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Family hunting traditions build bonds and memories

Family hunting traditions

Aubrey Turner prepares for another deer hunting season and some friendly family competition over most buck points. Courtesy photo


The result of a 90-minute wait near dusk in a Texas Hill Country deer blind remains a personal highlight in the life of 11-year-old Halle Maxwell. It was the day she shot her first buck. She was 8 years old at the time, sitting in her dad’s lap, where she shouldered her gun because, otherwise, she wouldn’t have been tall enough to make the shot.

“I was shaking,” she said. “I had buck fever. He was an eight-point, and my dad was like, ‘Be quiet, be quiet’ ‘cause I was being very loud. I took the shot right behind (the deer’s) front shoulder, and he plopped over.”

Hallee admitted she screamed with delight after that shot. It was her very first attempt at shooting a buck.

“I was very surprised I shot it on the perfect spot,” Halle said.

After waiting about 10 minutes, the two exited the deer blind to tag the buck and call Halle’s mother, Shelly, to come pick them up. Shelly was in the truck out dove hunting.

For many hunting families like the Maxwells, deer season is as much about tradition as any major holiday. It includes all the ingredients: preparation, quality time spent together, friendly competitions, and food.

That’s also true for the Turners, another longtime Burnet County family that circles the opening day of deer season on their calendar each year.

Dads Kurtis Maxwell and Dorian Turner both grew up hunting on family lands in Burnet County, so it was only natural they introduced their wives to the sport while they were courting them. Later, the kids got involved.

Shelly Maxwell, who has been married to Kurtis for 17 years, shot at a deer while the two were still dating and instantly realized how much she enjoyed the outdoor sport.

“He wasn’t that big,” she recalled about the deer. “And I had buck fever. You’re sitting there and see the buck, and you start shaking and breathing heavy. The adrenaline rush is there.”

For Dorian’s wife, Becky, her favorite part is cooking the meat and sharing it with family. Becky and Shelly each make their own wet and dry batters for a chicken-fried steak version of venison. Neither can begin to count the number of steaks they’ve fried for their large families.

Most everyone’s favorite is deer jerky, which requires more patience waiting for the meat to be ready than sitting in a deer blind waiting for the ideal shot.

Leftovers are rare, no matter how the meat has been prepared, and all confess to having incredible gatherings over venison meals.

The daughters of both couples have developed their own love of hunting. The two girls even help skin and process their kills, all part of family bonding and tradition.

“It’s exciting to see,” Kurtis said of watching his daughter’s enthusiasm.

Dorian had a simple answer as to why he chose to introduce his daughter, Aubrey, to hunting. Now 17, she got in on the family tradition when she was 7, shooting her first buck when she was 8.

“Why not?” he asked, adding that he teaches much more than marksmanship. “I teach them gun safety, not to be afraid of guns. There’s nothing better.”

Family hunting traditions
Aubrey Turner prepares for another deer hunting season and some friendly family competition over most buck points. Courtesy photo

That’s not all the adults have taught their kids. Some of the biggest lessons are learned in the deer blind, as in the importance of leaving young deer alone until the following season to give them time to mature. Those lessons are some of the toughest to learn for impatient youngsters looking for an immediate reward.

The adults also impart family history along with practical skills such as the correct way to refrigerate, skin, and process the animal so it’s fit to eat.

“I always love when we process the deer,” Aubrey said. “We’re all working together.

Competition adds another exciting aspect to the sport. Aubrey and her nephew, Trenton Densing, compete each year for most bucks shot and total antler points. The two are close in age, so the rivalry can be intense. Trenton won last year.

“He killed an 11-point; I killed a doe,” Aubrey said.

She wasn’t the only one miffed that Trenton bagged an 11-pointer.

“(Trenton) beat us all last year,” Dorian said.

Halle and her dad have a friendly rivalry as well, competing in just about everything. While Kurtis usually wins in a foot race, Halle is the big winner when it comes to hunting, although Dad often has a hand in helping that happen.

“Most of the time, we talk about who’s going to shoot the big deer,” Halle said. “He normally lets me shoot the deer. I think it would be very different without my dad, too.”

The Maxwells and Turners are preparing for this year’s deer season. While the younger generation envisions finding the trophy buck, the adults are cleaning equipment. Trophies from seasons past stir fond memories. The head of Halle’s eight-point buck hangs mounted at grandmother Karen Starr’s home, where it can be easily admired and bragged on.

Kurtis and Dorian hope their kids will pass these traditions down through the generations, just as their parents did.

Dorian remembers getting his first gun as an 8-year-old. He shot his first buck when he was 10. Kurtis’ first buck was a nine-point that won him the Wildlife Sportsman Big Buck contest in Burnet County. He was hunting for 30 minutes when he saw the buck and bagged him just in time for the submission.

“Big enough for a trophy,” he recalled.

Both dads say they now get more enjoyment out of watching their daughters and younger family members taking aim than being the shooters themselves.

“It’s an important thing to pass on,” Dorian said.



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Youth-only: October 26-27

General: November 2-January 5

Late season and muzzleloader: January 6-19


September 1-November 3

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Archery: September 28-November 1

Youth-only: October 26-27 and January 6-19

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