ROGERSVILLE, Mo. - There's a first for everything, but young Maggie Brooks has a story that might top them all.
Under her father's guidance, Maggie, 9, went on her first deer hunting trip during Missouri's youth season Oct. 28-29.
She not only harvested her first whitetail, an 8-point buck, she did it with her dad's 4-inch .357 Magnum revolver.
It was the first time she had ever fired a gun. Any gun.
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And the deer dropped in its tracks with the only round Maggie had ever fired — a 158-grain Hornady hollowpoint.
Maggie, who turned 9 on Sept. 17, said she had wanted to learn to hunt after her 14-year-old brother, Graham, shot a doe with the same revolver last year.
"This was my first time hunting, ever," she said, from the kitchen table at the Brooks' rural Rogersville home.
Warren Brooks, Maggie's father, said his son wasn't able to make this year's youth hunt, so he asked Maggie if she wanted to give it a try.
She was eager for the chance.
"So we literally sat there Thursday night and Friday night here in the living room, going through the motions of how to hold it, how to grip it, how to aim it," Brooks said. "I let her take some dry fires, going through the practice run — if we got something close, I'm going to cock the hammer. I'm going to hand it to you. Your finger needs to be outside the trigger guard. Get aimed. Get ready to shoot."
With deer permits in hand, they set up in a tree stand Saturday morning near Marshfield. After several hours in the cold, they got down and took a walk to warm up, stirring up two deer that snorted nearby.
They debated whether to call it a day, but decided on just 30 minutes more in the tree stand.
Twenty five minutes later, Maggie's buck appeared.
"I noticed it maybe 30 or 40 yards from the stand," Brooks said. "We went through just like we practiced. I cocked the hammer and handed it to her. She got her aim and that deer walked and turned broadside. He was 15 yards from the stand."
"I shot the buck," Maggie recalled, adding her hands were "shaking a little bit. It sounded really loud!"
The deer dropped where it stood, though didn't die immediately.
"We waited a little bit, and then he (her dad) finished it off," Maggie said.
The deer meat will be turned into tenderloins and jerky and sausage. And the buck's head will be mounted to hang on the wall in their basement.
Maggie's first hunt also provided a learning experience for dad. Missouri's deer hunting rules say a youth hunter should be prepared for all aspects of the kill.
Brooks was issued a warning by the local game officer for finishing off the deer, instead of letting his daughter handle that task.
Jason Dickey, MDC's Southwest regional protection supervisor, said anyone overseeing a youth hunter needs to be aware of the rules. Many might not know it's against the rules for an adult to put a wounded deer out of its misery during a youth deer hunt.
"Even if the adult thinks they're doing the right thing, the youth should be the one to put that deer down," Dickey said. "It would be good, before a hunt, to have that conversation: 'What are we going to do if that happens?'"
Brooks acknowledged some might question letting his daughter use a handgun for her first attempt to shoot a deer, though according to MDC it's a perfectly legal way for a youth to take a deer.
"After the buck dropped, I was faced with the decision to either let the deer suffer until it eventually died, try to get Maggie close enough to finish it off, or finish it myself; I chose the latter," Brooks said.
"Even though I believe it was the most humane and safest option in that situation, I also understand the reason for the warning and will keep that in mind for future hunts with my kids."
As for Maggie, she said she can't wait to go deer hunting again. And her mom, Becky approves.
"She's been begging to do it," Becky Brooks said. "Her dad wanted her to wait until she was big enough to handle it on her own."