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Trust everyone -- but cut the cards

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I love my readers, even when they don't believe what I've written.

This morning when I got to the office, I got a voice mail message that, in essence, accused me of being a dupe or a liar.

The call centered on last Sunday's feature article about Taylor Fisher, a 7-year-old girl from the St. Albans area who had killed her first deer.

What set Taylor's accomplishment apart from other really young kids' first kills is that she used a bow and arrow. The gentleman who left the voice mail didn't believe the story.

"Why would you go and put something like that in the paper?" he asked. "Did you actually see her shoot that bow? No, you took someone's word that she had done it. Well, I'll tell you right now that no 7-year-old girl is strong enough to draw and hold a big old compound bow."

The fellow went on to say that most stories that involve young children killing big-game animals are just that - stories. He said they're fabricated to cover up for the kids' adult companions who, he alleged, "... shoot the animals and check them in on the kids' tags."

He went on for a bit about how stories like the one I wrote about Taylor took up space that could otherwise be dedicated to "legitimate" stories. Predictably, he signed off without leaving his name.

Well, there's no law against being cynical, and the gentleman is entitled to hold any opinion he chooses.

The truth is, I did see Taylor kill that deer. I wasn't there in person, but I watched the videotape her father took of the shot. The video clearly showed the little pink-fletched arrow fly off Taylor's bow and bury behind the doe's left shoulder.

As to the caller's argument that no 7-year-old could draw and hold a "big old compound bow," the simple answer is that she didn't. She drew and held an "itty-bitty compound bow."

Because of shoulder problems, I shoot a Mathews MQ-32, a bow that's only 32 inches long and is set to a draw weight of just 52 pounds. With the bow's 80 percent let-off at full draw, I feel like I'm drawing and holding just 10.4 pounds.

Taylor's bow is made for a young kid. It's only about two-thirds the size of my bow, which itself is small, at least by adult standards. Taylor's bow is set to a draw weight of just 23 pounds. With let-off, she's holding maybe 5 to 7 pounds.

To compensate for the lack of velocity that accrues from such a low draw weight, she shoots a heavier-than-normal arrow with a heavier-than-normal broadhead. The extra mass makes up, at least a little, for the lack of velocity at impact.

On the video, the effects of her bow's setup were clearly visible. The doe was only 15 yards away when Taylor shot it, but her arrow's flight was slow enough to be clearly visible, and it had a pronounced arc to it.

So yes, I believe Taylor killed that doe. If I hadn't believed it, I wouldn't have written the story. Watching the video of Taylor's hunt allowed me to write the piece without reservation.

In journalism school, they taught us, "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." That's prudent advice for politics and other "hard" news, but the feature-driven world of outdoors writing doesn't often require such a hard-line standard.

After 34 years of covering the outdoors, my own personal philosophy has evolved to, "Trust everyone - but cut the cards."


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