December 2, 2010

When Only One Buck Will Do

by Gila M. Smith

Reprinted from the November 2010 edition of RACK Magazine - Used with permission of Buckmasters, Ltd. 2010.

It's a good thing Dave Alderton chose the "unlimited texting" option for his daughter's cell phone. Sixteen-year-old Skyler, as adept with her thumbs as she is with her trigger finger, would've otherwise racked up quite a few charges on November 22, 2009. The same goes for her cousin, Briana.

Within minutes of shooting a monstrous 22-pointer that day, news of Skyler's accomplishment and even photos of the bruiser whitetail were circling the country faster than most people can turn on a computer.

Whereas just a few years ago the news of a world-class buck would spread slowly by word of mouth, today an American whitetail's rack could be the topic of conversation in New Delhi moments after it hits the dirt.

Within minutes of shooting her fabulous Missouri buck last season, its image was uploaded to the phones of friends in Kansas, Illinois and Tennessee. In fact, just 30 seconds after Skyler fired her Remington .243 at the shoulder of that Scotland County specimen, her cousin Briana texted her from a nearby treestand.

"U shoot?"


"A big one?"


"A big one or THE big one?"

"THE big one!"

Skyler and her father, Dave, waited 30 minutes before leaving their shared treestand to look for her 22-pointer, but the silent conversations didn't stop. Thumbs busily sent the details and congratulations back and forth through the woods. Dave texted his brother, Brian, hunting nearby with Briana, and cousins Zack, Justin and Nathan were all texting Skyler and their friends.

The Aldertons are joyful hunters and a cheering section for each other. Skyler, now a high school junior, has spent autumn weekends with cousins, aunts and uncles on the family's several farms since she began to hunt at age 9 and shot her first doe. Friendly rivalries and raucous laughter are just as important as shooting a deer, she says, although, "when one boy cousin shoots a buck, all the rest of them have to get a buck."

Typically, their preseason routine begins in summer when Skyler and her father plant food plots and scout.

"We walk around to see if there are deer out and if there are any trails," she said. "This year, we put out game cameras to watch the trails. That's how we knew there were some big ones in the area."

The evening before her successful hunt, the teenager saw a 9-pointer that many other hunters would have been only too happy to shoot. Her father recounts the incident this way: "I told her, 'Skyler, honey, that's a pretty nice buck. You might want to consider shooting it. It is our second-to-last day.' She replied, 'I have a bigger one out there, and I want to wait until tomorrow.'"

On Sunday, their fourth and last morning, Dave and Skyler went to the 20-foot high double stand tucked into some cedars. They faced a clearing planted in turnips, buck oats and regular oats. It was cold, cloudy and windy.

"There had been plenty of activity there all week," said Skyler, who had hunted from daylight until dark the three previous days.

"We sat for about an hour before we saw movement behind some cedars. The deer stepped into sight and stopped for a second. That's when we recognized it by a drop tine we had seen in a lot of pictures taken by our trail camera. The whole family knew this one as 'the big buck.'"

As the buck got ready to chow down, Skyler continued watching.

"When the deer turned and gave me a full view of its rack, I knew for sure. My dad realized it, too. He whispered to me, 'Shoot it, shoot it…hurry up.'"

Skyler had already raised her rifle at the first movement in the brush. All she had to do was slip a finger inside the trigger guard and pull the stock to her cheek. But she needed an opening to make a clean shot. There was some brush between her and the deer she so desperately wanted.

"It was looking around, and then it wandered toward the buck oats. That gave me a straight sideways shot right behind the shoulder. It took off into the cedars, and almost right away we heard the deer crash."

In no time, the rest of the family wanted to abandon their stands and blinds. Nothing else that day could compare to the excitement of Skyler's trophy.

As they were on their way, she and her dad got down to locate the buck.

"I had a bullet ready, to make sure, in case it was wounded. There was no blood trail, but we followed the direction it took. My dad was running --- he almost beat me to the buck. I found it across a creek, under a thorn tree about 35 yards away."

Skyler Alderton is not a young woman who goes weak-kneed under pressure. She's an A student who participates in varsity athletics; is a member of the National Honor Society and of the Future Business Leaders of America, just for starters. But the reality --- and the handling --- of this buck's antlers for the first time was pretty overwhelming.

"My dad and I hugged each other, and then we pulled the buck out into the clear for a better view. When I lifted the head, I could not even get my hand around the base of the antlers. It was so beautiful. I went over every inch and looked at every detail."

Fifteen minutes later, Zack and Briana arrived. Uncle Brian was next, and 20 minutes after him came Justin and Nathan with the four-wheeler.

"They all had seen photographs of this deer," Skyler said. "But pictures could not compare to real life. They kept saying, 'Oh my gosh, you got the monster buck.'"

Cell phone cameras came out of pockets.

When Thanksgiving break ended and her deer was stored at the taxidermist's shop, Skyler returned to school. It didn't take long for her to decipher the looks of envy and admiration on some of her classmates' faces.

The news had spread, and they'd already seen her buck.

"Cell phones," she laughs. "Briana took a lot of pictures."

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