Reported by Tamara Keith & Produced by Leah Scarpelli
Edited by Maeve McGoran
Aired on December 9, 2010 on NPR’s Morning Edition
Imagine a hunter. Picture him, it’s a him isn’t it? A man probably wearing camouflage, maybe an orange hat, holding a gun. Now think again. According to the latest data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are some 300-thousand young female hunters under the age of 16. Girls. From 1991 to 2006, the number of girls who hunt in this country nearly doubled.
I Like to Cheer. I Like to Hunt
Looking at Magan in her orange and blue cheerleading uniform, you’d never guess that this girl could shoot a rifle, could kill a deer with a single shot. Her bangs are teased up and pinned back into a poof. Her cheekbones and eyelids are defined with bold colorful sweeps of makeup.
Magan Hebert is 15. She’s going to the first annual Magnolia cheerleading competition in Waynesboro, Mississippi. She has brown hair and brown eyes. She’s short. She gets good grades in school. ” I keep an A,” she says.
“Ya’ll please be clean with your stunts and all, with your hands and your clapping and all,” says the cheer leading coordinator. ” Ya’ll want to say the Lord’s prayer together? YES. OK, Ya’ll huddle up.”
Megan is tiny, one of the girls at the top of the pyramid who flips through the air like a rag doll. And on this day, she lands every stunt. But, the team comes in second place…out of 2. Megan is quiet on the drive home.
Magan was hooked
Magan started hunting when she was in 4th grade. Her dad is an avid hunter. He hunts every spare minute he can get.
“He would ask like every time he went if we wanted to go,” says Megan. “And one time I was like, yeah, I want to go. I just I thought it would be pretty cool you know and I just loved it.”
For Magan’s mom, Marcy Hebert, it was a bit of a surprise that her little girl wanted to hunt. “She wanted to do it, as a matter of fact, before my son did. And she went out there. Of course a lot of the girls here hunt.”
It took a year of hunting before Magan to killed her first deer. It was a doe. “I started shaking when I put the gun up to the window, so he had to hold it steady for me, “says Megan.
But she did it. She hit the doe in the shoulder.
“I kept saying, she didn’t do that, you did that,” her mom said to her husband. ” And he was like, no she did. I took the gun off safety and she shot it.”
And Magan was hooked. “I just like the peace and quiet and you just get to sit there and wait and you know, if there’s little ones you get to watch them play with their parents. I think it’s cute. Because you know, you cant kill em yet, I just think its cute. I mean I like watching the baby deer but when they grow up they’re really good food. I don’t know. It makes no sense to me whatsoever, I just like it.”
The family gets all the red meat it needs for a whole year during hunting season.
Hunting and Texting
It’s 5:30 and we’re getting ready to leave to go hunting. It’s still way before dawn and freezing cold when Magan and Marcy load into the truck and head out for the family’s hunting club. This isn’t like the Mickey Mouse Club or the rotary. It’s a big piece of private property where hunters pay to have a plot that’s theirs to hunt. The family has a stand, a s mall slightly elevated shack, with slits for windows where they sit and watch for deer. It overlooks a clearing. And there’s a feeder, that occasionally spreads corn and protein pellets on the ground. Even among hunters baiting is controversial. It’s illegal in some states, but standard practice here in Mississippi.
Marcy lights a propane camp heater inside the stand, but it’s still cold. And there are no deer in sight. Basically what you watch for is, at the edges of the tree line, you watch for movement.
The sun’s coming out, nothing’s out yet. And that’s about it.
Magan is updating her facebook status on her blackberry. She writes: Sittin’ in the stand, freezin’ waitin’ for the deer to come out.” Every few minutes she checks to see if she’s gotten responses. She’s texting too and occasionally nodding off. And Marcy says this is how it goes. Sitting side by side in the quiet staring out at trees and grass, hoping to see a deer and breaking the boredom with text messages.
“She and I would get out there a lot of times we’d text back and forth sittin’ in the stand,” said Megan’s mom. “That’s how I learned how to text was sittin’ in a deer stand with her. And as a matter of she taught my husband how to text sitting in a deer stand with him.”
A little before 9 in the morning, they give up. They go back to the house empty handed and Magan’s little brother is gloating. He’s killed a deer. It’s his second one of the weekend. She’s jealous. It’s been 5 years since the last time she got one. Partly because she hasn’t had as much time to hunt now that she’s on the varsity cheerleading squad. But partly it’s luck. The right deer, walking into the right spot at the right time. And it just hasn’t happened for her.
“I just want to get a buck. I don’t care how big. I just want a buck.”
In the afternoon they go back out to the hunting club, hoping for that buck…and they wait, and wait. And then…
“Shhhh.” It’s a spike. A spike, a young buck walks into the clearing. You can kill a spike.
“You betcha I can.” Magan starts texting excitedly.
“You’d better put the phone down and put the gun up,” says her mother.
She does. Magan is tense. Bang. “You got em, you got em!” And she got him…with a single fatal shot.
“Some guys think, you know, well you’re a girl, you can’t kill a deer. You know, I can say, yeah, I’ve killed two of them. What now? You know? I don’t know. Not a lot of people can say that.”
The Hebert Family—Magan, Brody, Marcy & Darryl
Holly A. Heyser, Lauren Migaki & John Arce