By Caroline Langdale
It’s 5:08 am on the first Saturday of November 2007, in Valdosta, Georgia. If you step into the Flash Foods on St. Augustine Road, you see a six-year-old blonde swallowed in her dad's Realtree Camo jacket admiring the case display of warm Krispy Kreme donuts. You watch her choose the one with pink sprinkles and you observe her dad pouring his green thermos full of strong black coffee. Then you watch him pay at the counter with exact change, lead her out, and get both the store and truck door for her.
Thirteen years ago, that was my dad and I. A tradition for us was stopping at that same store every early morning on our way out to the woods to chase an animal that amazed me then, and continues to more and more every year to this day, which is the whitetail deer. Thankfully, I can remember back to those days when dad struck the initial match that sparked my excitement for hunting whitetails in God's creation and the entire experience that comes with it.
For years we spent mornings just as I described. Dad often reminds me that with each morning, I woke up earlier and earlier naturally, eventually to the point that I was waking him up instead of him waking me. It was something about a Flash Foods donut and a thirty-minute truck ride to sit beside my dad in a deer stand for the morning and watch the first ray of sun through Georgia pine trees. Inside of me, there was excitement just at the thought of laying eyes on a deer. Our favorite saying on the truck ride out to the woods was “I’ve got a good feeling about this morning.” Those good feelings led to many middays that some would consider to be a strikeout hunt. For dad and I, it was always the memory that meant the most.
I sat beside him many mornings and afternoons in rural south Georgia being taught about everything from deer nutrition and acorn species to forest management, bedding area, and how to play the wind on a hunt. Thinking back, it was quite an undertaking for my dad to take seven-year-old me hunting with him. But, as the years passed, we miraculously we saw more deer, I spooked less deer, and years later, I was able to harvest my very first rifle whitetail alongside my dad. I will never forget the feeling of providing food for my family for the first time.
Looking back, I think that it took my first harvest for me to realize that the kill was special but that everything and everyone involved meant more. Before long, my goal became to successfully chase and harvest a whitetail on my own without my dad. It took years to achieve that goal, but it finally became a reality. When it did, I further realized the same thing as before - what would it mean if not for the people involved and the journey experienced in God's country in rural south Georgia?
As I got older my goal became to hunt mature whitetail bucks which bumped the challenge up a notch. It was then that I got my first taste of the brilliance of a mature whitetail buck. I went years without a harvest, and it began to mean so much to even have an encounter with a mature buck. Eventually, I checked that goal off of the list as well. Last season I picked a target buck which was a five-and-a-half-year-old, eight-point named “Pitchfork.” We had an extraordinary season hunting him, and I was fortunate to harvest him alongside my dad in early December 2019.
This season, I picked up a Mathews Avail bow and arrow and set the goal to harvest my first deer with it. That goal is checked, and now, I am hunting a four-and-a-half-year-old eight-point that I named “Dutton.”
There will be new challenges to come and new goals to reach with every year that comes, and I love hunting for that. I love hunting for the quiet time and the beauty of nature, for the challenge that each deer brings, and for the memories with my dad, brother, and friends that mean everything to me.
Hunting is for women and girls to pursue and I am proud to do that. My name is Caroline Langdale, I am 22 years old, and I am my best self when I am in the whitetail woods. You can follow my outdoor lifestyle and my chase after “Dutton” on Instagram @CPLOutdoors.