A Father and Son’s First Deer

Illinois doe hunt A hunter’s first deer holds a special place in any hunter’s memory. It doesn’t matter how big or small, buck or doe, it’s a memory you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. For Marshall and his son Mattingly, the long journey to harvest their first deer started with Mattingly approaching his father at an early age around Christmas time stating that he wanted to try bow hunting for deer. Amazingly, Santa brought them both new compound bows for Christmas, and so the quest began.

Marshall was no stranger to hunting. He grew up in a hunting household in Illinois where his family hunted pheasant, quail, and deer. Although Marshall was too young to participate in the deer hunting before his family moved to a different state, he still remembers his father and other family members cherishing the tradition of the hunt each year. Marshall was excited to start a new hunting tradition with his son, and there’s no better place to start one rather than at the Heartland Lodge.

Marshall and Mattingly arrived at the Heartland Lodge the day after Christmas for a three day hunt. Unseasonably warm weather, rain, and high winds were predicted for all three days of hunting but it did not dampen their spirits. Their goals were to harvest their first deer, rain, wind, and high winds wasn’t going to stop them from going out and reaching their goal. Both Marshall and Mattingly practiced shooting their bows religiously and had even finished near the top of their divisions in some local 3-D target shoots back home. They felt confident that if an opportunity arose they would be able to make a lethal shot.

The first few days of hunting were slow for both Marshall and Mattingly. On the second morning of the hunt, Marshall was the only hunter in camp to brave the elements. The winds were howling and basically raining sideways. Even though he didn’t see a deer that morning, he had no regrets for heading out. To say the least, he was determined to get a deer.


It came down to the last evening of their hunt, Mattingly was sitting in a ground blind that was on the edge of CRP overlooking a narrow strip of turnips that the deer had been hitting hard.  He had sat in the blind the night before and had seen a lot of deer but they never foraged close enough for an ethical shot. Marshall was sitting in a massive red oak tree overlooking a long, narrow strip of clover.

It wasn’t long into their afternoon sit when the action began. Marshall had his attention set on a group of does that came out of the adjacent wooded draw and began to forage on the clover just 80 yards to his right. They were slowly working towards his direction when something spooked one of the does and took off in the draw, the rest of them followed suit. Confused as to what had spooked the deer, Marshall watched intently for the instigator. Just minutes later a doe and a yearling popped out just to the left of him out of the draw. Marshall could tell the doe was nervous as she moved ever so cautiously towards his tree stand, stopping for long periods of time listening and watching for movement. As she entered bow range, Marshall readied his bow. The mature doe knew something wasn’t quite right and began to exit the field, Marshall drew his bow back and as the doe began to turn to walk away, he let an arrow fly. The doe jumped the string and the arrow hit high, dropping the doe in the field. A follow up shot was made and the doe quickly expired.

Illinois doe hunt father and son Just minutes later, Marshall received a text from his son that he too had got one. He made a great double lung shot on a deer at 17 yards. But Mattingly’s evening wasn’t over yet, about 45 minutes later a mature doe began to forage in the turnips and started working her way towards the right side of his blind. As the doe got within about 25 yards, Mattingly drew back and let the arrow fly, again he made a perfect double lung shot and the big doe expired quickly.

After years of long hours practicing, hard work, and determination, father and son were able to harvest their first deer together. They both showed great perseverance and stayed positive throughout the hunt even weather conditions were tough and deer movement was slow. A special memory that they will treasure for the rest of their lives, no matter how many more deer they are able to harvest, the first one will always hold a special place in a hunter’s heart, especially when you’re able to share the moments with your family. When hunting at the Heartland Lodge, you may not only experience the hunt of a lifetime but you can bring home memories that you will cherish with friends and family for the rest of your life.

Last Updated: January 17th, 2016

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