A Father, Daughter, and their First Deer! – Frank and Gianna Spartano


A Father, Daughter, and their First Deer! – Frank and Gianna Spartano

Deer hunting is a big deal to Frank Spartano, co-host of the “Off The Beaten Path” television show. So, when his daughter Gianna expressed an interest in learning to hunt for her first deer, he was thrilled. Gianna’s interest in shooting and hunting blossomed early in 2020, and Frank leaped at the opportunity to introduce his daughter to the sports he loves. Spartano lives to hunt, and he spends two months a year traveling and filming his adventures. When he isn’t traveling for the show, he is still immersed in scouting, practicing, or some other preparatory activity centered around hunting.

Gianna is busy, too. Before COVID she played two sports a year, maintains high grades, and works part-time. This past spring she had a little extra spare time so she approached her father and declared that she wanted to learn to shoot. Gianna joined her father (and often her brother, too) at the Greenfield Fish and Game Club range every Sunday to practice. She started small, first learning with a .17 H.M.R. (Hornady Magnum Rimfire), then progressing to a .222 Remington, and finally moved up to a .243 Winchester. The Sundays spent at the range became an anticipated, sacred bonding time, and Frank Spartano outlines this progression:

Many Sundays she was the youngest person there. And she was almost always the only girl. She learned quickly and progressed through three different calibers. She was very dedicated to it. It’s not just that we went to the range and shot. She took the time to learn to clean and load a gun. She learned to safely handle a firearm.

Gianna, 15, took the hunter education course online in preparation for her first season in the field.

I thought that if my brother and my dad could shoot a gun, I could learn how to shoot a gun. I wanted to see how it feels. It was a hard road for me, but I did it somehow. It was really intimidating at times, but it was a lot of fun.

After months of groundwork, deer hunting season arrived. The Spartano duo went out three or four times and had not seen a single deer, so they resorted to a good old-fashioned lucky charm: the green wool jacket Frank wore when he shot his first deer. The next time out, and while wearing the jacket, Gianna saw a small buck, but did not have an opportunity to shoot. When it all came together Wednesday, December 9th on an afternoon hunt, Gianna was bundled snugly in the same old wool jacket.

They were set up in a blind on the edge of a cut cornfield located on the Madison County property of Jason and Tiffany Florenz, team members of “Off the Beaten Path” Media. The cameras were rolling, fresh snow blanketed the earth and the air was frosty. Gianna sat, alert, scanning her field of view for any twitch of movement. Suddenly, a herd of does entered the field from the far edge and began to graze moving gradually towards them. The largest doe, wise with experience, picked up a cue that something was not quite right, and stomped her hooves to alert the others.

The doe presented Gianna with a broadside opportunity at about 50 yards, and she took it. Her shot connected and the doe ran about 100 yards before she dropped. They followed the blood trail until they came upon where the doe lay. Frank held back and let Gianna approach her harvest first, giving her space and time to process the whirl of emotions that comes after a first deer.

I was a little sad at first. It was an exciting moment for all of us, and it’s something that I would like to do again. It was a good experience.

For Frank, as her dad, that was the moment it all came full circle.

It’s a huge deal! It’s like nothing I thought I would ever experience in my entire life. I actually sat in my office and cried for fifteen minutes. With everything we went through when she was little, and to see where she is now, it’s just amazing. There is nothing that she cannot do. There is not one thing that this kid cannot do. I’m not just saying that because it’s my daughter. If she puts her mind to something, she does it.

The entire hunt was filmed for the “Off the Beaten Path” television show and will air sometime in the fall of 2021. Frank Spartano shares more of his emotions from his daughter harvesting her first deer

Being a parent and being able to sit with her and capture it all on film was amazing. I can’t thank Jason and Tiffany enough for giving Giana that opportunity. The world is an absolute disaster right now and it’s the little, simple things like this that really mean something. All the other stuff doesn’t really mean anything. This experience was unbelievable for me. It’s been great for me to share this (hunting and shooting) with my kids.

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Megan Plete Postol is an outdoor writer based in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

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