One of the best bucks reported from the first few days of deer season was a nice 8-point with two stickers taken by an 8-year-old girl with a crossbow near Eagle Lake — and she didn’t wait long to get him.

Hunting with her dad, Michael, Madelyn Kavanaugh of Vicksburg killed her biggest buck to date on Sept. 30, opening day of the season. She was hunting on an invite to Chillhowie Farm from Jeff Terry.

“It was a fine buck, and she put him down,” said Terry, a former lead guide for Tara Wildlife. “It was a great start to the season.”

And it added to a hunting bond growing between daughter and dad.

“She’s been tagging along with me in the outdoors since she was able to walk,” Michael Kavanaugh said. “She’s always ready to go hunting with me and won’t let me leave the house without her. I have more fun watching her these days than hunting by myself.”

Kavanaugh and Terry had been getting trail-camera photos of several good bucks for two weeks before the season. This one, nicknamed “the Big 8” presented the best opportunity.

“This buck was in the daylight on numerous pictures, so we thought we had a good chance to take him,” Kavanaugh said. “On opening day, the wind was right, so we decided to hunt in a pop-up blind we put out weeks before season. We got in the blind at 5 p.m. and the deer started moving around about 5:50. 

“This buck came in around 6:20. Madelyn was sitting in a chair beside me and moved to my lap while the buck we were after was 100 yards out. She was shaking because she knew it was the Big 8.”

To keep her from getting too nervous, dad and daughter had a plan.

“We had about 10 minutes to prepare before he gave us a shot,” he said. “I talked her through the shot and practiced aiming at some of the smaller deer, which seemed to calm her down. He presented a shot at 20 yards, and we saw the lighted knock hit perfect.”

Kavanaugh said the buck ran through a brush top before they heard him crash about 100 yards away.

“We were pumped up and giving each other high fives and hugs,” he said. “She kept saying, ‘Oh my gosh, Daddy, I hit him; I can’t believe it.’ She was so excited, and so was I.

“We waited until dark when Terry and his grandson pulled up to help us find the buck. There was a good blood trail that led straight to where we heard him crash. Jeff was super excited for her and kept picking at her about how big the buck was.”

It was the third buck for Madelyn Kavanaugh, a third grader. The 8-point, 142-inch buck had kickers off both G2s and velvet hanging off the bases of both anglers. Her first buck, taken at age 5 with a 300 Blackout, was a 136-inch, 9-point, and her second, a 132-inch, 9-point, was taken with a crossbow at age 6.

 “She has become the best little hunting partner,” her proud father said. “It’s nice to be able to share my passion of the outdoors with her while making special memories spending time together.” 

Click here to read other big-buck stories from this season.