Monthly Featured Story
Looks Can Be Deceiving
By Tony Young
Meet Tricia Smith – your every-day, all-American girl next door. A third-generation Tallahasseean, Tricia attended and graduated from the capital city’s Leon High School. While there, the petite, sandy-blond-haired girl was a cheerleader and in the Anchor Club.
Now a junior at Florida State University and a member of Chi Omega sorority, Tricia is your typical, 20-year-old college girl. She says she is not high maintenance but admits to having a walk-in closet full of shoes, dresses and handbags.
Between classes, Tricia works part-time as a law firm runner and earns extra money baby-sitting. In her free time, she says she enjoys running, socializing, attending Seminole football games and doing outdoor activities like camping, boating and saltwater fishing. Tricia also likes relaxing at the beach.
But you will not catch her at the beach November through January. There is more to this brown-eyed girl than meets the eye. You see, Tricia Smith is an avid deer hunter, and a pretty successful one at that.
“Maybe that’s why I’m majoring in criminology – because I like guns,” Tricia said. “I don’t see myself working all day at a boring office job, but I also don’t see myself wearing a law enforcement uniform either. Maybe an undercover cop or an FBI agent – now that would be fun!”
Tricia has deer hunted for five years and really has the fever. She mainly hunts on her family’s 250-acre piece of property off Meridian Road in northern Leon County. The tract offers exceptional whitetail hunting because it is in the Red Hills Region, on 5,700-acre Lake Iamonia, two-and-a-half miles from the Georgia line.
“She’s real dedicated and persistent,” said good friend Mike Chavez, who sometimes takes Tricia to hunt on his family’s land in nearby Jefferson County.
From the woods, she has telephoned Mike from her cell phone on more than one occasion to help drag out and load up a deer she had shot – some close to twice her weight.
“I’ve been deer hunting since I was 15. My dad and Mike got me into it. Mom even used to hunt back in the day, and really – all the men in my family have hunted,” Tricia said. “It’s a family tradition for us Smiths.”
She sometimes takes her 16-year-old brother Julian with her. But she prefers hunting alone, when she has her best luck.
“I really enjoy being in the woods all by myself. My family’s land is gorgeous, and being out there gives me time to think. Plus, it’s such a beautiful drive along the canopy roads from my house in town to our property. It’s just so peaceful and relaxing,” she said.
Tricia uses her father’s Browning automatic .270-caliber rifle with Leupold 3.5x10 scope. She has taken five racked bucks off the property, including a 200-pound, eight-point, whose head is displayed above her fireplace. She has averaged four deer a season for the past three years, but last season was her best.
During the 2005-2006 hunting season, Tricia harvested two 10-point bucks and three does to boot. One of the 10-pointers she shot opening week of the Central Hunting Zone’s general gun season. Tricia admits to skipping class that afternoon to go hunting instead.
Then, on Thanksgiving morning, she took the larger of the 10-points, which qualified for the Florida Buck Registry, netting a score of 128 7/8 Boone and Crockett points. The deer’s antlers were measured by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Don Francis.
“I just got both deer back from the taxidermist. Alan Davis over at Wallhangers did a great job on them, as he did on my first one. They’re gonna be great additions to my house,” Tricia said.
The biggest factor in making her successful at taking quality deer is putting in the time. She even schedules fall classes around deer season.
“I try to go three or more times a week, mainly in the afternoons,” she said.
The only other thing Tricia does to up her odds is limit her scent. She often heads straight from class or work to the woods and still has remnants of perfume on. So after changing into her hunting gear, she sprays herself with “scent blocker” to neutralize unwanted scents.
Tricia always hunts from her favorite box stand which is just 5 feet off the ground, but it has a good roof, enabling her to hunt in comfort, even when it is raining.
“I often bring a good book with me to help pass the time,” she said.
A tripod feeder is about 100 yards away. Both stand and feeder are in the middle of a hardwood opening in close proximity to the lake and near a large ravine, from where most of the deer come.
Tricia and her father, Vereen, feed the deer year-round by keeping the feeder full of corn, and during the season, she sweetens the spot by scattering extra corn along a few shooting lanes leading to the ravine. They also attract game to their property by planting field corn, iron-clay peas, oats and chufa in a 2.5-acre food plot.
The Smiths employ such land management practices as prescribed burning every other year and thinning timber stands. They also practice quality deer management in shooting only seven-pointers or better and try to keep their buck-to-doe ratio in check by harvesting does during antlerless deer season and with doe tags.
“I haven’t taken any girlfriends hunting with me yet – so far, just some of my guy friends. We let them shoot does during doe week, and that in turn helps us better manage them,” Tricia said.
She would like to invite some of her sorority sisters and girlfriends hunting one day – they just need to be patient and willing to try something new, she said.
“I can’t even describe the feeling that comes over me when a trophy buck steps out of the woods – my heart just starts beating a million times a minute. It’s really a rush!” Tricia said excitedly.
She even assists in the field-dressing process and likes the taste of venison.
“I can cook it pretty well too, mainly burgers. But grandma – her backstrap is delicious!” Tricia said proudly. “No one cooks it better than she does.”