By Scott DeBerry, Publisher
Now that hunting season in Levy County and along the Nature Coast is open, this story takes a look at two local families and shares how hunting is a part of their Levy Living. At the end of the story, rather than a recipe, we have included information and links related to local hunting and hunting seasons.
A near year-long anticipation culminates on an early fall morning as hunters get quietly nestled into their perch. Expectation increases with every rustle of brush and slight crackle from the forest floor below. As the morning dawns, the cool, humid air slowly fills with a sleepy array of chirps and flutters as scores of birds restfully awake. Just as the morning sun showers the tree tops with a soft, warm light, a handsome eight-point deer comes into view as it deftly maneuvers into a clearing about one hundred yards away from the hunters’ perch. A father smiles with his eyes at his oldest daughter who is in the perfect position to launch her razor-tipped arrow and claim her first archered deer. The father gives a very slight nod encouraging her to draw and take aim. Swinging the bow up and forward toward the buck, she carefully draws back on the arrow in a practiced, fluid motion.
After a twenty-second eternity, she releases the draw with a slight exhale. Just as the whitetail’s ears swivel in the direction of her breath, the through-impact of her arrow at his broad-sided heart announces success with a “thwack!!!” The buck staggers just one step backward, and then falls. A celebration erupts from the hunting party with the thrill of a perfect hunt and such a desirable prize. The father, Kenneth Griffin, Jr., is hopeful both his daughters, Kimber and Leanna, will experience such a successful hunt this season.
Hunting has been a part of the Griffin family’s lifestyle for generations. The Griffens Hunt at Devils Hammock Management area in Levy County. While Kenneth simply enjoys being in the woods and observing the wildlife found there, for Leanna who is 17, Kenneth’s youngest daughter, hunting is a year-round lifestyle. Leanna’s hunting lifestyle began at around age 12 as she began hunting hogs with a 12 gauge auto shotgun. “As we live in a small town, all conversations seem to be related to hunting and the hunting season,” she said.
Leanna’s older sister, Kimber, who recently turned 22, began her hunting lifestyle at age 15. Like her sister, Kimber began hunting using a shotgun hunting for hogs with her father as her guide. This time of recreation for the family has grown tight bonds and a love and enjoyment for an activity they enjoy together. Kimber enjoys browsing and shopping for hunting-related items all year. “For me it seems to be part of my daily lifestyle because I’m always online visiting sporting good outlet websites looking for camo clothes, boots, and other survivalist gear like the game cameras and practicing targets I just bought.”
The two Griffin daughters are bow hunting for the first time this season. Their father has enjoyed helping them prepare and practice for this special season. For Leanna, the family ties to hunting are important and enjoyable. “What I enjoy the most about hunting is bonding with my family. While hunting, the adrenaline rush is great especially whenever you see the ‘big one’ you’ve been waiting for. I love ‘buck fever.’ After the hunt is over, it’s great to tell your hunting story to your friends, especially while enjoying a great meal that includes your game.”
The enjoyment of nature is an aspect of hunting that Leanna’s sister, Kimber, finds memorable. “The most unforgettable hunting experience was watching the meteor shower before and during the morning of our hunting trip. It was amazing!”
The Sheppard family is another local family with hunting embedded in tradition and lifestyle.
Mother and avid hunter, Sabrina, explains, “Hunting season has always been a big part of my life. It’s not just about the thrill of the kill, it’s about nature, wildlife, family, and friends. We do come from a six-generation line of hunters. We have such a beautiful place for us to enjoy out at Sandy Fly Hunting Club and out at Fowlers Bluff. It is important that we also respect our land; and that’s just what we do. Aside from the enjoyment from hunting as an activity, it provides food for our family.”
Sabrina’s two daughters, Brooke who is 25, and Bren, who is 23, have been hunting with the family since they could carry a gun. What began with BB guns transitioned to 20-guage shotguns, then to rifles as they grew in age and hunting experience.
It comes as no surprise that Sabrina’s daughter, Brooke, is also an avid hunter. Brooke recounts taking her very first buck. “The most memorable hunting experience is when I killed my first buck. It was so cold and wet that morning and I wasn’t even planning on hunting that morning. I remember being grumpy, sleepy, and complaining leaving my warm bed. But just after I got settled in my stand at daylight, a six-point deer presented itself. I could not imagine a more gorgeous picture. You could say that buck had my name written all over him.”
The enjoyment of hunting for both Brooke and Bren includes bonding with parents, spending time together. As with the Griffin girls, it was Brooke and Bren’s father that taught them to hunt. Together, the family enjoys being together and an assortment of hunting activities scouting, plowing feed plots, hanging tree stands fill feeders, four-wheeler riding, cooking, camping, and fishing while at the hunting club.
Between the families, as with most hunters, there are variations in preference of game and hunting methods. As Leanna Griffin explains, “My favorite game is hogs. I do love white tail deer, but for me hogs are more fun to hunt because I’ve had more chances and beautiful shots with hogs. Deer tend to be sneaky and more challenging. I prefer to use a 243 rifle when hunting. I’ve practiced so much with it I feel like its second nature to me.”
Although there are differences in the preference of game and the methods of hunting, the ample forest land and local hunting camps provide for the continuance of these proud hunting traditions. The enjoyment of hunting is widely shared along the Nature Coast and is embedded in the lifestyles of many families.
For the Sheppard family, there is a hope that this tradition will be carried forward and enjoyed by future generations. “I come from a long line of hunters,” explains Bren as she watches her toddler daughter, Bree, happily enjoy the woods. “It’s all about the food that nature provides family, and fun. I look forward to teaching my children about hunting and the great outdoors.”
We currently have a Wildlife Photo Contest AND a Venison Recipe Contest going on NOW! Be sure to submit your photo and/or your recipe! Read more here.
Local Hunting Links and Info:
Florida Fish and Wildife Conservation Commission links:
Zone C area dates:
Sept 15 — Oct 15
Anterlered or Anterless Deer by bow only
Sept. 15 – Oct. 14
Antlered or antlerless deer by crossbow or bow only
Antlered deer only by crossbow or bow
Oct. 20 – Nov. 2
Antlered deer only by muzzleloader, crossbow or bow
Nov. 3 – Jan. 20
Antlered deer entire season; antlerless deer may be taken Nov. 17-23 by all legal centerfire rifles and pistols, shotguns, muzzleloaders, crossbows and bows