I've attempted to spill this sentence onto my computer screen about a dozen times, yet still I struggle to find the right words to explain an indescribable feeling. A trite blog post will never do justice in expressing the complex mixture of pride, love and excitement I felt when I watched my girl become a whitetail hunter. However, I can do my best to tell you how it went down.
Her name is Lindsay Danielle. I'm not married to her, but she owns my heart. During the past 4 years we've endured what feels like an entire lifetime of ups and downs, but thankfully our love has shined through even the darkest of days. She's the most caring and thoughtful person I know, willing to sacrifice just about anything for others. She loves the big city, rap music and dolphins, yet she's gone to great lengths to understand and appreciate the things that make me happy—such as country life, heavy metal and ... deer.
She's walked through the woods with me and observed a few of my turkey hunts; she even watched a white-tailed doe tip over one time after I shot it with a slug in Wisconsin. I've casually nudged her to try her hand at hunting, but I've been careful about not applying too much pressure. Finally, she nervously agreed to purchase a tag to hunt my family's farm during the opening weekend of firearms season in early November.
The weather was rather mild, but she bundled up in excessive layers to ensure that she'd be able to spend hours in a treestand. I assured her that her best opportunity to kill a deer would be during opening day, and probably in the morning. Soon, shots rang out from blaze-orange brethren who occupied similar haunts on neighboring properties. We heard and saw some whitetails escaping through the dense forest and tall grass within view of our elevated post, but none offered shots. The new hunter became antsy, but her patience impressed me and I smiled to myself. I snapped a few photos of her to preserve the precious moments as we made our way back to the vehicle for a mid-morning break.
After a warm nap, we headed back out for an evening sit. On the way to our four-legged tower stand, we caught a glimpse of our four-legged quarry escaping from the field edge. Her excitement was obvious, and I assured her that the dusk hours were promising. Before reaching the stand we encountered a couple more deer, but they were out of range. Again, it helped build the suspense for what would end up as a successful sunset hunt.
We reached the stand, climbed up and settled in on the crowded platform. Immediately, she spotted whitetails in the neighboring field to the east. As I tired of watching the distant deer, I turned around and watched the meadow behind us. Buck! Chaos broke out as she struggled to turn around and acquire him in the shotgun scope, which I had dialed to 7X assuming the first shot opportunity would be a far one.
The buck died a thousand times in my head as he warily looked around, but she was unable to fix the crosshairs on him before he semi-spooked into the bordering swamp. She was devastated and ashamed. The predator in me was frustrated, but I chose my words carefully, knowing the hunting future of this first-timer might rely on my reaction to the tough-to-stomach situation. I composed myself and offered optimism and support—admittedly, not always two of my strongest traits.
I convinced her that the hunt was just beginning, and with some teeth grinding she agreed to stick it out. By the grace of God, within 10 minutes another buck appeared on the same path as the first one. She calmly waited for just the right moment. Then, suddenly—to my surprise—she ripped a hole in the silence of the sky and respectfully stole the life from a tremendous 8-point whitetail.
The ear-ringing memories that followed are for her and I to cherish. Next time you're with someone you love—in or out of the field—don't forget to stow away a few of your own.