the majority of his off-season in a tree stand in Alabama. ESPN.com caught up with Raburn to find out where his love of hunting got started. Story

Hunting a major hit for Braves' Chipper Jones

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is one of the most popular players in baseball — and he has the talent to back it up.

The 16-year veteran and six-time All-Star holds a career .307 batting average, has earned two Silver Slugger awards (1999 and 2000) and was named National League MVP in 1999. But Jones is also an avid outdoorsman with property in Oklahoma and Texas that includes an affiliation with the Double Dime Ranch, a working game ranch in South Texas.

Hunting since he was young, Jones says it serves as great relaxation.

"It's my solitude. There's nothing better than climbing into a tree with my bow and arrow. It's really therapy to me, because I know there are no crowds, no traffic and nothing but me and a huge buck." Story

Farnsworth full of stunts, hunts

Growing up in a Hollywood family certainly opened doors for Diamond Farnsworth, both in the business and the outdoors.

"I shot my first deer when I was 14, on a pack trip into the high Sierras with my father, and someone you might remember, Guy Madison," says the award-winning Hollywood stuntman, whose father is the late two-time Oscar-nominated actor Richard Farnsworth.

"My dad and Guy had both shot really nice bucks and we were on the way out when I saw this buck standing on a hillside. My dad says 'Take him, but don't shoot off the horse.' Well, of course, you know I shot the buck off the horse. My dad was upset. I asked him if it was illegal."

"No," he replied, " but I was afraid that the horse would buck you off." Story

Swan's first comes much easier than one arrowed decades later

The longest 15 minutes of my life of James Swan's life was the wait after he arrowed his first deer on a hunt with his father in Chippewa County, Mich.

It was a quick successful hunt in 1956, way different from a more recent hunt being filmed for a television show.

After 20 years of chasing West Coast blacktails, which sometimes don't seem to be much bigger than a hefty collie, I got invited to hunt in Wisconsin for a TV show. How could you pass that one up?

The more recent one left Swan waiting two days for kill, but it still ended up as his largest trophy with a bow. Story

Oh what a hunt, late December back in '63

One of the most zealous hunters to walk among us killed his first deer 46 years ago, in late December back in '63.

While it wasn't what Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were singing about in their 1976 hit, it was a special time for one lucky teen, Rob Keck, former CEO of the NWTF and now a member of the Bass Pro RedHead Team.

"The first time a hunter takes any game, it etches deeply in the mind, no matter how big the critter is, because it's the size of the experience that really counts," Keck said.

Back then, a boy couldn't hunt Pennsylvania until he was 12 years old, something that really chafed the eager young hunter. So when family friend John Hoover invited Keck to hunt state forest land in Mifflin County, the 13-year-old jumped at the chance.


Author John Annoni spent years chasing first deer

Until Sarah Palin's new book comes out, John Annoni is probably the most visible hunter to mainstream America.

Annoni recently has appeared on MSNBC, CBS Evening News, and done numerous newspaper and radio interviews. Google his name and you come with 429,000 listings!

John's inspirational life story — a kid from the projects raised by his grandmother escapes drugs and gangs by hiding in the woods and learning to hunt and fish — told in his book, From the Hood To The Woods, is an American dream come true.

Annoni not only got out of the projects, he became a schoolteacher and went back to teach kids in the projects. That's a great accomplishment in itself, but then he started Camp Compass, to mentor inner city kids, using hunting and fishing opportunities as rewards for good behavior and ways to build self-esteem and love for nature.

His first hunt is a story of perseverance over 7 years. Story

First Lady of Hunting shot from the hip

Brenda Valentine, The First Lady of Hunting, said back in the day, you were lucky to see a track in her home state of Tennessee, much less a deer.

When she was about 12 years old and working in the tobacco field, Valentine saw her first whitetail. She said people came from all over to see the tracks, convinced Valentine had lost her mind. Some of the local folk had no clue what the tracks were, speculating a goat or calf had scampered off the farm.

Her first deer came with an amazing shot.

"It surprised me so much I never shouldered the rifle and aimed but pulled up and shot the lever action from the hip by instinct. Guess I'd been watching too many "Rifleman" TV shows!"

Carrying it back to camp also was an adventure. Story

Lawyer's first deer was driving force

It's not surprising that Milwaukee attorney Michael Hupy cannot remember a time when he did not hunt.

Growing up in the town of Menominee in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, he began hunting at age 5, following his father through oak and spruce thickets on grouse hunts.

When he was 12, he shouldered his first shotgun, a .20-gauge, joining his father in pursuit of grouse, or as the "UPers" call 'em, "pats."

The first year that Hupy went deer hunting was 1960. He was 14.

"I hunted really hard and did not get a shot. I was really disappointed," he said, recalling that a license in those days cost $5.

The following year, 1961, Hupy returned to the woods near Spalding, Mich., and had better luck. Story

Falcons players get away from stresses of NFL through hunting

The NFL's Atlanta Falcons may call a city of more than 5.5 million people home, but it doesn't stop many of them from getting away from the Georgia Dome gridiron and out into the great outdoors. Several veteran members of the team who are also avid outdoorsman share their favorite hunting memories and their hopes for passing on the sport to future generations.

Jerious Norwood, one-half of one of the most dangerous ground attacks in professional football, killed his first deer when he was about 12. The former Mississippi State Bulldog is known by his teammates for being an avid outdoorsman.

Backup quarterback Chris Redman is an avid hunter, fisherman and golfer, and he is also known for taking NFL teammates, both novice and expert, on frequent hunting trips to share his passion for the sport.

Eleven year veteran center Todd McClure grew up in Baton Rouge, La., and has a 60-acre tract of land in the state where he hopes his son will take his first deer. Story

Olympic shooting medalist got off to an early start

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. Story