First buck for contest winner not free of difficulty

Joshua Ballard of Coppell was one of two winners of an essay contest to get a chance at his first deer. It turned out he got three chances, a lesson in buck fever and, finally, a whitetail buck.

Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation held the essay contest, with students across the state taking the Outdoor Adventures course sponsored by the Dallas Ecological Foundation given the opportunity for a South Texas whitetail hunt.

Ballard’s essay was to the point. The student at Grapevine Faith Christian School wanted to shoot his first deer and he wanted to spend more time with his dad, who travels often for business.

“I have seen deer tracks but never saw a deer,” he wrote of his hunting experience. “The largest animal I have killed has been a dove. Since I was little, I have wanted to kill my first deer. It just hasn’t happened yet.”

Now it has, but not without some frustration.

After sighting in his rifle, Joshua and his father, Jeff, went to the blind with Cody Leal, a senior wildlife biology student at Texas A&M–Kingsville with plenty of guiding experience.

And a nice buck stepped out, eventually turning broadside. Josh got the OK to shoot.

“When he pulled the trigger, he immediately looked up and asked if he missed,” Leal said. “He did, high and to the right. I thought he was ready and breathing right, but it was classic buck fever.”

The next hunt, the same buck showed again. Josh missed low and the buck walked away. Josh was dejected but thought he was on target when pulling the trigger. The gun was examined again and it was thought the scope might have been jarred.

“It doesn’t matter,” host Craig Nyhus told him. “Tomorrow morning you’re shooting my gun. I guarantee it shoots straight.”

That Monday morning, a school holiday for Martin Luther King Day, a smaller but older, 8-pointer stepped out. Neal said Josh was calm and collected and gave the OK.

Josh’s shot was perfect and all was well.