RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Picture a hunter: He's wearing camouflage, holding a gun. Maybe he has a deer in his sights. And it is a he, right? Now look again.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: As part of the Hidden World of Girls, the series we produce with the Kitchen Sisters, we're going to hear about a young woman hunter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says about 300,000 girls under age 16 are hunting.
NPR's Tamara Keith travelled to Wayne County, Mississippi to spend a weekend with one of those girls.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: My name is Magan Hebert. I'm 15, and we're going to my cheerleading competition in Waynesboro, Mississippi. It's the Magnolia Cheer Competition, the first annual that we've ever had.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: (Singing) (unintelligible)
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: I have brown hair and brown eyes. I'm short. I like to cheer. I like to hunt. I get really good grades in school. I keep an A.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: (Singing) Everybody says so.
TAMARA KEITH: Looking at Magan in her orange and blue cheerleading uniform, you'd never guess that this girl could shoot a rifle, could kill a deer with a single shot. Her hair is teased up and pinned back into a poof.
Unidentified Man: So let's have a big, warm welcome for Wayne County High School.
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
Unidentified Group: War Eagles. War Eagles. E-A-G-L-E-S, War Eagles.
KEITH: Magan is tiny, one of the girls who flips through the air like a rag doll. And on this day, she lands every stunt.
Unidentified Group: (unintelligible) Yeah.
KEITH: But the team comes in second place, out of two. Megan is quiet on the drive home. Maybe she'll have better luck hunting deer on Sunday.
Magan started hunting when she was in 4th grade. Her dad hunts every spare minute he can get.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: He would ask every, like, every time he went if we wanted to go. And one time I was like, yeah, I want to go. I just - I thought it would be pretty cool, you know. And I just loved it.
KEITH: For Magan's mom, Marcy Hebert, it was a bit of a surprise that her little girl wanted to hunt.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: She wanted to do it, as a matter of fact, before my son did. And she went out there. Of course, a lot of the girls up here hunt.
KEITH: It took a year of hunting before Magan killed her first deer. It was a doe.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: I started shaking when I put the gun up, so he had to hold it steady for me.
KEITH: But she did it. She hit the doe in the shoulder.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: I kept saying she didn't do that. You did that - telling my husband. And he was like no, she did. He said, I took the gun off safety, and she shot it.
KEITH: And Magan was hooked.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: I just like peace and quiet and you just get to sit there and wait. And then, you know, if there's little ones out there you get to watch them play around. Like, if they're with their moms, I think it's cute. 'Cause, you know, you can't kill them yet. But, you know, when they grow up, it's really good food. I don't know. I just like it.
KEITH: The family gets all the red meat it needs for a whole year during hunting season.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: Are you wearing those pants, Magan?
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: Yeah.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: Are those your new ones, or your old ones?
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: It's 5:30, and we're getting ready to leave to go hunting.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: Let's go.
KEITH: It's still way before dawn and freezing cold when Magan and Marcy load into the truck and head out to the spot where the family hunts. It's a private, wooded area. They have a stand, a small slightly elevated shack with slits for windows. And there's a feeder off in the distance that occasionally spreads corn and protein pellets on the ground.
Among hunters, baiting is controversial. It's illegal in some states, but standard practice here in Mississippi.
Marcy lights a propane camp heater inside the stand, but it's still cold.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: Basically, what you watch for is, at the edge of the tree line, you've got to watch for movement.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: The sun's coming up. Nothing's out yet. And that's about it.
KEITH: Magan is updating her Facebook status on her Blackberry.
What are you saying in your status?
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: Sitting in the stand freezing, waiting for the deer to come out.
KEITH: She's texting, too, and occasionally nodding off. And Marcy says this is how it goes: Sitting side-by-side in the quiet, staring out at trees and grass, hoping to see a deer, and breaking the boredom with text messages.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: She and I would get out there. A lot of times, we'd text back and forth sitting in the stand. Just - that's how I learned how to text, was sitting in the deer stand with her.
KEITH: A little before nine in the morning, they give up. They go back to the house empty-handed, and Magan's little brother is gloating. He's killed a deer. It's his second one of the weekend. She's jealous.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: And, like, every time he goes hunting, it's - I mean, almost every time, he kills something.
KEITH: It's been five years since the last time she got one, partly because she hasn't had as much time to hunt, now that she's on the varsity cheerleading squad. But partly, it's luck: the right deer, walking into the right spot at the right time.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: I want to get a buck. I don't care how big. I just want a buck.
KEITH: In the afternoon they go back out, hoping for that buck, and they wait, and wait. And then...
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: Sh-sh. Sh.
KEITH: A spike, a young buck walks into the clearing near the feeder. He's about 120 pounds, with just two, small antlers.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: You can shoot a spike.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: Bet you I can.
KEITH: Magan starts texting, excitedly.
(Soundbite of typing)
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: You better put the phone down and put the gun up.
KEITH: She does.
(Soundbite of breathing)
KEITH: Magan is tense, focused as she gets the deer in her sight.
(Soundbite of breathing, gunshot)
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: You got him. You got him.
KEITH: The deer runs about 50 feet before collapsing. The shot is clean and fatal, just behind the front leg. Magan has her buck.
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: Some guys think, you know, okay, well, you're a girl. You can't kill a deer. Well, yeah, I can say yeah, I've killed two of them. What now? You know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. MAGAN HEBERT: Not a lot of people can say that.
KEITH: Mother and daughter come out of hiding in the deer stand, grab the lifeless spike by the legs and hoist him into the back of the truck.
Ms. MARCY HEBERT: One, two, three, ah.
(Soundbite of banging)
KEITH: There are bragging rights in the bed of that truck, and venison. Within the hour, Magan's dad will butcher the deer, filling a cooler with the meat.
Tamara Keith, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: We've got photos of Magan with her first deer and her second at npr.org.
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.