The Deer Huntress: A Novice Killer

Oft have I been told that I resemble an 8-year old, not only in stature, but also in temperament.

I routinely stick my tongue out at loved ones, coworkers and bosses. I laugh uproariously at stupid jokes, I find amusement in the most unlikely of places (example: In Germany, entries are labeled “einfahrt.” There was no end to the jokes, jabs, and giggles each and every time we meandered past such a sign adhered to posts on the streets of Cologne and Munich.) Given that I am, for all intents and purposes, relatively new to hunting, as this is the fourth season I’ve taken to the field, it does not take much to excite, confuse, or astound this novice, juvenile mind.

Growing up, when I was sick, my mom would make me “fizzy” Jello, or Jello that was made with ginger ale to sooth the often-sickly tonsils that were removed from my person at a not-so juvenile 19. Given that my tonsils were evil entities hell-bent on making me sick every single time I went on a hockey tournament, Jello was constantly on the menu.

To keep my school well aware of my illnesses, I would always attend school even when the most deadly of illnesses fell upon me. Of course, teachers didn’t want the embodiment of a succubus plague festering in their classrooms, so I would be sent to the nurse where I would await my ride home to the couch, to rest, and watch limitless episodes of  “Wings” on the USA Network.

After a few days, I would return to the world of the able-bodied, assuming, as any child does, that all is well, pretending that my sneaky, parasitic tonsils weren’t lying in wait for the next available air-borne illness to meander past.

Many years later, I found myself ill once again, sans tonsils. While strep and tonsillitis are things of the not-so-distant past, sinus infections are not. Hubby came down with something the second we stepped off the plane from St. Maarten and passed it swiftly to me.

Facing the first morning I could hunt since before the honeymoon with a sore throat and nose plugged up like a cork in a 1789 Bordeaux wasn’t ideal. So, I made myself some Jello, kicked back with the adoring canines, threw some Nyquil on ice, and slept.

The next morning, I was feeling more like a human so, like any healing hunter, I decided the best course of action would be to beg our buddy and tow truck operator, JC, to sit in his stand on an acquaintance’s private property. He obliged, as he had already shot a nifty 8-point from the same stand.

I stuffed my pockets full of Kleenex, cough drops and apple juice after throwing on my long johns. I, stupidly, believed 49 degrees to be warm enough for a long shirt and thin jacket to swaddle my ill person, 20 feet up a tree. My savior came in the form of a black Hoyt hoodie I had thrown into my truck days before.

Once I had found the land and prepared myself for the brief walk, I paused at JC’s trail cam. I busted a couple of moves, stuck my tongue out, and even pretended to walk down a flight of invisible stairs for good measure. As soon as I felt all dignity drain from my body, I ascended the tree stand and waited.

I then began counting the turkeys that were converging on an adjacent field. I watched the fattest squirrel I had ever seen scurry up and down the same tree. I pondered briefly about the size of the squirrel in correlation to his activity level, which seemed, at least to me, quite high for such a small animal. I then saw more turkeys scuttling their way to the group meeting spot; I then questioned how turkeys know when season isn’t open, even though they cannot read calendars or Fish and Game’s posted dates. I got mad at the turkeys and resumed watching the fat squirrel finish his cardio routine.

Throughout all of this pondering, I started to become cold – really cold. My nose began fauceting, coughs began to pierce my throat as I attempted, in vain, to keep them in.  When 5 o’clock rolled around, I told myself if nothing was happening by quarter ’til, I’d leave.

Just as I began packing up, trees to the right began to rustle. One doe led the way as two fawns followed in her wake. Two more does appeared out of nowhere, as if by magic.

The leaves around me had already been shed so I was at the mercy of my statue-replication abilities. Striking an uncomfortable pose, I watched, transfixed, as the fawns followed reluctantly in their mother’s wake. One of the fawns began sniffing the air, head held high, searching the area for the unfamiliar stench. The trio walked within six yards of the stand, pausing only to nibble on some grass.

It was about this time that I began to shake so uncontrollably that I figured myself a victim of hypothermia.

By the time the two other monster does came within shooting range, I abandoned all attempts to pick up my bow. I was too transfixed, too absolutely overcome with the sensation of being privy to something so natural, that my body refused to comply with the wishes of my arms.

Before that evening, the culmination of my stand sits consisted of a whole lot of nothing. I’ve killed four deer in my hunting lifetime, that’s one a season for four years, or once every 365 days. Of these kills, I’ve only seen ONE other deer while hunting.  Meaning, out of 1,460 days, I have seen 5 deer total, or one deer every 292 days. Add these figures to my status in the hunting world as an 8-year old and you get one bewildered huntress.

One of the does, a curious girl who continued to look my way, as if she knew I was there, circled my tree twice. I had stopped shaking enough by that point, with the other four out of sight, that, if she had given me the opportunity, I would have taken a shot.

Relating this to my husband, a man who killed his first, and biggest, buck at age 8, couldn’t understand why I had frozen so badly. I told him all that I have just told you, from the shock, to the excitement, to the wondrous awe.

When he still didn’t get it, I reminded myself that I was the new one, the easily impressed one, the one who has not grown up around gaggles of deer meandering beneath stands.

Often I’ve been told that I resemble an 8-year old, not only in stature, but also in temperament. My mind is a kaleidoscope of the nuances of the hunting world that are dismissed, or even overlooked by hunters who have been around it all for so many years. Oftentimes, I wish that I had begun hunting earlier so I could call myself equal to my husband and our hunting friends, who have known this world all their lives.

But, it was this evening’s hunt that proved to me I began hunting at just the right time – the right time to appreciate the hunt, to revere the process, and to be able to share it here, with you.

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