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Life lessons in the woods

STILLWATER, Okla. – He plays soccer, basketball and baseball. He’s not a bad golfer and takes pride in being tough to tackle on the football field.
Life lessons in the woods

Reagen Kuhn

Thirteen-year-old Stillwater, Oklahoma, resident Reagen Kuhn, dabbles in many activities, but nothing gets his blood flowing and heart racing more than climbing up a tree stand and hunting white tailed deer. It’s a sentiment shared by many Oklahomans.

Thanksgiving weekend 2015 was a time he’ll never forget. Eager, like on Christmas morning, with his right-hand-man and grandfather, Randy Horton, by his side,   Kuhn drudged his way up the hill to their stand. The freezing temperature and drizzling rain did their best to wipe the smile off his face, but were unsuccessful.

After a couple hours of no action and a few catnaps, a younger buck was spotted in the distance. A flicker of the ear gave away his location before he was coaxed into an opening and into Kuhn’s scope.

BANG! The deer dropped and Kuhn had harvested his first-ever deer.

“It was awesome,” he said.

Fast forward to youth gun season this year. Kuhn, with “Papa” Randy in tow, was back up in the stand. It was starting to get dark about the time another young buck appeared. Kuhn wanted to pull the trigger, but the time wasn’t right.

“I kept telling him, ‘wait until you have a broadside shot,’” Horton said. “Reagen was getting mad I wouldn’t let him shoot.”

Horton never did let Kuhn pull the trigger. The buck continued cautiously along its path, walking directly away from the stand and out of sight.

“It was good for him,” Horton said. “Reagen is learning to be patient and doing the right thing by only taking the shot when he’s certain he can kill the deer.”

Patience is just one of the many life lessons youth hunters can learn while in the woods. This is something the young man wasn’t thrilled about at the time, but has come to terms with “Papa’s” decision.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get to shoot the deer,” he said. “Papa told me we’d get him next time, though.”

As part of the instant gratification generation, patience is a tough pill to swallow. However, youth in the state who participate in 4-H Shooting Sports program get a taste of its importance and value.

“We teach our volunteers in the 4-H program to utilize the concept of teaching life skills,” said Terry Nelson, Oklahoma 4-H Shooting Sports coordinator, who spoke specifically about the “thinking” and “being” areas of the training. “Under the ‘thinking’ area are the skills that are learned relating to critical thinking, decision making and problem solving. In the ‘being’ area are the skills that are learned relating to managing feelings, self-discipline and self-responsibility.”

This type of training and application in other areas of life are ever present for Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Deer Biologist, Erik Bartholomew.

“Being patient not only in the deer stand but in letting life play out will make things easier in the long run,” he said. “Practice is important whether that is practicing at the gun range or studying for a test or job interview. Practice makes perfect.”

Those two things – practice and patience – can be boring, however.

“Boredom is OK. Those long waits in the blind or on the stand make it exciting when you do see animals and get an opportunity for a shot,” Bartholomew said. “Same thing goes in life. It’s OK to be bored. It makes the fun times more fun. Boredom also allows you to use your imagination to come up with something fun to do.”

While quiet time allows some to let their imaginations run wild, it opens windows of opportunity for others. Tromping through the woods, observing his surroundings and posting up in a tree stand for hours on end led Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, down his professional path.

“Hunting is most directly the reason I am in natural resources and in science. Specifically, spending time in the outdoors encouraged observation and an inquisitive nature, which steered me toward science,” he said. “Further, spending time outdoors makes complex issues such as landscape fragmentation, impacts of humans on the environment and the finite nature of resources readily apparent and undeniable.”

Whether or not Kuhn, and any of the thousands of youth like him throughout the state, becomes a wildlife biologist is yet to be determined, but he is experiencing many of the same trials and tribulations generations of hunters before him have faced.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

“My dad always told me I will have plenty of time to hunt and more chances, so there is always next year,” Bartholomew said. “Plus, it sure beats being inside on a nice day.”

Next year is here for Kuhn. He’s hoping Thanksgiving 2016 will be as memorable as the previous one. But if not, there’s always next year.


Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures.  This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; phone 405-744-5371; email: has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity. Any person (student, faculty, or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.


Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
157 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490|Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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