Is it the rustling of the leaves, the sound of a snort wheeze in the distance, the thrill of chasing monsters who have made an appearance on a trail cam? What is it that makes you feel like a kid on Christmas morning the closer opening day gets? When I was younger, I did not understand hunting or why people waited all year just to spend days and/or weeks sitting in trees in the freezing cold, hoping the one will walk by. I never understood why on earth someone would want to wake up hours before the first rooster crows to trek, possibly, miles just for their feet to go numb and sit in blackness until the sun starts to faintly appear over the horizon.
These were all mysteries to me until I spent the fall of 2013 chasing whitetails. I hunted turkeys and doves growing up, but never experienced what deer season was all about. After hearing the thrilling stories my husband, grandpa, brother-in-law, and father-in-law told about their hunting experiences, I decided it was time to give it a try. The hunting season of 2013 changed me. It only took one day of being out in the stand and I was hooked. All of the fuss and hype started to finally make sense to me. I did not start shooting a bow until the spring of 2014, so my first season in the stand I used a beautiful .257 Winchester with a honey oak stock that my grandpa passed down to me. My journey for a whitetail in 2013 tested my patience, but I never gave up as the thrill of not knowing what was about to walk down the trail next kept me going.
My husband and I were racking up miles on the Ford F-250 as we were spending every chance we could hunting my family’s farm near Cordova, Nebraska. As it got later in the season, we had bigger and bigger bucks on the trail cams, but none ever presented themselves to us while we were out. Rifle season flew by with no luck. As frustrated as I was, the peace and calm I felt in the stand, the beauty of seeing the sun start to rise over the land that I played on and worked on as a kid, and the feeling of being closer to God are what kept me going. I was more determined than ever to take my first deer.
We continued hunting into antlerless whitetail season and I was not backing down. With two weekends left in the season, we went out Saturday and saw a few deer, but nothing in our shooting lanes. I woke up the next morning around 2:00AM and we made the trek back out to the farm. I got into the stand around 6:00AM and by 8:00AM my feet were numb from the cold. Hints of the sun warmed my face and helped with the shivering that I had resorted to in an effort to keep myself warm. The only activity I had during the day was a young coyote who walked by and a fawn I saw in the distance. I had sent my husband a text around 5:00PM to ask what time we should leave as the sun was starting to set. He said to give it 30 more minutes and then we would pack up and make the trip home. It was not more than two minutes later I looked to my left and saw movement. I began to shake and my adrenaline was on full blast. Out of the trees walked a lone doe. This was my chance; this is what I had waited for all season! I raised my rifle, centered my aim, and took one final breath to steady myself. I fired. I initially thought I missed as the doe took off into the trees. I tried to calm my nerves, but I was shaking so bad I could not even calm myself to call my husband. I took a seat and focused on breathing. Once I regained control of my hands, I called my husband and the first thing I blurted out was, “I MISSED” (there may have been a few swear words in there, but I will leave that to your imagination). We gave it a few minutes and then my husband made his way over to my stand. We walked to where the doe was when I fired and the blood trail was evident…I did not miss! The deer made it about 10 yards into the trees before making it to her final resting spot. It was a perfect shot. I was ecstatic! Tears filled my eyes as I knelt next to my kill. I cried, I prayed, I shook like hell, but in this moment I understood. I understood that hunting is so much more than just the hunt or the kill. It is truly about the experience. Coming one with nature, spending time with God, the challenge, the solitude, I could go on and on. The feelings I felt in that moment are what push me and drive me. They also humble me. They have helped mold me into who I am today and have shown me who I want to become. Opening day of 2015 is coming, are you ready?