Even though she’s a self-professed “girly girl”, Sarah Head causes big bucks to quake whenever she walks by.
The traditional fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is a perfect example of situational irony. Readers don’t expect Beauty, or Belle in the Walt Disney version, to ever fall in love with such a hideous looking beast, but that’s exactly what happens in the end.
Beauty and the Beast has been retold in several versions and adaptations under different titles over the years, but each follows the same basic plot line — a victim of some supernatural spell is forced to live in his unsightly form until finding another love. The underlying truth is that the other love falls for the beast because of what they see inside rather than what they see outside.
Eleven-year-old Sarah Head of Newellton is another perfect example of situational irony. This self-professed “girly girl” is just that. She’s a sixth-grade cheerleader at Tensas Academy. She has played the role of a dancing doll in The Tales of Hans Christian Anderson at the Young Troupe in Monroe. Pink is her favorite color.
Sarah Head is also a deer hunter — not what you would expect from such a “girly girl.” She’s not just a deer hunter, though. Any kid can tag along with Mom or Dad in the field and say they’re hunting. Sarah Head already has two 8-point deer to her credit, and she’s working for more.
“It surprises me that she loves to hunt so much,” said Sarah’s mom Candi Head. “Her bedroom is a perfect example of Sarah’s personality. She has pink walls, pink curtains with lime-green curtains and a collection of American Girls dolls all lined up, and above it are two massive deer heads on the wall that keep watch over it all.”
“She doesn’t even own any camouflage,” said Walker Head, Sarah’s dad. “The day she killed her second deer, she was wearing a maroon jogging suit with one of my hunting jackets over it. She’s just at home in what amounts to a big old camouflage dress hanging to her knees as she is in her cheerleading outfit.”
Sarah began hunting last year, and this beauty almost immediately began collecting deer mounts for her bedroom. Her first deer was an 8-point that she killed on the last day of deer season in 2006. A family friend, the late Jim Wilkerson of Newellton, had an unfilled tag at the Somerset Hunting Club in Tensas Parish, and he offered it to Sarah to see if she could fill it.
“He told us he knew where a bunch of bucks had been feeding,” Walker Head said. “We went out there and got on the stand as the guests of Big Jim, and it wasn’t long until Sarah had her first deer.”
Knowing that the rest of the family was getting ready to go to a big program at the First United Methodist Church in Newellton, Head called his wife because he knew everybody would be excited and want to come see the deer before they left for church. Sarah’s first deer turned into a family affair.
Of course one of the first things that had to be taken care of was Sarah getting a little deer blood smeared on her face.
“That was kind of gross,” she said with a grin. “I was trying to run away, but Dad finally caught up to me. There wasn’t much I could do then.”
While Sarah’s first deer was memorable with all the excitement that goes along with the first one, this beauty found her beast just 11 months later in December 2006. Sarah’s second deer was also an 8-point, but this one sent the scales crazy when it was lifted.
“I had taken Sarah on several hunts that wound up being more like nature walks than they did deer hunts,” Walker Head said. “We always kind of set up in a little ground blind. I would always take Sarah out in the afternoons when it was warm enough for her. The ground blind gave us the chance to see a lot of deer up close. It’s always been her decision if she wanted to go or not. I’m really surprised she likes it as much as she does.”
After Sarah killed her first deer, Walker Head began welding a couple two-seat ladder stands that he put up at Ione Hunting Club in the fertile flood plains on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. There were plenty of box stands to hunt, but Sarah preferred being in the openness of the ladder stand so she could see more of what was going on around her.
“We had never seen this deer up until the day Sarah shot it,” Walker Head said. “The stand was overlooking a food plot, and the rut was rolling along pretty good. The afternoon was setting up just like we wanted it to.”
As Sarah and her dad sat on the stand, they eventually noticed a small buck come out to eat. The deer kept looking back toward the edges of the woods, and Walker Head knew there had to me something more than just this small deer moving into the plot.
“Dad kept telling me to look where the button buck was looking,” Sarah recalled. “He said there was a good chance that this small deer was looking at another bigger buck. The big deer eventually walked out.”
The massive 8-point was more than 200 yards away, but Sarah and her dad could make it out well enough with some good glass. Sarah watched the buck for a while through the binoculars, and she handed them to her dad to see what was going on.
“We don’t have a size limit on our deer,” Walker Head said. “We just kill mature deer, and I could tell it was a good deer as soon as I looked through the binoculars. It was plenty big enough for her. Heck, it was plenty big enough for anybody.”
Sarah’s beast walked toward the stand the entire time they watched it. It came right in to about 50 yards where it stopped. Sarah had her family heirloom Encore .223 ready the entire time, and she tried to pick the deer up on the scope.
“All I could see were the horns and feet because a limb was in my way,” Sarah recalled. “The big deer snorted at the button buck, and chased it off. They both ran out of the patch and out of sight.”
“That’s when my heart sank,” Walker Head added. “I just knew it was gone and that she had missed a perfect opportunity. It wasn’t 10 minutes, though, before that same buck was right back on us. It came out about halfway across the field. Sarah was having some trouble picking it up on the scope, so I wanted to make sure she was looking at the right deer before she shot because the button buck had come back out too.”
While telling Sarah not to be too nervous, Walker Head’s trembling fingers reached up to turn the scope down to three so Sarah could see both of the deer.
“Dad told me the big buck was the deer on the right,” Sarah said. “I got on that deer, and Dad turned the scope back up for me when he knew I was on the right one. He asked me if I was on him, which I was, and he said, ‘Kill it.’”
Father and daughter heard the gun snap, but no shot rang out. Felling secure enough that the deer was too far to see him, Walker Head stood up to get another shell, as the rifle was a single shot. He helped Sarah eject the bad shell and put in the new one.
“She was amazingly calm,” Walker Head said. “I knew she was still on it, so I told her again to kill him. She shot and the buck fell on its feet. She really put the hammer down on him.”
There was no blood on the face this time. There was no family affair. It was just dad, daughter and a 230-pound deer.
“There are bigger deer in the area, but this one was definitely above average,” Walker Head said. “Sarah and I couldn’t do anything with it, so we had to ride back to the camp to get help.”
This version of Beauty and the Beast would never have been written had Walker and Candi Head not allowed Sarah to experience hunting without pushing her in that direction. This exposure with the opportunity to make up her own mind has cemented Sarah in the hunting world for the rest of her life.
“It’s always been her decision,” Walker Head said. “Every time we’ve hunted together, or that I’ve hunted with my son Clayton, they have to decide if they want to go or not. They also have to decide if they want to just sit or shoot. I think a parent’s job is just to safely introduce their kids to hunting. After that, it’s up to the kid.”
Sarah sees in hunting what most young people see — the opportunity to spend time with a parent and the chance to see what’s going on in the woods. An animal in the freezer or on the wall is just icing on the cake.
“A lot of girls probably don’t hunt,” Sarah said. “But if they would give it a try, they would really like it. It’s not a bad thing to kill a deer. They taste really good, and it’s a lot of fun to go out with Dad and shoot deer. It’s also really cool to see all the other animals like raccoons and stuff. If you think you’re going to get bored, just take a book so you can read while you wait.”
This fresh outlook on things has even gotten her grizzled dad hunting with a more open eye.
“From a personal standpoint,” said Walker Head, “hunting with a kid will help anybody remember what’s really neat about hunting. Before I started taking Sarah, I had forgotten how cool it is to see a squirrel on a limb or a raccoon that comes close to the stand. I had even forgotten that you were supposed to make a wish every time you see a redbird. Young eyes see things old eyes don’t.”
Girls might be able to easily convince Dad to take them hunting just by batting their eyelashes, but Mom sometimes is a different story. This isn’t much of a stretch for Candi Head having been around hunting all her life.
“Sarah is really responsible, and I trust Walker to be safe with her,” Candi Head said. “She took the hunter safety course, so I know she knows what to do. If I was nervous about her hunting at first, now I stay nervous waiting on the phone to ring with news of a deer so I can run out there and see it and take pictures.”
Candi Head, a portrait photographer, stressed the importance of not just letting your kids go hunting but to document their hunts with a camera every step of the way.
“It’s important to take a bunch of pictures so your family will always be able to look back on all those memorable days,” she said. “Everybody needs to get a camera whether it’s a digital camera or a disposable and keep it ready for those kinds of pictures. Nothing can replace my pictures, and as our kids get older and have kids, their kids can spend time looking back on the things Mom and Dad used to do.”
And you never know what you’re going to be able to take a picture of. While wondering what Sarah and a friend that was over to spend the night were doing, Candi Head got her camera and snuck toward Sarah’s bedroom. She opened the door and found both girls decorating Sarah’s deer mounts with pink boas and fluffy pink hats. Each was adorned with a necklace and other kids of jewelry.
The beasts transformed into beauties. Now there’s a picture that will last a lifetime.
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