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Her Classroom Is the Outdoors: Jones, 12, Achieving Success With Rod and Gun

  • Robert Jones, left, and his 12-year-old daughter, Tarin, share a moment after Tarin shot her first whitetail deer of the season during Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s youth weekend on Nov. 5.  

  • Jones, a South Royalton School sixth-grader, also bagged her first moose, a 621-pounder, in October.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

South Royalton — When Tarin Jones was born, her father, Robert, had the foresight to purchase for her a lifetime Vermont hunting and fishing license. It’s turned out to be quite a hearty investment.

An active hunter for the last three years, Tarin Jones, 12, has rivaled — in some cases, surpassed — Dad in bringing home the goods.

Having bagged numerous turkeys and a whitetail deer since passing her hunter safety course in 2014, Tarin Jones applied for a moose permit for the first time this year. Of 8,315 applicants (archery plus firearm), she was one of 160 winners and took full advantage.

Hunting with her dad near a Barnard beaver pond, Jones used her 7mm-08 rifle to down a huge moose on Oct. 18, six days after her 12th birthday. The kill was also a nice gift for her mom, Lee-Ann Gregory, whose birthday was the next day.

“It was really foggy that morning, so we couldn’t see much,” Tarin Jones recalled in an interview with her family last week. “We were set up in the woods for a little while. I was sitting on a log like it was a horse.”

By around 10 a.m., the fog had lifted enough to see around 100 yards ahead — roughly the same distance Tarin had successfully hit targets while practicing at home. Robert, an experienced hunter of more than 25 years, was using his voice to generate moose-call sounds. He was considering a switch to a store-bought calling aid when the moose first came to view.

As Dad continued to execute his calls, the moose drew increasingly closer, eventually stopping behind a tree. Sensing her daughter’s excitement — and his own — at the time, Robert Jones made sure she knew whose shot it was. “That’s a legal moose,” he’d told her. “It’s all you.”

Exercising the patience she’s learned to hunt with during her young career, Tarin waited until the animal fully emerged from behind the tree.

The shot went cleanly through the animal’s main artery and liver. It took only about four seconds before the animal fell and another few minutes for it to die.

Tarin was in tears when she called her mom with the news before Robert phoned his friend, Steve Johnson, to help them remove the animal from the woods. It was Johnson, a Barnard resident, who’d alerted the Joneses to the area and spent three days hunting with them there prior to the kill.

The only moose they’d seen during that span was one cow and her young bull, scampering quickly away.

“I couldn’t believe I got a moose!” Tarin said. “It was so foggy, I didn’t know if it was going to work out.”

Things have continued to work out since then for Tarin, who landed a 90-pound anterless whitetail buck during youth weekend. With Dad having landed his own buck recently and muzzleloader season still on the horizon, suddenly freezer space at the Joneses could be a concern.

Most of the family’s meat is eaten by Tarin and her mom, along with with Tarin’s 5-year-old sister, Kaylyn. Ironically, Robert Jones is vegetarian, despite having hunted avidly since he was a teenager.

“I (stopped eating meat) to lose weight, slim down,” he recalled. “After that, I just lost my taste for it.”

That didn’t stop him from following through on a promise to try some of Tarin’s venison after she shot her first whitetail, a 128-pounder during muzzleloader season last year. It did take some coaxing.

“I’d told her a while back, so I was hoping she wouldn’t remember,” Robert Jones said. “Then, after we cooked some, sure enough the first thing she said was, ‘Dad, now you have no try it.’ I said, ‘Shoot! She remembered!’ ”

The kills and the harvests aren’t all that Tarin Jones enjoys about hunting. Like many of her elders in the sport, a larger gratification comes from the process and experience.

“I just like the peace and quiet,” she said. “It’s better to sit around in the woods than sit around the house. If you’re lucky, you get a reward.”

Lee-Ann Gregory said while Tarin has been congratulated by peers and others at school, the family was rebuffed by some online observers after posting photos of the Tarin and the moose on the Facebook page of a Burlington-based TV station.

“There are a lot of anti-hunters out there. People said things like, ‘Let her talk to us; we’ll change her mind about hunting,’ ” said Gregory, whose father, grandfather and two uncles were Vermont game wardens. “I just think with everything going on in the world today, we should be encouraging more young women to be going out and doing things that they love.”

Tarin, an honor roll student, has also shown to be quite an accurate shooter. She regularly hits targets stationed up to 100 yards away while practicing on the family property, and she’s aced a marksmanship class facilitated by the National Rifle Association.

“The instructor was so impressed,” Gregory said. “When she gets to be a certain age, they want her to come back and help teach.”

A fisherman since age 4, Tarin has also reeled in plenty of trout, perch and bass over the years. One of her favorite catches was a 16-inch bass from a canoe with an unbaited hook.

“(Robert and I) both had bait and caught nothing,” said Gregory. “She’s a fish and animal whisperer.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.