Noah and I with his buck 2009
Hunting is big in my family. My father has hunted my whole life. My (maternal) grandparents would come down every year to spend the week with us for Opening Day of hunting season. My grandfather would hunt with the guys on our 58 acres and Grandma would do some Christmas shopping at the local malls with us girls.
I still remember the excitement of Opening Day growing up. Uncles, friends, Grandpa and Dad would gather in the dining room below my bedroom at some God-awful hour of the morning, drinking coffee and having a warm breakfast before they headed off to their respective blinds, deer stands, and nooks in the cold, dark, woods to sit and wait for their prize. There was something about this camaraderie, the sport, the excitement, that was invigorating. I always loved Opening Day. I looked forward to hearing the familiar voices and often found an “excuse” to sneak downstairs and join the men in their annual rituals.
I even remember my mother hunting, perhaps not when I could specifically remember it, but the stories I was told were fascinating. My Mom can do just about anything the “guys” can do and I love that about her. I strive to be even just a small percentage of what she’s modeled for me all these years. So, about 6 or 7 years ago I decided to finally give this whole hunting thing a try. I’m usually up for a challenge and love the motivation that shaking things up brings. The reactions I’d get from fellow co-workers, friends, relatives – the surprise, the confusion, the doubt – they were just the fuel I needed to prove something to someone. I don’t know what I was proving to whom, but it was the something I needed and wanted to do to prove to myself that I could do this.
I convinced my father to offer a hunter’s safety course (he was a semi-retired Hunter’s Safety instructor by then) and gathered up enough interested “students” to make it worth his while. That year I bought a camouflage hunting suit, gloves, blaze orange neck warmer, and headed out to my blind at some God-awful hour of the morning on opening day to accomplish something no one (including myself) thought I was capable of.
I didn’t prove anything to anyone that first year (or the years that followed) except that I could dress the part, sit and wait in the cold with the best of them, and go through the motions. I hunted the year I was 7 months pregnant with my first son (with doctor’s approval, of course!), I went out weeks after my second son was born, in between his (every) 3-hour feedings, (the whole time wishing they made nursing-accessible hunting clothing - Ha!)
Me and my "doggy doe" 2009
It wasn’t until last year, however, when I took my first deer, that I finally felt like I had actually accomplished something. It was the first year I was able to prove to myself (and a handful of doubting naysayers) that I could do it. That I wasn’t just talking the talk…I could walk the walk, too. Yes, it was a (very) small doe I took that first year. But I did it cleanly, with one shot, and I followed through from start to finish. It sounds silly and probably grosses most people out, but I was proud of myself for doing it all. I did the gutting, the dragging out of the woods, the skinning, the processing. It was important to me to handle it all and not pawn the “hard” parts or the “gross” parts off on my brother, my husband, or my father.
I loved getting home last year with our deer (my husband and brother each got one, too) and seeing my (then) 3-year-old’s face light up when he saw the deer that Mommy had brought home. (It’s important to teach my boys that girls can do anything boys can do. This is just one way for me to demonstrate that.) However, the best reward I’ve ever received is the pride I see in my father’s face and hear in his voice when he tells the story of his daughter that hunts. That makes me proud and glad to be sharing this experience, this skill, this tradition with my father (and husband and brother!)
So despite its controversies, I’m proud to say that I am an avid (Opening Weekend and Thanksgiving morning) hunter. I say it like that only because, I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of freezing my butt off, generally speaking. But the excitement of opening weekend and the tradition and family roots found at my Mom and Dad’s at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving morning every year is totally my cup of tea. I look forward to it every year and I love the memories I’m able to make with my family!! This is just one more piece of my story that my boys can hopefully share with their families someday.