Fresh from a bout of buck fever, PA teen doesn’t make the same mistake twice.
Sixteen-year-old Hanna Harris would’ve been positively gleeful if she’d shot the 6-pointer that passed by her deer stand on the morning of Pennsylvania’s 2010 rifle opener.
The young buck was hers for the taking, too, but she watched it melt back into the trees without firing a shot.
So wracked with buck fever, her jumpy synapses were arcing like downed power lines.
Her trigger finger just didn’t get the juice.
That was Hanna’s first time to hunt unaccompanied. She was in her mother’s elevated stand on the family’s 280 acres, alone, though many other Harrises and some friends were loaded for deer elsewhere on the farm.
Opening day is a big deal.
Every year, the Harris’s garage in Danville becomes a makeshift camp for orange-clad hunters. Fifteen participated in 2010: Hanna, her parents and two siblings, her Grandpa, a cousin, an uncle and seven more close family friends.
Before heading afield that first morning, everyone drooled over a massive 16-point buck that had been photographed by a trail camera just four days earlier. They all wanted a chance at it.
Monday was a perfect day (the rain came Tuesday, and snow fell on Wednesday). It was cold, partly cloudy, and there was only a wisp of wind.
Hanna went to her mom’s stand at the edge of a mature oak flat. The open woods were bordered by thick bedding area and a stand of pines. From her vantage point 20 feet aloft, she had a terrific view of the surrounding ground.
Her mother, Maria, had taken at least six bucks from that stand over the years, during both archery and gun seasons.
Hanna carried a Remington Model 700 in .280 caliber, which her dad’s cousin gave her.
“He said it was to end the confusion about who was hunting with which gun,” Hanna said. “Also, because mom was using a .280, we could share bullets.”
Hanna’s dad, Joe, walked her to the stand, and then continued on to where he and her little brother were going to sit.
“Even before daylight, I saw two does eating acorns in the flat, so I was too excited to fall asleep, which I tended to do when I was with my dad,” Hanna said.
About 7:00, she saw three more deer approaching. One was a doe, one a spike, and the other was a 6-point buck.
“The 6-pointer was bringing up the rear, and when they started getting close, I got really nervous,” she said.
“They were going toward the thicket, and I knew I would have to get on the deer quickly if I was going to get a shot.
“I was so nervous, however, that I just couldn’t get the gun settled on it, and then they were gone into the brush.
“I was really bummed because I didn’t get a shot at that deer,” Hanna continued. “I stood there, mad, trying to understand why I was so nervous.”
The answer never came, not that she had a lot of time to ponder her inaction.
“While I was thinking, I looked back over to my left and saw a doe. A few minutes later, another one appeared. Both were walking slowly toward the thicket.”
Beyond them was a buck, and Hanna wasted no time in planting a knee against the stand’s rail so she would be steadier if she got a chance to shoot. Whatever muddled her brain a few minutes earlier had left with the lucky 6-pointer.
“When this buck stopped behind a double tree, I could see its rack on both sides of the trunks. I knew it was big,” she said.
“I couldn’t shoot while the buck was behind the tree, but I was right on it, just waiting for it to move. I made sure my safety was off, and I waited.
“When it took two or three steps forward, I was afraid it wouldn’t stop, at first. But it did. A few seconds later, after I was sure I was steady, I pulled the trigger,” she added.
Hanna lost sight of the buck for a few seconds afterward, but then she saw one of the does run into the pines, and the buck was behind her. The doe ran out the other side. The buck didn’t.
“I waited and watched for a few minutes. I didn’t see the buck go down, and I didn’t see it react to the shot, so I wasn’t sure if I’d made a good shot,” she said. “Finally, I called my dad. He told me to stay in the stand, and he and Joey would come over and have a look.”
Hanna did as instructed, but she couldn’t sit. She paced in the platform until her dad and brother arrived, and then she pointed to where the buck went into the pines.
“They started where I shot the deer before walking over to the pines, looking at the ground the whole way,” Hanna said. “I didn’t know if they were looking at a blood trail, tracks or what, and they weren’t telling me anything before they got right to the edge of the pines.”
Her father yelled before they entered the thicket.
“Okay, Hanna ... You can unload your gun and come have a look!”
Hanna lowered her gun, got down and walked over to her dad and brother.
“My brother started to tease me by saying it was just a little spike buck,” she said. “I was handing my gun to my dad when I saw the deer lying just inside the pines.
“It took me like 10 minutes to realize just how big it really was. I counted the points, all 16 of them. It was a huge rack,” she continued. “The buck was way bigger than I am.
“We called my mom, who was hunting with Paige, and they also came over to have a look. I called my cousin, Allan, too. He had given me the rifle. When he answered his phone, I just said to him, ‘I just shot the biggest buck in the world with this new gun you gave me.’
“My dad and brother walked back to the house to get the ATV, while my mom, sister and I stayed there with the buck. When he returned and loaded it, I drove the four-wheeler back to the house, while they all walked alongside.
“By the time we got home, there was already a crowd waiting to see my buck. Allan said he was proud of me,” Hanna said. “The rest of the day was very exciting as we took pictures and showed it to just about everyone in Danville, and they all took pictures of me and my buck!”
Hunter: Hanna Harris
Official Score: 188 3/8
Composite Score: 209 2/8
— Photos Courtesy of Hanna Harris
This article was published in the November 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.