I am lost — not “I’m in the middle of a city with labeled roads and my GPS is restarting” lost, but “I’m in the middle of nowhere North Dakota, there are no houses near me, no road signs for miles, the road isn’t even a road and my GPS is telling me I’m on an opaque patchwork grid, floating, it seems, in space” lost.
Our deer season thus far has been sad to say the very least. I couldn’t bring my bow to full draw on a bunch of does who were simply waiting to become my supper. A buck meandered past my bare stand last week only to spook when he caught sight of a suspicious blob on the tree he was dangerously near.
So now, here I am, with a gun doe tag that expires tomorrow. I have a map — taking me, I was told, to the land a coworker generously offered, a track that, weekly, produced some of the finest trail camera images I’ve ever seen. But I’m here for does and, once I figure out where I am, I intend to bring home dinner.
The map is starting to resemble my surroundings — emboldened, and with a faint connection that could be loosely described as “cell service”, I call my coworker who informs me that he has no idea where I am, and that I am certainly not where I should be.
Three miles, one farm visit, one frightening encounter with a protective, blind cattle dog and his corgi brother, and one low-maintenance (read: barely drivable) road later, I arrive.
I unpack my vehicle, load my firearm, and walk until I find the hay bales on the map (these were, at least where they should have been) — then, I sit.
Once the sun begins its descent and there are only mere moments from myself and the night, I creep from my hiding place to walk a gully filled with small places for big deer to hide. I sing, I scream, I taunt the ambulating venison to the best of my abilities but not one hoofed creature heeds my tune.
I abandon the unhelpful map on the way home, using only the compass I’ve expertly downloaded on my phone. I head east as the sky’s spotlights begin to dance. The prairie stretches out from either side- enveloping its solitary visitor in a western embrace.
It is only when I see the bright lights of the city in the distance do I stop in the middle of the dirt road. The last time I saw a car was four hours ago — no headlights are bouncing along the curvy path — so I turn up Eddie Vedder (the Into The Wild Soundtrack) and dance alone in the moonlight.
Before today, I’ve always known where I was going to hunt — there was set land we’d always return to, we’d always go together or I with someone else. I never took a solitary “let’s find this hunting land” drive or sat in a field fully knowledgeable of being the only human present for miles. I cleaned my gun that morning, got permission weeks prior, loaded my car (didn’t even forget a thing), picked my spot and decided what to do at final light — all by my lonesome.
Throughout this season, as you well know, dear reader, I’ve been introduced to some remarkable things from the Badlands’ buttresses to dove hunting in a North Dakotan desert, to acting like an 8-year-old in the presence of something truly stunning, to everything in between. But I’ve also become, blessedly, after years of learning, living, and listening — a strong, self-reliant huntress.
The next day, my husband joined me for our last gun hunt of the deer season — this night, too, yielded nothing. We walked away, crumpling our tags in our fists, melancholic — for venison doesn’t have the tendency to simply appear magically in one’s fridge.
That last hunt closed not only the first chapter in our deer hunting lives in North Dakota but also my tenure at Deer & Deer Hunting. This experience has been a blessing for more reasons that can be enumerated here. Allow me to thank you, readers, for your patronage, and to Mr. Dan Schmidt who helped me get my wings back.
Until next time, reader, I bid you adieu.
The Deer Huntress still writes for her blog, Hunt Like You’re Hungry, and expresses her alter-ego on her twitter, The Writing Huntress. Archery is open until January 6th so a deer she will most certainly have in the months to come.