When Jeremy Landry's 9-year-old daughter unexpectedly expressed interest in joining him in the stand for a deer hunt, he decided on a high tech approach to get her ready for the big day.
In addition to target practice with a .22 rifle, he let Grace — a fourth grader at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Thibodaux— get a feel for hunting with the Deer Hunter game on his iPad.
"It helped her understand how to look through a scope and place a scope, and what it would look like when she got out there," said Landry, 44. "It gave me the ability to see how she was placing the scope on an animal without having to look through the scope with her."
All that practice paid off, and on New Year's Eve afternoon, she shot a 7-point piebald buck on family property near Lafourche Parish.
"She actually saw the deer before I did," Landry said. "I guess I'm one of those guys who refuses to go get the glasses I actually need. I was like squinting, 'Where?' Then I saw he was almost in a perfect line behind the feeder."
The piebald had become a familiar sight on the lease, but Landry definitely hadn't been expecting to see it with his daughter.
"We were going out there to shoot a doe, to be quite honest. We had been seeing him even all last year, but none of the guys would shoot," Landry said. "I guess I'm a little prejudiced, but I said, 'Oh my God, look at this — the prettiest girl on the place, and the prettiest deer on the place steps out.'
"I texted a few of the guys and they were like, 'Yeah, let her shoot it.'"
Landry had purchased a youth model CVA Hunter .243 crack barrel for his daughter, who sat in his lap with hearing protection on for her very first shot with the rifle.
"I just let her practice with the .22 and then switched it for the shot, and she couldn't tell the difference," he said. "The adrenaline was pumping and she pulled the trigger."
With the piebald directly facing her in front of the feeder at 110 yards, Grace's first shot was literally hair-raising.
She skimmed the buck's neck on the right side, but didn't break the skin — and the bullet zipped over and cut a line straight down the deer's back to its spine.
"When she shot, he took off away from the feeder and came directly toward us and turned broadside and was looking back at the feeder, like the feeder had just done that," Landry said. "He turned his face to lick his wound. I thought she had actually hit the feeder because I saw a little puff."
The puff turned out to be the piebald's hair, and Landry quickly cracked open the rifle, reloaded and got Grace ready for shot No. 2 — this time with the deer broadside.
"She was able to fire off the next shot and got him at 75 yards," he said. "He reared up on his hind legs and fell right there."
Father and daughter shared a special moment in the stand, high-fiving and hugging, before making their way down to check out the 2 ½-year-old buck with seven points.
"I told my wife she was calm, cool and collected," Landry said. "She didn't say a bunch about it. And I didn't want to pressure her — if she didn't have buck fever, I didn't want to give it to her."
They loaded up the buck, Landry skinned it at the camp and the piebald will soon be hanging in a special place commemorating Grace's first-ever buck.
So it turns out incorporating a deer-hunting video game into Grace's practice sessions paid off big time.
"And they say those iPads are bad," Landry said with a chuckle. "It definitely helped."