I eventually got a hold of him a little later. He told me how much he loved me and that we'd be together but he needed to move out in order to be less of a burden on my shoulders. A complete cop-out if you ask me, but since he didn't ask, I didn't mention it.
Weeks went by, I went hunting every morning and afternoon I could. Some days he'd be there, some days not. But every time I saw him, a part of my heart would ignite. That part got smaller and smaller as the months went by and eventually went out. But we're not there yet.
And then there was that Thanksgiving morning. It started like any early morning hunt. 4:00am. Freezing cold walk outside to let Titus, puppy companion extraordinaire, pee and a quick run upstairs to throw my camo on. It felt like I should have been festive, but my mood was anything but. I drove to the land alone. Snow was gradually turning to rain. A damp chill infiltrated every crevice of the car. When I finally pulled up to the land, he was standing there. I faked a smile and loaded myself down with gear.
Calling the distance between the stands and where we stood a road is implying that the strip could support vehicle activity. What we were faced with was a river of mud and freezing water. Walking was turned into an aerobic workout in a matter of moments. Gunky mud held fast to my boots which were deeply submerged in the sludge. Staring at my stagnant, sad footwear I realized all I really wanted to do was go home and watch Thanksgiving parades. Somehow, I ventured forth.
I finally got to the stand and waited. The morning was relatively quiet and nothing moved. Once everyone descended from their tree stand thrones, the men decided a push was necessary to get the deer moving. I was told to scale a monstrous stand and wait.
The guys started screaming and singing as they walked through the brush.
I stood and waited, my gun shaking in apprehension as my hands refused to calm.
Then came the moment the deer decided to peek outside the thicket.
I breathed and calmly lined the cross hairs.
A second later it was done and I could barely move.
Numbly, I cocked the shotgun just in case.
Once the push was over, the guys came out yelling and high-fiving one another as I looked down from the stand. Encouraging me to come down and survey my handiwork, the menfolk gathered around my first harvest. I shakily put my safety on and climbed down. Walking over to where they had circled up, I saw the mound of deer in the brush. I quickly knelt down and patted her stomach. I said a quick prayer and thanked her for the meals she would provide.
The whole ordeal took only a second but forever I had been changed.
That Thanksgiving Day altered me in ways that I’m still attempting to fully grasp.
I felt empowered. I felt like there was nothing I couldn't do. And I fell in love with hunting.
Later after the hunt was over, I made a makeshift turkey dinner and extended an invite to my soon to be ex-significant other. He said he'd call when he was done with another push.
He never called.
But that night, I ate my small dinner and drank deeply from a cheap bottle of wine alone. Christmas movies were prematurely playing as the melancholic rain transformed into radiant snow in the opaque sky. For the first time in a long while, I wasn't sad and I knew all would be well. As long as I could hunt, life would be good.