Copperas Cove siblings get game at Texas Parks and Wildlife Draw Hunt
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Two Copperas Cove siblings brought home the venison after participating in a youth-only draw hunt organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife in Garner State Park over the New Year holiday.
Amber Slatton accompanied her daughter, Caitlin Slatton, 10, while the children’s grandfather, Charlie Mayfield, accompanied Colt Slatton, 13, for the draw hunt.
The draw hunts are open to adult and youth hunters across the state of Texas. There are different categories for the draw hunts, including a Youth Only category. In the Youth Only category, kids ages eight to 16 have the option of hunting exotics, feral hogs, alligators, antlerless/spike deer, either sex deer, javelina or spring turkey. Each category is in a different location, with some being state parks and others being private land. The cost to participate in the draw hunt is free for youth and the adult accompanying them.
During this year’s draw hunt, Caitlin shot and killed her first ever deer on December 31. This was her second year hunting, according to Amber. Amber said that Caitlin’s first kill was a perfect shot that any hunter would be proud of, and as her mother, she added that she was super proud.
“She did a nice clean shot, no suffering, and she helped put meat in our freezer,” Amber said. “We do eat all the animals that we harvest. We only harvest what we can eat. We try to eat everything that we harvest and not waste anything.”
While this was not Colt’s first time hunting or even his first kill, he did manage to have his own first as well when he killed his first Axis buck.
An axis buck is a type of exotic deer, featuring a speckled hide on the adult males. This was reported to be the second largest axis buck hunted from the Garner State Park.
Colt said that he was proud of himself for accomplishing this.
“Really when you kill any animals or any other kind of big deer, it isn’t- I guess you wouldn’t say it was a too happy feeling,” Colton said. “You just feel more proud than you do excited. It’s no different than killing like a little doe with no horns or anything. It just is proud feeling that you get, because it isn’t necessarily to me a patient sport. You just have the right mind to know what you’re doing when you’re doing it, and it also takes timing. You need very good timing to participate in this kind of thing, but anything that you ever kill, it isn’t a different feeling. You just feel proud for what you did.”
Amber said that she learned about the state’s draw hunts from a friend a couple of years ago after she and her kids moved to the area and were looking for a place to hunt.
In conjunction with hunting, the family also practices gun safety, with each child knowing how to properly handle a gun and shoot a gun and work on proper hunter’s etiquette. The kids started learning on BB guns before moving to rifles.
Colt’s first successful hunt, or harvest, was in 2017, according to Amber.
“That was fun watching him grow and mature, and it seems like each year, his maturity with hunting has grown, and his knowledge has grown,” Amber said.
The family has gotten more involved in the step of processing the animals that the family hunts. The family has turned the deer into sausage, steaks, jerky and more. Colt is also interested in the taxidermy side of things and is learning with Fleeman Taxidermy, he said.
“I’m very proud of them,” Amber said. “Nowadays you always hear about all the bad things with guns, and I just wanted to share something good that comes out of it. That there are people out there that are responsible and know how to properly teach and do things that are for good and not, you know, bad mouthing.”
Amber said the kids have also learned camping and survival skills because sometimes, while hunting, they have to set up camp and are not just in a deer blind.
“It’s awesome because I know that later on in life, they’re going to possess a set of skills that is slowly dying,” Amber said. “Nowadays, there’s people that don’t realize where their food comes from, so for me to be able to teach them and show them, and even though right now Caitlin’s still a little grossed out by it- at one point, he was grossed out by it at the beginning too, but he’s grown and evolved, and he has a love for nature. Yes, he takes, but he doesn’t just take for game. He doesn’t do it for the sport. He takes what he needs…and I know that as they grow older, they’re going to appreciate where their food comes from, where they get what they need to survive.”
The period for draw hunts through Texas Parks and Wildlife has closed, but for more information on the Youth Hunting Program, people can visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/youth_hunting/tx_youth_hunt_program/ or visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/ for information on Hunter Education.