How does one tell the story of three middle school girls, hunting deer with crossbows, who each killed a buck in a week’s time? Factor in that they are best friends. All are avid hunters, taught by their fathers.
They are an unusual bunch, but confident of their abilities and skills with a crossbow. They know how to be patient and how to follow a blood trail after they have hit their deer.
They do not know what their classmates think about their somewhat unusual activity, nor do they care.
“Most of our classmates don’t even know. If they do, they don’t often mention it,” Madyson Foth, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Peabody-Burns Middle School, said. “Sometimes it might come up in a class discussion and someone will say, ‘What? You hunt?’ They are not people who hunt. If they were, they would know why we do it.”
“Guys in high school hunt, but as far as I know, we are the only girls,” Hadlye Clark, also an eighth-grader, said. “To me, it is a friendship thing. Mady and Mya Winter went on my blood trails with me, now we share it each time.”
Mya Winter, also 13, is the third member of the group. She got her first buck Sunday evening.
“I was excited. I was shouting when I knew I hit it,” she said. “It wandered into our space; it was not one we had seen before.”
All three girls are daughters in families with a history of hunting. They acknowledge that having fathers who hunt made them curious about the sport. After each killed a buck this past week, they took advantage of technology and sent text messages to the others about the blood trail to follow.
“The thing about killing a deer with a crossbow is that it doesn’t drop where it is shot,” Mady’s father Cory Foth said. “Generally, the hunter who hits a deer calls his friends and together they follow a blood trail. They begin with single drops of blood and then branch out looking for more. They expand the territory until the trail actually makes sense and eventually they find the animal. It is a camaraderie factor among bow hunters.”
The girls have called one another to follow blood trails since Hadley called them two years ago to help her track a deer she shot.
“She gets it all from her dad,” Hadlye’s mother Shayla Clark said. “She would go out with Mack just to hang out when he went hunting, and he started her on the crossbow when she was old enough to handle one.” Hadley has killed three bucks and four does.
“I got interested in hunting because of my dad,” she said. “Being out there teaches you about wildlife and I like being outside. Hunting also teaches you to be patient.”
Like Mady, one of Hadley’s favorite activities is tracking. “Tracking is a good learning thing,” she said. “I’m always excited about it. It’s important to find the deer and I like to have my friends there with me.”
Mya Winter’s father, Kendall, is friends with the fathers of the other two girls. He also took his daughter with him at an early age.
“Mya was interested from the time she was about 6,” he said. “If she wanted to go I always took her. Sitting in a deer stand can be boring, but the more you do it, the more you see. It is good way to study nature.”
“I do like it,” Mya said. “When you see a deer coming in, it is exciting. I like to hunt with my dad, I like being out there.”
“She missed a buck early Sunday morning,” Kendall said. “But she got back in the tree that evening and pretty soon, one was headed in her direction. She let out a whoop when she saw the arrow go in and immediately called Hadley and Mady. That is the first thing they do after a hit — send a message so they can track together.”
Cory Foth is a taxidermist and belongs to a Peabody family with a long line of successful hunters. Mady looks forward to carrying on that tradition.
“I hope I will always hunt,” she said. “I want to teach my own children to hunt.”
“This is Mady’s third year as a hunter,” Cory said. “But long before that I asked her if she wanted to go with me. Mady went with me from time to time, but in 2013 she really got serious about it.
“She has gotten three bucks. The goal this year was to get one with a nice rack. The first two were fairly standard. So she learned something about patience,” Foth said. “As a taxidermist I do feel it is unusual for girls of this age to be so interested and dedicated to hunting. But each of these three comes from a family of hunters. They are not strangers to it.”
Foth summed it up with his comment about Mady getting her buck last week.
“After she shot it, I actually felt like my season was over,” he said. “I have missed having her with me. It is an enjoyable activity for all kids. They ask questions, learn about wildlife, the habits and lifestyles not only of deer, but other animals they observe.”
“Yes, these girls have a hobby that is a bit unusual, but it’s the basis for a good friendship and it is hard to beat that,” he added.