"Hi. My name is Reagan. I am 11 years old and a bowhunter for life."
Remember seeing that video of the little girl getting her first buck?
Wide Open Spaces got a letter from her, Reagan Bryan, telling us all about how she started bowhunting and why she is now a lifelong huntress. Though it's been several years, her story still resonates, and is a refreshing reminder of why we do what we do.
It all started in the fourth grade when she joined the local National Archery in the Schools (NASP) program.
"(She) didn't know much about what (she) was doing other than pulling back the string and letting go," her dad, Chris, said.
That changed when her dad got her a Genesis bow and they started practicing targets in the yard. In fact, they practiced every day.
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...All of the hard work and dedication paid off and I was now a state champion in Virginia.
Her dad then got her a Bowtech Carbon Rose.
"I fell in love with this bow as soon as I laid eyes on it," Reagan said. "It is a manly bow with a touch of girlie in it."
That bow might be the symbol of Reagan's hunting career.
Reagan and her dad practiced more and more; from treestands, using different shot angles, and with 3D targets, until opening day of youth season in Virginia.
"I could hardly sleep the night before," she said.
Reagan's first buck ended up getting away with a possible liver shot. This was disheartening, but her dad told her it was something that happens to all hunters, no matter how seasoned. The most important thing is the outdoor experience.
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.
On the next hunt, Reagan was more determined.
And that she did. She downed her first buck from 33 yards.
"That feeling is the best feeling in the world," she said. "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...When [the buck] turned broadside dad told me to draw, then lightly says 27 yards...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.
Reagan is "hooked for life," and we have Reagan's dad to thank for getting it on camera. They were both sure to mention a thank you to Reagan's archery teachers, Erin Calhoun, JT Hurt and the entire Amherst Arms crew. And most of all, Reagan thanks her parents for giving her the opportunity.
We are very thankful to Reagan for her letter, and even more thankful we can share it with our readers. It is awesome that there are kids like her in this country. You can read the whole letter here.
All photos courtesy of Whitney DeWitt