As a precocious 7-year-old, Brinlee Usdrowski has already had the kind of hunting experiences that many adult hunters only dream of.
It wasn’t that just a year ago, during modern gun deer season, then 6-year-old Brinlee took down two deer with one shot. That was only the beginning. She proceeded to down a gobbler in April during the youth hunt weekend. Then a 300-pound black bear this fall, with a crossbow. Only to follow all that up with a nice 8-point buck during muzzleloader season. And before you think it’s all about the taking, Brinlee is right there helping with the skinning of the harvested animals, her father says.
Her dad, Pat Usdrowski, who lives near the Brady Mountain area off Lake Ouachita, surely has heard from other dads reminding him, "She’s daddy’s girl now, but just wait until she’s a teen-ager." In this case, Pat Usdrowski might have the female version of the new "American Sportsman" on his hands. Wait until the national reality TV channels hear about this one. Move over, "Duck Dynasty."
"Brinlee can still dress up and be a princess girl, but she’s all country when she’s with me," Pat said.
She had missed a turkey a year earlier, he noted, so when 2:10 a.m. rolled around this past April, on the first day of the youth turkey hunt, Brinlee was ready to go. "How many little girls would do that?" Pat asks.
"Last year she killed her first deer. She got two deer, a doe and a nubbin buck, with one shot, using a 20-guage with 3-inch buckshot," Pat recounted. "That’s how the big game stuff started."
That’s also how the practicing started. It’s nothing, Pat said, for Brinlee to want to practice shooting her .22 with hundreds of rounds, as well as shooting the 20-guage with bird shot. For the turkey season, she was hauling around an 11-87 camouflaged turkey gun.
At Pat’s homestead on Brady Mountain Road, they have seen bear around, though he adds that when the acorns begin to fall, the bear leave. Paul keeps a deer feeder filled with food. Brinlee and Pat were in his deer stand late in the afternoon one recent Saturday, hoping a bear might wander past. At about 6:40 p.m., one did, coming as close as about 15 yards, Pat estimated. Brinlee, ready with a crossbow, took aim and hit the bear behind the shoulder.
"We have pictures of the bear coming up on the game camera, a 300-pound female. It didn’t have any cubs, so I had assumed it was a big male. After Brinlee shot, it ran, but it didn’t make it 100 yards before it fell down," Pat said. "We gave it until 7:20 before going to it, and it was laying up there dead."
Pat fixed a Thompson Encore muzzleloader with a scope so Brinlee could be ready this fall for a bigger deer than the two she brought down last year.
"She ended up killing an 8-point the first thing in the morning," Pat said. "We heard it and noticed it in the distance, but for her it was a little bit too far in the woods. But it worked its way toward us. I asked her after she had shot, ‘How did it kick?’ She said, ‘About like my squirrel gun.’ That’s a .22. I think maybe she was just a little bit excited, because that muzzleloader kicks. That was 100 grains of powder and a 200-grain bullet. She loved that muzzleloader."
Brinlee’s taking up where big brother Hunter, now 19, left off. Hunter is in college at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was all eaten up with hunting at an early age, too, getting his first deer at 6, and first buck and turkey at 7. "They started about the same age, but she’s outdoing Hunter already with the bear.
"She’s all about hunting and fishing. At a parent-teacher conference, she told the teacher, ‘We follow the seasons at our house. It’s bear and deer season, then squirrel season, then fishing season, then turkey season, and then swimming season." She’s also a mountain climber, Pat says.
Brinlee’s other brother, 14-year-old Garrett, also likes to hunt, but maybe not to the extremes of little sis. And Pat Usdrowski didn’t experience this kind of success as a kid, either. His hunting for much of his youth was solely for squirrels, which were (and still are) prevalent around their home, but he hunted no big game at least until eighth grade. "My dad had a Sheridan pellet gun, a .20-caliber that he had since he was a kid. When he gave it to me, I was in fourth grade. I killed 20 squirrels that year with that pellet gun. We had mountain curs that went with us. It’s still a wonder I never got lost in the woods."
With his two boys and now Brinlee, hunting is a full day spent together with backpacks full of food, drinks and more.
"We mainly hunt public land in the Ouachita Mountains, and we’ll setup against the oak trees. Brinlee will sit there all day. Her ears are so good, she hears everything before I do. Like that turkey, it gobbled at us two times, and then I didn’t hear it again and she whispered, ‘I hear it right over there.’ I couldn’t hear what she heard and it probably would have gotten away without her hearing it. Instead, she was able to get on it."
Next for Brinlee? A nice visit from Santa for all her good hunting, perhaps. "She wants her own Muddy Girl crossbow. She was using mine for the bear. I had bought two of them this year and let her use one. But she wants her own."