“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold
If you had asked me ten years ago about my views on hunting, you’d have gotten an answer much different than one you would receive today. I would have told you about how barbaric I thought it was. How sad I felt for the poor animals. How hunters were monsters out looking for fun and trophies.
I always like to reflect on something my Dad once said to me. And, while at the time it was in relation to the job I had working at a local pig farm, his words echo in my head every time I disagree with something. He said to me “Pooh-bear” (because that has and always will be my pet name) “If you’re faced with something you don’t agree with, how can you stand up for what you believe if you don’t first learn all there is to know about it.” Those words have been so true in so many parts of my life.
So who was I to judge those who hunted until I had learned myself what hunting really was.
When I first met my fiancé Dan, I knew he was a country boy through and through. His family had lived the farm life, he had grown up hunting the land, he was comfortable around guns and knew what respect of the land was. At first I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but today I wouldn’t trade any of it. One of our first dates including heading out back on his father’s land and shooting the 50cal. gun they owned. I hadn’t been much for guns or shooting at this point, but I wasn’t going to look like some sissy on our first date. It was then I realized that guns were going to now be a part of my life. So, I needed to be comfortable with that.
Soon after moving in with Dan, I signed up in town for a gun safety course. It was a two day course in town that would allow me to handle all types of guns, learn the ins and outs and by the end, be registered to handle, fire and own one of my own. The most important thing is to be confident and comfortable.
Last year my father-in-law gave me the gun that Dan hunted with as a young boy; a .243 Remington. Dan and I would spend evenings out in the back field target practicing and getting to know the rifle. By November, I was comfortable enough to buy my tags and perhaps try some hunting of my own.
I would walk out back, through our fields and sit in my little make shift blind in the snow. It was such an amazing experience that first year being so close to nature. Sitting there and hearing the snow fall, the way it sounded when it hit the trees versus the ground. Listening to the birds and squirrels squabble in the trees. I remember the first time a deer walked across my path, the way my heart stopped and my breathing caught. How this magnificent creature was standing right there in front of me and didn’t even know I was watching. I had never been so close to a deer in the wild. And when he gave his blow and snort when he spotted me to warn others of my presence, I thought for sure I was a goner. I didn’t even know deer made noises like that. I thought he was heading straight for me in a charge! But listening to my surroundings and hearing more than one set of feet take of made me realize he hadn’t been the only one close by and I was maybe stealthier than I had thought. I survived, as they took off through the willows and I made my way back up to the house.
Sitting, alone in nature, gives one so much time for thought and reflection. I was beginning to understand how a person could want to spend so much time out in the bush, away from the world.
At this point, I still wasn’t convinced that I could kill something that I could shoot my gun and choose to end a life. But I was about to find out, I was more ready than I could have imagined.
I spent my days off over at my father-in-law’s farm. I’d wake early in the morning, make the drive over, and climb up into the blind in the sky, just in time to catch the sun cresting over the horizon. We’d sip on hot drinks, nibble on candy and watch the world below us unfold as morning took place. We’d spot a doe here and there, perhaps a small buck would walk across our sights, but we were holding out. It was during an evening sit that my first buck walked out into my view. We spotted him in the binoculars, and then lined him up in my scope. I had him in my view.
Before we get into the next part, I need to make mention of something I had thought was only a term hunters used. I now know today, it is more than a word. It is something that consumes your very being. BUCK FEVER. When you have that deer in your sights and you’re getting lined up for the fire, its like this feeling over takes you. Your body starts shaking, your heart is pumping so loud you cant even hear yourself think. The struggle is real.
I got my first buck that night. Before the sun touched the ground I had dropped him in one shot.
I thought I might embarrass myself and cry. That I might feel like a monster for killing such a beautiful creature. But I didn’t. Dan’s family has nothing but respect for the wildlife and land that they hunt. I was surrounded by people that night who were hunting for the right reasons. I helped with every step of the processing. We skinned and gutted and hung my deer. A few days later we returned to cut up and package the meat. What meat we couldn’t use was brought home and used to feed our dogs over the winter. Our freezer was full. Just last month we finished the very last roast we had had from my first buck.
When this November came around I had a new appreciation for hunting season. I had respect for my firearm, respect for our land and respect for the life I was aiming to take. I was bound and determined this year to get my deer off of our own property. I would hurry home from work to do an evening sit, check my cameras religiously to see who was coming and going.
And last Saturday, it happened.
Dan and I headed out to our North cutline in the early morning and spotted the 5×5 buck that I had just spotted on our cameras the week before. He was headed down the cutline right towards us as Dan called him in. It was such a different experience from last year being so up and above the situation, to this year having him walk right towards me in my scope view. When he was about 70 yards out, I was sure he was going to make a quick turn into the bush, I made my shot. He was down. We went back to the house and got old trusted Suzi-Q. With help from the neighbour we got him loaded in the truck and back up into the yard at the house. Again, I helped with the whole process.
Today is butcher day. We will refill our freezer for another year. And I can be proud to say that I am the one to thank. I can be proud of the work I put into getting that deer, the patience it took and the commitment. I can be proud of the respect I showed to the animal, and that every part will be put to use.
Although ten years ago me may not be in the same mindset, I am nothing but proud of the woman I am becoming. Through each life lesson I am growing. I am one step closer each day to the goal of self-sustainment that we have for ourselves here at the farm. Someday, I look forward to this being something that we pass down to our future generations That our children will learn the same way I did, with the help of a great man, that hunting is a lifestyle not a trophy.