WELLS - Cam Pratt, an eighth grader enrolled at Poultney High School, is the son of David and Meredith Pratt of Wells. Today, the local community is proud of the quiet teen who recently wrote an award-winning essay about a life-changing Vermont hunting trip and broke a state game record.
The boy, who became a man during the trek in the wilds of Rutland County, had never fired a .308 firearm until he shot his grandfather's heritage hunting rifle on what became a memorable autumn day-memorable for a number of reasons.
This rural Vermont story is especially noteworthy because Cam Pratt's grandfather-Ed Pratt of Wells, the original owner of the .308-died in July 2009. And it was the late Ed Pratt's rifle that his grandson used to shoot a record-breaking 8-point buck during his first hunting excursion.
During November 2009, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department ran an essay contest for young hunters asking them to submit personal stories about their 2009 Youth Hunting Weekend experience.
Cam Pratt's essay is reprinted below; it was selected as the top youth essay (Rutland County) from dozens of essays submitted by young hunters. In recognition of the writing achievement, Pratt received a camouflage fanny pack, neck tunic, fleece scarf, and spiral bound book with information and maps about Vermont wildlife management areas.
Pratt was asked to read his essay aloud at the Yankee Sportsman's Classic held at the Champlain Valley Exposition Center. Gov. Jim Douglas presented Pratt m with his prizes.
Before contest officials handed out the youth essay awards, the state's deer hunting grand prize winner, which is named by the Vermont Big Game Trophy Club for the most the impressive trophy, was announced. As luck would go, a stunned Cam Pratt was the winner of the trophy award, too-the trophy club director introduced Pratt after announcing that the Rutland County buck was one of the largest ever felled during the state's Youth Hunting event.
Cam Pratt's special "trophy" prize included a hunting vest and an all-expense paid, week-long, guided Maine black bear hunt set for September 2010. Cam's father, David Pratt, was invited to join the Maine bear hunt.
Pratt's double game-related win was a special tribute to the memory of his beloved, hunter grandfather Ed Pratt.
What follows is the text of Cam Pratt's award-winning essay:
"The first day of the 2009 Vermont Youth Hunting Weekend was like one I would never forget. My dad had gotten permission to hunt on two of our relative's properties-one of our cousins and my great uncle allowed us to hunt on their properties-and I thanked them both very much.
"When my dad and I were about to go out, he gave me a choice of two firearms to use-his .243 or my grandfathers .308. My grandfather, who recently passed away in July, was an avid hunting enthusiast; he went out for rifle season every year, and managed to get results just about every year.
"Now I had been practicing with the .243 for the past couple weeks because I was preparing to use that rifle, but on that day something felt different about my grandfather's rifle. I had never fired it before, but out of respect for my late grandfather I thought I would give it one more run in the field. Who knew that run would get such a huge result?
"Our hunt at our cousin's property yielded no results, but we could tell that there had been a lot of buck activity around there because there were numerous tree hookings and scrapes. So we called it a day there and headed back to the house. Later that day, we headed down to my great uncle's house and set up a rifle stand in a blind we had put up earlier that day next to a spruce tree plot. My great uncle said there were deer there almost every day, so we decided to give it a shot.
"After waiting for about an hour I saw horns move across the plot and into a small patch of corn about 75 yards away from us. My dad didn't see the buck from the blind but rather a doe that walked straight into a clearing right in front of us. He told me I had a perfect shot at the doe but I was so sure I saw horns I waited patiently for the buck to reappear. After an excruciating couple minutes, the corn started to rustle and the buck appeared trotting out of the corn. My dad still couldn't see it but he said, 'If you see it, go for it, shoot!' I fired and ended up bringing down a 154 lbs. 8-point deer. Until this day, I still firmly believe that my grandfather's spirit was there with us in that gun and that's how I got the deer.
"After I got the meat back from the processor, I divided up a portion of the venison and gave it to my great uncle as thanks for letting me hunt on his property. I also sent the head to the taxidermist so that I may remember my accomplishment and my grandfather's hunting legacy he left to my family for years to come.
"This being my first deer, it will be very hard to top in the future, but I will keep using the .308 every year from now on in hopes that I may one day be as good a hunter as my grandfather."
Special thanks to PHS Principal Jean Oakman for providing the Rutland Tribune with this news story.