After years of tagging along on our hunting trips, our girls finally turned 10 and became hunters themselves. After years of exposure and their recent hunter’s safety certification, they were feeling more than ready when we made the long trip to Minnesota for their first hunt.
We arrived with our bags of gear, cases of guns and hearts fluttering in anticipation for this long-awaited moment with our girls. The cold November air and dusting of snow hinted at the coming of winter. Rifles slung over our shoulders and hot cocoa sloshing in our packs, we paired off into two elevated deer stands on Grandpa and Grandma’s farm - one near the corn field and the other closer to the forest’s edge.
We glassed attentively and patiently in all directions until sundown, sadly failing to spot a single deer. That same scenario repeated itself our second night out.
Disappointment is a real part of hunting, we reasoned. (As much for our sakes as for the childrens’.)
Nothing seemed different as we trekked out the third night, but not long into our hunt we were charged up to see deer - several of them! It wasn’t long before one of our daughters took her first shot - with Grandpa’s help - and downed a doe feeding at the edge of the field below our stand. Shortly after, I took my first shot and hit a deer below our stand on the other side.
(It is amazing to me that when a deer gets shot, the others will often just keep eating. I yell silently, “run away, you idiots!!”)
Then we heard a gunshot from the other stand about 200 yards away. Communicating via text, we learned our other daughter had gotten her first deer with Dad’s help. We could stop right there and this would be a night for the recordbooks!! But one more shot was taken by Dad, making an even four does - one for each of us. As for the girls and I, we each shot our very first deer all on that same night!!
I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the gutting process. The girls each received a hands-on experience gutting their own deer that night, but without a word Tim and his dad gutted the other two without requiring my help. I was helpful in the sense of holding the flashlight, moving the truck, words of encouragement and even admiration, but no more was asked of me. Thank God for Dads and Grandpas.
(Note: many amazing women do gut their own deer, my own daughters included, and wow! For now, I’m in the category of “I’d rather not if I don’t have to.” Plus, who else is going to hold the flashlight?)
After the blood and guts were disposed of in the field and the meat was hanging, we made our way home to where Grandma was waiting with a warm, hearty, well-earned dinner. The dismal foreshadowing of the first two nights made the triumph of the third night all the more glorious when it came - a rich sense of mutual fulfillment none of us will ever forget!