Teen’s big opening day: Doe, then a bear

Kenmore, N.Y. — Chris Cairns has been bowhunting since he was 12, but it wasn’t until this year that the Buffalo-area teen had any success afield on big game.

But when Chris, 14, finally had his breakthrough, he did it in a big way.

Chris shot a big doe early opening morning of gun season, Nov. 21, but he wasn’t done. Later that morning, he also tagged a black bear. 

Chris lives in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore (Erie County) with his parents, Dave and Sherry Cairns. His father taught Chris from an early age about hunting, firearms safety and care and respect for the sport, Sherry Cairns said. Hunting is taken very seriously in the area where Chris and family members hunt, she said.

Armed with his grandfather’s Ithaca Deerslayer 12-gauge shotgun, Chris was hunting from a ground blind on family-owned property in the town of Collins, about 15 miles south of Buffalo, opening morning.

It didn’t take long for Chris to get in on the action.

“The doe was taken at approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday (Nov.22), and the bear around 11:30 a.m.,” Sherry Cairns said. “For the doe he saw a large group approach and he took a shot at the largest of the group. The group was around 45 to 50 yards from his spot. There was no big thought other than wanting to get a good shot. He was pretty calm actually, and excited also.

“The bear was taken around 11:30 the same day,” she said. “Chris heard a crashing in the woods then saw the bear running through in front, not at him, from left to right from his location, approximately 50 or so yards when he shot. He made two shots. The first shot hit the liver and both lungs and the second shot was in the back of the leg. I don’t believe Chris realized the enormity of the bear kill until Monday the 24th. I think it took a bit to sink in.”

Chris and other family members had to track the bear, and found it about 150 to 200 yards from where he shot it.

“I just reacted and shot (when the bear appeared); I didn’t really have time to think,” Chris said. “I wasn’t sure I hit it and knew we had to track it.”

The doe weighed about 120 to 130 pounds and the bear was between 250 and 300 pounds, Sherry Cairns said.

Chris is a goalie for a travel hockey team and his high school team, St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute, so he doesn’t have a lot of time to hunt, his mother said. But he takes full advantage of any spare time he gets, and a lot of other people recognized how special his opening day achievement was.

“We believe and have been told that this is the first bear to be taken from the valley,” Sherry Cairns said. “We are having the doe processed and our bear is being mounted. No choice in that; it may be a once in a lifetime experience.

“Chris is hoping to get out before the season ends to try for a big buck, if not there is always next year. His hunting time is limited, but his other love is hunting and all it entails, He loves the sport, the history and challenge to it and respects the whole process. We are very proud of him and yeah, Dad’s a bit jealous.”

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