Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.
The NFL's Atlanta Falcons may call a city of more than 5.5 million people home, but it doesn't stop many of them from getting away from the Georgia Dome gridiron and out into the great outdoors. Several veteran members of the team who are also avid outdoorsman share their favorite hunting memories and their hopes for passing on the sport to future generations.
Jerious Norwood is one-half of one of the most dangerous ground attacks in professional football. An early season head injury has limited his action for the Falcons thus far in 2009, but Norwood boasts a career average of 6.2 yards per carry and looks to continue splitting time with leading rusher Michael Turner.
Norwood, a former Mississippi State Bulldog, grew up in Brandon, Miss., and is known by his teammates for being an avid outdoorsman.
ESPN Outdoors: Talk about the first hunt that you remember going on.
Jerious Norwood: The first hunt that I remember ever doing was hunting down in Prentiss, Miss. Well it was dog season, and we were running a dog. My uncle had the hounds and we were making a deer drive, and there was a lot of shooting going on — we probably killed three or four deer in that one drive.
But I had a little doe that come right up on me, and I'll never forget it. My brother saw her before I could see her — I really couldn't see it, but I saw him pointing at the deer, and I'm like 'Man what is he pointing at?' but the deer was coming up ahead on me the whole time.
Man, when I saw that deer my heart liked to have jumped out of my chest. I ended up shooting and killing it — I had a .20-gauge, and I shot it with a slug. That was my first time killing a deer and I'll never forget it. I was even scared to walk up on the deer when the deer was dead.
ESPN Outdoors: How old were you?
JN: I was about 12 or so.
ESPN Outdoors: Who taught you how to hunt? Was it always just a part of your family?
JN: My uncle. My grandmother used to take me fishing a lot, but my uncles taught me how to hunt. A big majority of my family used to hunt and fish when I was growing up and it's something that I always have loved to do. My favorite hunting is turkey hunting. I love to turkey hunt.
ESPN Outdoors: How often do you get to go hunting, especially with the NFL season coinciding with most hunting seasons?
JN: Pretty much whenever I get a chance. I had a chance to go out a couple days ago and put a little trail camera out, just to kind of see. I got a track of woods right behind my house, and I saw a couple, but I want to get some on camera just to see what's back there.
ESPN Outdoors: Do you mostly hunt in Georgia since you play for the Falcons, or what's your favorite area to hunt?
JN: You know, I hunt around in my neighborhood. I can't really shoot a gun over there so I do a lot of bow hunting. And I had the opportunity to go down on [Jeff] Foxworthy's place down in south Georgia with another one of my teammates. He's really good friends with my teammate Chris Redman, so he invites us down whenever we get ready. So we can go down there and hunt whenever, but it's like an hour and a half drive.
ESPN Outdoors: How important is hunting in your life, especially with all the demands of being a professional athlete?
JN: Well you know, when I hunt it just gives me peace of mind. I get away from football and all the sports talk and it's really something I enjoy, just going outside and experiencing the outdoors and seeing wildlife.
ESPN Outdoors: Do you have any kids, and if so are you teaching them to hunt?
JN: I got a little girl, she's six years old but she's not really interested. I got a little boy on the way though, so hopefully he'll be my little road dog.
An avid hunter, fisherman and golfer, Chris Redman is much more than the back-up to Falcons star quarterback Matt Ryan. In his seven-year professional football career, Redman has had 10 starts with a quarterback rating of 79.5. A native of Louisville, Ky. Redman grew up hunting with his father before going on to a stellar career at the University of Louisville, where he owns every major record for quarterbacks. Redman is also known for taking NFL teammates, both novice and expert, on frequent hunting trips to share his passion for the sport.
ESPN Outdoors: Talk about your first hunting experience.
Chris Redman: I was real little when I started hunting, so I really don't remember the first time, but I've seen some pictures where I took my bb gun out. We did a bunch of rabbit hunting when I was growing up, so my dad used to take me out there and I'd pretend I was hunting but I really wasn't.
But I do remember my first rabbit kill. We were hunting on this guy named Kent Colgate's farm in Henry County, Kentucky. I remember the dogs — it was kind of a cold day, there was a little bit of snow on the ground — and I remember the dogs running around. I was nervous because I could tell the dogs were starting to come back towards me, so I remember my heart racing, and all of a sudden there he was.
A big gigantic bunny rabbit 20 yards away, just sitting there. But I remember I was real nervous, I was by myself at the time and my dad was on the other side of the fence. So I knew what to do, but it was the first time I was by myself. But I made the shot, and I remember my dad being real proud of me.
I love just being outdoors in general. I think it's good for kids to be outside and not playing video games all day, and I think hunting's a good way to do that, especially with family and friends and just being able to share that experience. My dad taught me to hunt and it was a real neat experience.
I actually have a lot of first-time hunting stories because I've taken a lot of my teammates with the Falcons hunting. A lot of them get real scared.
The best story would be D.J. Shockley, the practice squad quarterback. I took him for the first time down to a farm south of Atlanta and we had a deer come out. The whole time on the way down he was talking about how he wouldn't get nervous, and how it was just hunting and no reason to be nervous.
So the deer came out and I was like, 'OK, D.J., here's your chance.' It was about a 60-yard shot with a rifle, which should be pretty easy generally, and we had a scope on it. So we got up there and we got the gun all up and I said 'Alright D.J. it's time to shoot. Go ahead and shoot when you're ready.'
And I just noticed he started breathing really hard, and he wouldn't shoot — it took him a long time for him to shoot. Well he finally pulled the trigger and the deer just kind of stood there and looked around. So he totally missed the deer, and we couldn't get another shot at him.
He told me later that he couldn't control his breathing, and he had a big welp on his eye from the scope hitting him in the face. So the deer got the better end of the deal that day.
ESPN Outdoors: How often do you get to go hunting, especially with your NFL responsibilities?
CR: On an off day, maybe once a week — probably every other week or so I try to get outside somewhere either fishing or hunting. I think it's good to get out and just kind of get away from things. It's always neat to share people's experiences who haven't done it before, because a lot of times they think they wouldn't like it and then they get out there and they really enjoy it. So it's been real fun to do that.
Eleven year veteran Todd McClure has blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers during his time as starting center with the Atlanta Falcons, including a streak of 112 starts going into the 2009 season. But growing up in Baton Rouge, La., McClure was just as likely to be found on a hunt as out on the gridiron. A four-year stint at Louisiana State University and a 60-acre tract of land keep McClure connected to both Louisiana and his hunting roots.
ESPN Outdoors: Talk about your first hunt.
Todd McClure: I guess my first hunt was a squirrel hunting trip. My uncle had taken me into the woods. They had about 60 acres and I was hunting with a .410. I guess my first time I was a little scared of shooting it because of the kick, you know?
But we went out and I think we got about six or seven squirrels. The highlight of the trip though was there was a raccoon sitting up in a tree, and I got to shoot a raccoon. So we got a few squirrels and a raccoon on my first hunt, and it was pretty exciting for me.
ESPN Outdoors: Who taught you how to hunt?
TM: My mom's brother Scotty — Scotty Wilson's his name. When I grew up my grandfather had a farm, and I grew up out there and he and my uncle taught us about gun safety and how to handle a gun. We really started with bb guns because they wanted to be sure they could trust us with it before they gave us anything.
ESPN Outdoors: Did you always love hunting from the first time you tried it?
TM: Oh for sure, I love it and every chance I get I try to go out and do it. The only thing is, you know, football season is kind of in the middle of all that down here for deer hunting and things like that. So for the past few years I haven't been able to go as much as I'd like to, but once I get done playing I'd love to get my kids involved with it. It's just great to be out in nature and I think my kids will enjoy it.
ESPN Outdoors: Have you taken any of your kids hunting yet, or are they still too young?
TM: No, I haven't yet. My oldest is eight years old and he's had a bb gun for a few years, and I just bought him a gun they call a Trifecta. It's got interchangeable barrels on it — a .410, a .22 and a .223 — so he's pretty fired up about that.
We've got some property back in Louisiana, about 60 acres where we put some targets out and let him shoot. He's begging all the time to go shoot, but he hasn't been on his first hunt yet. But maybe this offseason when we go back I'll take him out.
When we go back I've got game cameras and everything out on my property and some feeders for the deer to get them coming up. I've only had my place for about three years but I'd like for my kids to be able to kill their first deer out on my property. That would be pretty special.