Oct. 30, 2006

First time, first deer

By Matt Kane
Sports Editor

With long, blonde hair, blue eyes and braces on her teeth, Megan Etzel doesn’t exactly strike fear in anyone.

Give her a 1926 .250 Savage rifle and one round of ammunition, and it’s another story for Minnesota’s deer.

One round is all the Delano Middle School sixth grader needed Oct. 21 to land her first deer.

“‘Should I do it, or should I not? I love animals,’” Megan, 12, described of her thinking, just before dropping the button buck, which she estimates to have weighed slightly more than her own 110 pounds. “I pulled the trigger and it was like, ‘Thank God I did it.’ (The round) went right through the heart – a perfect shot.”

That perfect shot was only the second time Megan had fired the rifle.

The first time she squeezed the trigger of that particular rife, Megan was aiming at a paper target, which she says she missed the bull’s-eye by a fraction of an inch.

“The reason I chose that rifle for her to use was because it has a low recoil and it is flat,” Megan’s grandfather Curtis Olstad said. “We only had her shoot one round because we forgot the bullets.”

While the firearm deer hunting season doesn’t officially begin until Saturday, Megan was able to get a head start through the two-day Northwest Minnesota Youth Antlerless Deer Season. The program is for youths 12-14 years of age, and is restricted to Marshall, Pennington, Lake of the Woods, Roseau, and Kittson counties.

Before participating, the hunters must complete a firearms safety course and have a valid firearms deer license.

“It’s a neat opportunity,” Megan’s mother, Audra, said. “It’s nice, as a parent, to know there are not a lot of hunters out there (during the youth weekend). And it’s a great opportunity for them to gain experience.”

To tag the deer she shot on the youth hunt, Megan had to have a bonus permit. She still has the regular tag all hunters get with their license, and she plans on using it.

“I’m so going back,” she said. “I’m not going to waste that deer tag.”

Success may have had a little to do with hooking Megan on hunting, but she said there is more to it than just harvesting a deer.

“I love nature, so I always wanted to go,” she said. “And Grandpa always told me about it, and it sounded cool.”

Indeed the most recent hunt was ‘cool’ for Megan, and for Grandpa.

“It was high excitement,” said Olstad, who has been hunting since 1949. “The excitement of seeing a 12-year-old get a deer superseded any thrill I have ever had in getting a deer.”

The pictures from the hunt confirm Olstad’s enthusiasm.

“The comments I get were that you can’t tell who is smiling the most, (Megan), dad or Grandpa,” Audra Etzel said.

Audra and her youngest daughter, Natalie, 9, also made the trip north to Olstad’s cabin just southeast of Grygla, but did not go on the hunt, which took place southwest of Grygla, in Marshall County.

Olstad and Megan’s dad, Brad, accompanied Megan on the hunt, but were not permitted to carry a firearms.

“Dad was the spotter, Grandpa was the guide and I was the shooter,” Megan explained.

Actually, calling it a ‘hunt’ is a bit of a stretch. Even Elmer Fudd would have been jealous.

“It took about 10 minutes,” Megan said.

She explained that the three were driving through a field when they spotted Megan’s deer.

“We thought there were two but there were three, and I got the biggest one,” she said. “They kind of spooked when we opened the car doors, but mine was staring right at me.”

The bullet covered about 100 yards before it found its target. That same bullet, along with the tag, are now kept in a Ziploc bag, and serve as good props during stories of Megan’s hunt.

“All my friends say it was a small deer, but they don’t know anything about hunting,” Megan said. “They are all girly.”

Megan said her current story has a theme: firsts.

• First grandchild on either side of the family to sleep in a log cabin;

• First time hunting;

• First day of hunting; First shot;

• and First time she ever used an outhouse.

The story of her first hunting trip will be entertaining for a couple weeks, but, if Megan has anything to do with it, she will have a new story to tell after week two of the season. That’s when the family plans on heading north again, this time during the regular season.

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