David Kaetterhenry of Stillwater is among the young people who harvested their first deer during Minnesota’s firearm deer season.
The 16-year-old youth, who has Down’s syndrome, has had a passion for hunting, joining his father Kevin Kaetterhenry afield before he was even old enough to legally hunt.
“My wife and I knew of David’s diagnosis before he was born, and as a dad you think about what type of activities your son will not be able to do because of this diagnosis, but David blew me away by easily passing DNR safety training,” said Kaetterhenry.
“David reminds me that I have to be careful about expectations I set in my mind, compared to what he’s actually capable of doing.”
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Kaetterhenry’s made their way to North Branch entering their deer stand around 3:15 p.m. ready for the hunt.
Moderate winds graced the balmy 45 degrees. Looking north through the woods was a soybean field about 60 yards away. East of the location was heavy, thick cover were numerous deer had been harvested in previous years by family members. They both used grunt calls a few times during the first hour and rattled antlers once, trying to get something to happen.
“I had been whispering to David to remind him that the later it got, the better our chances of seeing a deer when we started to hear the shots of other hunters in the area,” Kaetterhenry said.
Fifteen minutes later, Kaetterhenry spotted a deer 75 yards north of their position.
“I whispered to David that a deer was coming, but he couldn’t see it as it had entered a creek bottom,” said Kaetterhenry.
At a fast walk, the deer reappeared on their side of the creek, about 40 yards away, when David first saw it. It was a buck.
While David aimed his gun, encouraged to wait until the deer had stopped and provided a good, broadside shot, but the deer did not want to stop. It continued its walk, closing fast.
“I grunted numerous times, trying to get the buck to stop – it did not. As it closed in, now only fifteen yards away, I whispered to David, ‘you’re just going to have to take the shot,’ which he promptly did,” said Kaetterhenry.
David’s shot found its mark and the buck dropped in its tracks. A beautiful, tall fork-horned antler on one side, with the other side broke off at the base, no doubt from a fight with a bigger buck.
“After the shot, I reminded David to make sure the safety of the gun was on and that we would sit in the stand to make sure the deer was down and to allow ourselves to calm down a bit. We hugged, high-fived and laughed,” said Kaetterhenry.
Then the adrenaline rush hit David.
“He asked why he was shaking all over and I explained that it was the excitement of what had just happened passing through his body,” Kaetterhenry said.
The excited pair climbed down from the stand as the youth tried to process the reality of taking his first deer.
After pictures, David helped field dress the buck. Back at camp the deer weighed in at 150 pounds. A corn fed young buck that mom, dad, David and two sisters will feast on throughout the year.
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying their deer camp and reliving the hunt.
“About every 30 minutes that night, David and I would smile, knuckle bump each other and say, ‘I can’t believe you got your first deer,” said Kaetterhenry.
“On occasion, David would go out to the shed to see the deer and say, “I can’t believe I got my first deer!”
The next morning they registered the deer and harvested it, saving the antlers for the “trophy mount” which they deserve.
“In the back of my mind I was prepared that David might never get a deer, but he’s had a way of often proving everyone wrong,” said Kaetterhenry.
It appears there’s little this young man can’t do.