The first day of the Youth Deer Hunt during the Columbus Day weekend was spectacular for two 14-year-olds out with dad in search of a whitetail deer.
Laurel Swigonski of Hamburg went with dad, Dennis Swigonski, to Fillmore for her first day of big-game hunting. Laurel and dad settled into their spot at 6:45 a.m. that Saturday morning and saw three does a half hour later.
“They made us and took off,” dad said of what turned out to be a lucky misfortune. At about 7:40 a.m. a huge 9-point buck emerged from the brush. “After a few tense moments Laurel got him in the sights of her 20-gauge,” shotgun, dad wrote.
Laurel took a 40-yard shot that dropped the buck where it stood. Dad had hunted this area with friends for years, but after the successful harvesting and tagging he said, “It was the best experience of my hunting years.”
That buck showed antlers wider than Laurel in a photo taken just after bagging the deer with its nicely symmetrical 9-point rack. Dad is having a head mount done of Laurel’s first-day trophy.
Collins hunter Kevin Ploetz has taken his son with him on small- and big-game hunts since Cooper was a small child. This year he could finally get his license to hunt. Cooper took a nice jake during the spring wild turkey season and looked forward to a big-game hunt in the fall.
During the Youth Hunt, Cooper and dad headed to property in Otto on opening Saturday with a rifle that has been in the Ploetz family for five generations. Great grandfather William Ploetz bought a Winchester Model 63 lever action 30 caliber WCF, which he and his son used at the turn of the last century.
“The gun was last used in the early 1950s, but I took it to a gunsmith and it checked out fine,” Kevin said of the classic rifle they test fired before the season to sight in and check out its handling functions.
It worked well. A lone doe stepped out and presented a 40-yard shot for Cooper at 6:15 p.m.
“The only problem was that at first Cooper didn’t fully cock the hammer,” dad said of the exposed hammer that hunters set a half-cock when not ready to shoot.
The deer when down right where it stood and dad was proud to say that the family’s hunting traditions now were entering a fifth generation.
The regular firearms season for deer opens across Western New York and for bear in southern units on Nov.16.