Here is the letter we received from Reagan Bryan on Oct. 23, 2014. This is posted verbatim as we received it.
From Targets to Deer
By: Reagan Bryan
Hi. My name is Reagan. I am 11 years old and a bowhunter for life. This in fact, is my addiction. But, it didn’t start just by walking into the woods and shooting a deer. Allow me to explain. My dad has always encouraged me and told me that I could do anything if I set my mind to it and give it my best. So, thats just what I did.
I started the NASP program in 4th grade at school and barely made the team. In fact, I secured the final spot on the team based on tryout scores. This was my big chance. I didn’t know much about what I was doing other than pulling back the string and letting go. My dad was just happy that I was on the team and having fun. I made it to the state Tournament in Virginia and didn’t do very well, but it wasn’t about that. For me, it was a learning experience. I really wish every kid out there could have that opportunity. I hear not every school has the program.
After that, my dad bought me a Genesis bow and target because he could tell I was really into it. The beginning of my 5th grade year I told dad that I wanted to practice and get good. I wanted to make sure that I made the team to be able to compete again. So I grabbed my bow and shot once and hit the target. The next shot was a miss to the left. Then another miss. This time to the right popping my bicycle tire. Dad was raking leaves and stopped and we both started to laugh. It was that moment that changed my life. He looked at me and said not to worry about the tire. We could buy a new tire anytime. What we are gonna do is fix my shooting. The bow has no sights and he said that he can’t see what I see, but knew how to help out. Within minutes, he had me figured out and gave me a cool system for learning where to aim to hit the target. The rest is history. I practiced everyday as he sat in a chair by my side and studied my from. We spent a lot of time at Amherst Arms, our local archery shop. They are the best. The owner would keep the store open after hours just for us kids to practice. That says a lot. Dad had their bow specialist, Russell Newton evaluate me shooting to see what needed improvement. We made several small changes like hand grip and that seemed to make the difference. All of the hard work and dedication paid off and I was now a state champion in Virginia.
My dad bought me a compound bow from Amherst Arms after that. It is a Bowtech Carbon Rose and I fell in love with this bow as soon as I laid eyes on it. It is a manly bow with a touch of girlie in it. Again, Russell Newton got this all setup and adjusted to fit me. When I left out of there I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I was so happy. We immediately started to practice with this bow. I quickly got used to using a bow with sights and built up more strength pulling this bow back. Dad made training fun by setting up a deer target in the backyard and we would sneak around the house and spot the deer and whisper like it was real. He would range the distance and tell me what pin to use. We would spot it sometimes and he would say it was too far, then we would belly crawl to get in closer to get a shot. This was not only a lot of fun, but it taught me different shot angles and distances. We did this almost everyday. Then he hung a treestand in the yard and bought me a safety harness and started to work with me shooting from 20′ up. All of this practice has showed me he was right. I really could do anything if I gave it my best. I was feeling confident about deer sesaon and couldn’t wait.
So, here we were. Opening day of youth season in Virginia. I could hardly sleep the night before. We got up super early, showered and was out the door dressed in camo. We cut our head lamps on and walked straight up the mountain to our stand. Dad climbed up first and got strapped in, then told me to climb on up. It was still dark out, but i could see the trees around me. The coolest thing was seeing the sun rise with my dad and hearing the woods come alive. The birds started talking and squirrels climbed down from their nest to look for food. It wasn’t long after light, dad said here comes a deer. I immediately felt my nerves starting to go crazy, but I knew I needed to stay calm and focus on everything. I had trained for 6 months for this moment and didn’t want to miss this shot. The deer turned and was headed below my stand. My heart is now racing. I watched every move this deer made and it is about to hit the opening in the woods for a shot. Dad told me it was going to be about 25 or 30 yards when it stepped out. Suddenly, dad makes a noise and stops him. I chose 27 yards and split the two pins, placed it on the crease of his shoulder and released. I could clearly see my nocturnal nocks fly straight through the deer, then he kicked his back legs and ran off. I just lost all control of my emotions after that. I remember looking up at dad and seeing the joy in his eyes. I knew then that a had just suceeded.
We finally climbed down to go look for the deer as we were both so excited. We walked to the very spot and found blood on a rock. Dad said he didn’t like the color, that it was real dark red and probably a liver shot. We looked for several hours with no luck. After a break, we went back and looked even more. I was really getting down and depressed at this point. Dad told me that it was ok, that even the best hunters out there will lose deer. It just happens. He told me that even though we didn’t find it that it wouldn’t be waisted. He told me the process of mother nature would run it’s course and feed several wild animals. Still determined, dad took a day off from work and had some help looking for my deer once again. The end result was bittersweet, but I knew I would eventually get another chance.
The next weekend was opening of archery season. Dad and I were back at it again. This time, I was more determined to have sucess. The morning was slow. We didn’t see a thing. But, after a midday break, we were back up in the stand once again. Right near dark, a buck comes up the mountain out of the pines. He stopped and scraped the ground then turned and went up above my stand. Dad had preranged several trees and knew that this buck was about to walk right by one that he had picked out. He whispered 33 yards. I knew that I could make that shot because I practice those odd distances at home. I put the 30 yard pin right behind the shoulder, then raised up slightly to make it 33 yards like he said. The deer stopped, I took aim, and then released. My green nocturnal lit up as it flew. Whack! Right on the crease! This time I watched the deer run off instead of celebrating. I knew that it stuck right where I wanted it. I looked up at dad once again, this time with confidence. I got him dad! I got him!
That feeling is the best feeling in the world. I will never forget these moments. We climbed down and walked up to the spot and immediately found blood. This time great blood. Bright red. Dad was impressed that my small broadheads were so effective making this blood trail. I use Wasp Queen 75 grain fixed blades. They fly great and apparantely cut good too. We had an easy trail to follow in the dark. The deer had only ran 50 yards and expired. When i saw the belly of the 6 pointer lying there I was so happy. I was about to cry. I just put my hands on my goals. They were reachable and I had just achieved my goal. My dad and I hugged and cheered as this was a special moment and one that I will never forget.
The very next weekend we were back in the same stand. This time a 4 pointer comes by. I really wanted to shoot it, but dad told me not to. He said lets let him grow up. As much as I wanted to, I knew dad knew best. Luckily 10 minutes later, along comes an 8 pointer. Clearly bigger than the other. I instantly knew we had made a wise choice on passing the young buck. The buck clearly was not going to come our way and into range so dad grunted a couple times and the buck heads straight to us. I couldn’t help but look at his rack. I was starting to shake seeing him get closer, but all I could think about was “The Crease”. The line where his front leg meets his body. He comes in stomping his feet looking for whatever was making the grunt sound. When he turned broadside dad told me to draw, then lightly says 27 yards. I knew what to. As i released, the buck turned to run. The arrow hit and seemed to be a little far back, but at the moment it hit he was quartering away so that was where it needed to go. The deer runs off as we watch. Suddenly, we hear a loud crashing sound and dad says he is down. Oh my gosh. Did i just do it again? Well, yes I did in fact. We had a very easy blood trail to follow and found the treasure at the end. A beautiful 8 point buck. I am hooked for life.
I’d like to give a special thank you to my archery teachers, Erin Calhoun, JT Hurt, and the entire Amherst Arms crew. And most of all, my parents for giving me the opportunity.