Sarah Hebert had been in the woods since she was about 5 years old. She had been coached on the ways of hunting by her father, and she had spent time on the range.

The 8-year-old hunter was now sitting in a box stand with father Steve, and she was about to have her education tested.

"It was rainy. It was on the chilly side, but not cold," Steve Hebert recalled. "We saw something coming through the woods."

But the veteran deer hunter almost got caught unprepared on this youth hunting weekend.

"At first, I thought it was a squirrel or rabbit coming through the woods," Steve Hebert said.

It wasn't until the yearling doe was right under the stand that the Heberts realized what it was.

The Minden hunter carefully got his daughter in position, propping her .243-caliber rifle on the stand's rail.

The deer kept moving across one of the shooting lanes in front of the stand, but it made a mistake after stepping into the second one.

"It stopped," Steve Hebert said. "It wasn't 30 yards from the stand."

Sarah Hebert peered through the scope, searching for the doe.

"It took me a second to find it," she said.

Finally, the deer came into sight, and Sarah Hebert lined up the crosshairs just like she'd learned at the shooting range, and squeezed the trigger.

"It ran about 15 yards, and fell," Sarah Hebert said.

Her father couldn't believe her composure as she made the shot.

"She didn't shake. She took her time before she shot," Steve Hebert said.

When the deer streaked away, however, Sarah reacted much differently.

"She was shaking so bad the stand was literally shaking," Steve Hebert said. "She couldn't hold the gun.

"She had to sit down."

The father was equally excited.

"After she shot, I knew she hit it," he said.

After waiting a few minutes, the team quietly climbed out of the stand and went in search of Sarah's first deer.

"I misjudged (where the deer had gone into the woods), so it took a few minutes to find it," Steve Hebert said. "You could see her disappointment. You could just see her face fall."

But finally, the downed doe came into view, and the excitement built again.

"It was hugs all around," Steve Hebert said. "It was pouring down rain by that time, but we just stood there hugging."

The Heberts hurried back to the camp to get a four-wheeler.

When they returned, Steve Hebert said he was pushed out of the way.

"She drug her deer out by herself," he said. "She didn't want me to mess with it."

Sarah Hebert is now 14 years old, and she still can't wait to get back in the woods.

"She's already bugging me about the youth weekend," Steve Hebert said in early October.

Prairieville's Haley Deprato is an equally enthusiastic young hunter.

The 13-year-old has killed four deer to date, with one being a big 8-point, but she said the most-memorable was definitely the first deer she downed.

"It was just cool to experience everything and see it all happen for the first time," Deprato said.

The kill came when she was only 9 years old.

"We saw a deer come out from the side; it was a 5-point," Deprato said. "It went to the farthest side of the field."

Jeff Deprato, Haley's father, said they had watched the buck for about 15 minutes.

"We watched it walk across the field and feed and make a scrape," the elder Deprato said.

When the buck paused while leaving its scent on a hanging branch, Haley Deprato was ready.

"I shot and missed," she said.

The buck pranced across the field and stopped.

"I had to reload for her because I hadn't taught her how to do that yet," Jeff Deprato said.

He even took time to reposition his video camera, which was on a tripod, so they could film the follow-up shot.

Finally, Haley Deprato put the crosshairs on the buck and squeezed off a shot with her little .223-caliber rifle.

"She didn't panic," Jeff Deprato said. "She was ready to shoot again."

This time she didn't miss.

"The deer was facing away from us," Jeff Deprato said. "I didn't think she would hit it, but she broke it down with a shot right in the back."

The father/daughter team celebrated before calling the other hunters in the woods on their two-way radio.

"We were yelling. I think it was more me than her," Jeff Deprato said. "I think they didn't need us to call over the walkie-talkie."

The kill cemented the young girl's passion for deer hunting.

"That hunt just made me enjoy hunting so much," Haley Deprato said. "It's just amazing."

But at one level, it really didn't change much.

"It was just as fun as going and enjoying the outdoors with my dad," she said.

Both of these girls' hunting experiences show just how important it is to take children hunting.

Hebert said the experiences of hunting with his daughter and, before that, his now-18-year-old son John provided memories that he wouldn't trade for the world.

"If I don't kill a deer this year, that'll make six years I haven't killed one," Hebert said. "I would just rather hunt with my children."

Hebert said he started both kids out early, taking them into the woods by the time they were about 5 years old.

"She would go squirrel hunting and, because I like to quail hunt, she'd come watch the dogs work," he said of his daughter. "She was always around when we killed.

"My family has just always been outdoors-oriented."

After a couple of years, Hebert would begin taking them in the deer stand with him.

"The way I started my kids is that I took them out with the idea that they were going to have a good time," he said.

The key at that early age was to ensure they didn't get bored or burned out on hunting.

"You have to remember that they're kids," Hebert said. "They're not going to sit still. Let them piddle around. We brought them a lot of snacks, and when they were ready to go home, we left.

"It wasn't this all-day thing."

Jeff Deprato agreed.

"You can't bring them out there in the evening at 2 p.m. to a box stand," he said. "They're going to hate it."

Long before the children were allowed to shoot at deer, their fathers were teaching them how to hunt.

Deprato said he involved Haley with every aspect of the sport.

"I took her to the fields, and asked her where she would put a deer stand," Deprato said. "I put the stand up, but I let her make the decision."

He said the importance of letting children participate in scouting is to teach them that hunting is more than just shooting deer.

"If you look in Webster, the definition of hunting is 'the pursuit of game,'" Deprato said. "It doesn't say the killing of game."

Once in the stands, however, the kids were coached.

"They got to look for the deer," Hebert said said. "They were coached where to look and what to look for."

The result of this low-pressure approach was that there was never a time when the kids didn't want to go out with Hebert.

"She looked forward to going hunting," he said of Sarah.

Hebert and Deprato also spent time on the firing range before allowing their children to take up a gun in a stand.

"They had to be familiar with the gun they were going to shoot," Hebert said.

For John Hebert, that was a 20-gauge shotgun with slugs.

"That's what we had," Steve Hebert said.

By the time Sarah Hebert reached hunting age, Hebert had stepped up to a .243 rifle, and that's what his daughter learned to shoot.

"We taught them that, essentially, you've got one shot, and if you place that shot in the right place, that's plenty of gun," he said.

Sarah's rifle is a scaled-down version of her father's, but it probably will be many years before she needs anything larger.

"The odds are, she'll be able to use that gun the rest of her life," Hebert said.

The small-caliber rifle also packed a relatively light kick, which was an added bonus.

Deprato said Haley's diminutive size was a deciding factor in her use of a .223.

"You could put the stock on your nose and shoot it," he said. "It just doesn't have any kick."

Haley Deprato, like Sarah Hebert, has now graduated to a .243 so that her 9-year-old sister Ashlyn can use the .223.

By the time the youngsters got into the stand to try and kill their first deer, they were crack shots.

The outcomes were then up to the kids.

"We took them out with one gun," Hebert said. "The shot was theirs."

Deprato said he almost helped Haley out when she shot at her first deer, but decided against it.

"I could have held it for her and let her shoot, but I wanted her to make the shot," he explained.

An important part of any hunt with children, especially their first time on the stand, is to throw management theories out the window.

"They were going to get to pull the trigger," Hebert said. "It didn't matter what it was."

The fact that Hebert belongs to a DMAP club helped, since Hebert simply carried a doe tag into the woods.

Deprato had the same philosophy — at least for the first kill.

"The first one's going to be anything that walks out — a doe or a legal buck," he said.

But that was the only time he cut them a break.

"After that, Haley was on the program."

But allowing children to take a shot at whatever happens by during that first hunt is important.

"It keeps them excited," Hebert said.

While Hebert still allows children to take young bucks after their first kill, Deprato said Haley proves that children can be moved to a management program without hurting their interest.

"We had a cull buck walk out on us, and I told her to shoot it," Deprato said. "She told me, 'No, I don't think I'd be happy when it's on the ground.'"

They watched that buck ease by, and later saw a monster step into range.

"We had a 140-class 10-point walk out," Deprato said. "We just couldn't get that red dot (scope) on it. It was too dark."

While a successful kill is an important ingredient to stoking a child's enthusiasm for hunting, it's equally as important to prepare a child for a miss.

Hebert said that, while Sarah knocked her first deer down, his son wasn't so fortunate.

"His first opportunity, he missed," Hebert said.

The hunt was almost magical, with a 150-class buck walking out and stopping within 20 yards of the stand.

"It started to run when John was getting his shotgun ready to take the shot," Steve Hebert said. "It went behind a big white oak tree.

"He plastered that oak tree."

However, because Hebert hadn't pressured his son, John Hebert simply took it in stride.

"He still talks about it," Steve Hebert said.

That's pretty much how Sarah has handled disappointment.

"She's got a shot at a rack buck and missed," Steve Hebert said. "She was disappointed that she missed, but she went right back to hunting."

And fathers should remember that each child is different, so their approaches might have to change.

"Haley will sit there and read and do her homework," Deprato said. "Ashlyn — if I keep taking her to a box stand, she'll quit hunting."

The younger Deprato daughter just doesn't like to sit still, so she will probably learn how to stalk.

When it's all said and done, the important thing is spending time in the woods with a child.

"You've got to make some concessions," Hebert said. "They have to have a good time. If they goof up, fine. If they want to go home, fine. If they want to eat a sandwich at the best time, good.

"Don't fuss at them."

Haley Deprato said that's what she enjoys most about hunting — enjoying time with her father.

"We whisper a lot," she said. "There's no distractions, so we can talk about anything.

"That's my favorite time to talk to him."