I finally did it… I went hunting for the first time – ever. Expectations were high (my own) that I would have a successful first hunt; and I suppose in all ways besides bagging a deer, my hunt was successful. For one thing, I did it!
It wasn’t easy waking up on a Saturday morning at 0445, especially given I went to bed after 2300. My clothes had all been placed out Friday night, so all I had to do was get dressed. But even attire required some thought. Camo or jeans? Long sleeve or short? Is there orange in my wardrobe? Ended up wearing BDU pants, black boots, and a Mossy Oak long sleeved tee, enough to cover my arms from mosquitoes and poison ivy but not so much I’d be perspiring. I remembered I had been sent a hunting vest for one of my memberships, possibly Ducks Unlimited, and it’s reversible with a very orange interior. Then came the biggest decision of all; which ball cap to wear (I have an extensive collection). I chose my camo Women in the Outdoors (WITO) hat, in case I had a photo op with a deer; to support the WITO program and women hunting.
I was hunting on a friend’s property and he suggested I carry a sidearm, for self-protection (not from him) or on the rare chance the deer did not expire immediately from the swift blow of my arrow. John also suggested I create a sling for my crossbow as I had to climb up into the tree stand. My chiropractor, an avid hunter, said there should be a rope to pull up my weapon, but John had never installed one. Thank goodness for over-the-shoulder luggage straps and lightweight carabiners. I made a makeshift sling to lay the crossbow over my shoulder and back as I climbed. I had my Taurus G2 Millennium 9mm tucked in my leg holster. Around my neck I wore my Nikon camera; I was determined to shoot something, even if just a photo.
What made the hunt successful, despite the lack of any target to shoot at (at 0800 I saw one whitetail rump disappearing into the tree grove), was the amazing experience of sunrise in the woods. Initially, the sky was so black that I could see all the stars; something that doesn’t happen in an urban or suburban setting. Then I was able to watch the sky slowly lighten. The woods came alive; birds started singing and announcing the dawning of a new day. There were so many types of bird calls I couldn’t identify them all; but I heard wild turkeys, woodpeckers, and saw a cardinal. At times a breeze would gather and ruffle the leaves such that it sounded like a gentle rain, though no clouds could be seen above. As dawn intensified, the fish in the pond on property started splashing for their food. The temperature changed multiple times, becoming cooler, than warmer… and the smell of the forest changed. Morning has a smell!
It was a fantastic, spiritual experience, and I was proud of myself for climbing the tree stand and remaining in it for 3.5 hours. I learned that I’m not so afraid of heights if it’s dark and I cannot see the ground. John assured me the stand was only 12 feet high in the tree, but my eyes are five feet higher than that… so it was intimidating, especially climbing up with a prosthetic shoulder (70% disability in my left arm) and arthritic knees. But my son will attest to my forced courage in the face of a challenge.
I’m sure there is something to be said for hunting and bagging your game, and I hope to find that out tonight when I go back out for an evening hunt. But just being out in nature, when the earth seems still, and then witnessing the reawakening of life as the sun rises, is a mystical experience. I am delighted that I finally got to hunt, even if I had to wait until I was 52 to start.
(This essay was originally published 20 September 2014 on Facebook by Sara Crusade – GalHunterMidlife)