Happy Hunting

HARLINGEN — She pressed against the wooden fences, gripping the rifle confidently, the hunting guide standing next to her.

Suddenly, the rifle jerked quickly, a loud crack cutting through the cool sunny morning, and Leily Contreras had just killed a deer.

“I got it, I got it,” said Leily, 15, a member of the Torch Club at the LeMoyne Gardens unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harlingen.

She and fellow Torch Club members Yessica Mendoza, 13, and Nicolas Nazar, 15, went on a youth hunt during the Christmas break. They went with a group of 10 young people who were given an opportunity to participate in the hunt.

It was sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division Outreach.

“It’s for young people who don’t have opportunities to go out there, to get them interested in the outdoors,” said Jason Duke, a state game warden.

The hunt serves the dual purpose of exposing young people to hunting and the outdoors, also managing a deer herd to control the population.

Duke has been friends with Lynn and Tami Johnson, and the Johnson family has worked with the Torch Club kids for years. Through them arrangement were made for the three aspiring hunters to spend a day out in the field.

“We wanted them to have that experience,” said Lynn Johnson.

Soon, arrangements were made for the three kids from LeMoyne Gardens to head out on a hunt. They were picked up about 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 17 and met at a Stripes convenience store in Raymondville before heading out to the ranch.

Duke and seven or eight game wardens joined them on the hunt. Lynn and his son Cody accompanied Yessica and Leily, along with a game warden.

The two girls spoke excitedly about the experience.

“I enjoyed it,” Yessica said. “At school I bragged about it. Everyone was, ‘What did you do on break?’ I killed a deer. I hit mine in the heart. It was super loud.”

“We had fun that we killed a deer,” added Leily.

Yessica shot her deer from the top of a truck.

“I was happy,” she said. “It was exciting.”

She actually missed her first deer, as did Nicolas.

“We were trailing deer poop,” he said. “The first deer, it was about 50 yards.”

That one got away. The next deer was much closer.

“I hit it in the neck,” he said.

At that point, the three young hunters engaged in a rather animated conversation about the specifics of hunting.

Where do you shoot a deer without damaging the meat?

Which would cause it to die quickly?

What’s the proper way to use a scope versus the sights?

It seemed they’d embarked on an interesting journey.

Yessica herself stopped short of saying she “might” go again.

“I will go again,” she said emphatically. “My dad made tamales with the meat but he made it with some other meat. It was good.”