A Manitoba teenager is getting some big attention for a big game kill in western Manitoba, a kill that she admits is likely a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Cassidy Gardiner, 19, was recently featured in Big Buck Magazine, a publication distributed across North America, after shooting an award-winning buck during the 2014 white-tailed deer hunting season.
It was the first year the Brandon University student from Virden, Man., had decided to take up hunting, an annual tradition that her father and grandfather had taken part in for many years.
"I told dad that if he got me a pink gun, that I'd go out hunting," she said.
He did and the pair set out. They saw a massive buck, the same buck that Gardiner later ended up shooting, but it got away. She saw it again days later, right before the end of the season.
"Before I could get a shot at him, I was shaking so bad I had buck fever," Gardiner said. "I couldn't get my rifle lined up with him."
"I told dad that if he got me a pink gun, that I'd go out hunting" - Cassidy Gardiner
After returning home, Gardiner had a gut instinct that she should head out again. So she went out with her mom and dad and a family friend one last time.
She saw the buck again, but it darted into some bush.
Family sets out one last time
"Dad said you go down and catch him if he comes out," Gardiner said. "Just as I jumped the fence, he came out of the bush, I lined him up and shot at him."
Gardiner hit the buck and it ran. While she tracked it on foot, her parents drove in their vehicle and found it dead nearby in the Assiniboine River.
It was later scored at a 167 1/8 on the Boone and Crocket scale, a system of measurements used across North America to compare the size of big game animals. Anything over 150 is considered rare, according to Gardiner.
Gardiner took photos of the kill, which she named Albert, and sent the head and antlers to a taxidermist, who turned it into a trophy.
Trophy catches attention of magazine
The trophy ended up winning Gardiner awards in Brandon and across Manitoba for its size and it wasn't long before the magazine caught wind of Gardiner's story.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "It's not only that I got the buck of many people's dreams on my first go. But to be one of the best hunting magazines is a dream come true."
The magazine published a story on Gardiner in the Winter 2016 edition.
Gardiner said that while many of her friends in the city simply don't understand what all the hype is about, she has received a lot of messages from people within the hunting community congratulating her.
'Awesome' to be female hunter
She also said that it's great that so many women are now taking up what was once a male-dominated activity and that "it's awesome to be a part of the movement."
And while she admits that this buck was likely a once in a lifetime kill, she is hopeful for the 2016 hunting season, which is still months away.
"I didn't have any luck in 2015, but left some pretty good ones so hopefully they grow for this year!"