RACINE, Ohio — Courtney Hatley began her hunting adventures at age four sitting in a deerstand with her father.
At eight she harvested her first deer, and now at 22, she may have just broken a record.
For the past three years, Courtney and her father Bobby Hatley have been driving from Concord, North Carolina to hunt white-tailed deer at the Ohio River Hunt Club, located near Racine, Ohio.
The first year Courtney spent an hour in the woods before bagging a five-point buck measuring 125 inches using a rifle. The next year, she switched to bow hunting, and it took her 30 minutes to land an eight point measuring 120 inches.
This year, with bow in hand, Courtney ventured into the woods, and after two hours, came away with a 16-point measuring 191 inches.
Their day began with a drive from North Carolina and a discussion on where she was going to sit once they arrived.
“We were running a bit late that Saturday, so when we got there, Dad told me to go ahead and take his spot in the tree stand that he usually sits in,” she said. “I was there less than two hours when I spotted a deer about 20 to 30 feet from me. I aimed, and the next thing I knew Dad was there, and he was really excited.”
Bobby knew the deer was big, and wanted to make sure everything was done correctly just in case it might be record setting, so he called Meigs County Game Warden Chris Gilkey.
When Gilkey arrived he proceeded to document the animal. The antlers measured 191 inches “green,” meaning they were not yet dry, a process that takes up to three months. Some shrinkage will occur, so the antlers are again measured and recorded before an official score can be declared and entered into the records.
The record in Ohio for a female with a bow is 178 inches — shrinkage is usually just a few inches, so while it is not official, it is likely Courtney will be the new Ohio record holder.
According to club co-owner Ed Paine, he and fellow co-owners Jeff and Chuck Paine had been watching this particular deer for three years with cameras strategically located on the grounds.
“We had this deer on our field cameras, but none of us had ever had a chance at him,” Ed said. “Each year he would show up bigger than the year before. We started calling him ‘the Giant,’ everyone was looking for this one.”
Courtney brought down the deer with a Ravin R26 Crossbow, and said she switched to bow hunting two years ago.
“My dad always took me and my sister hunting with him,” Courtney said. “He taught us how to safely use firearms, and two years ago I learned to use a bow. Hunting is something we have always done together; I think my dad was more excited than I was when he saw the deer. It could have been his, but instead he was happy for me.”
Gilkey said, “It was a really big deer, for a lot of people it is a once in a lifetime event to harvest a deer that large. Most of us are still trying to bag a deer that big. But what I found unique about this was the story behind it. Her dad was able to place her in a position to harvest a deer. He taught her the skills she needed, joined a hunt club to provide a good environment for hunting, spent his weekends driving up from North Carolina with her.”
He said Bobby was beaming with excitement.
“He was so proud and excited for her,” Gilkey said. “Bobby had been hunting the deer himself, but in a very unselfish move, he set her up for success. Bigger than the size or the record it might hold is the fact that a father and daughter got to share a moment. The deer will make the record books I’m sure, but there is no record book that can take the place of the memory they made that day. Nothing can put a value on the memory, or that father-daughter bond.”
“My dad has influenced both me and my sister to go hunting,” Courtney said. “He has put in so much work to teach us and to come up here and be able to hunt these big deer. We mostly just hunt at the Ohio River Hunt Club now we occasionally still hunt in North Carolina, but there are bigger deer here.”
According to the Division of Wildlife of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio is considered a destination for hunters of white-tailed deer, and usually ranks in the top five states for successful hunting. It would seem the Hatleys agree.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.