Although I'd edit a few things here and there, I've chosen to repost it in its entirety simply because it represents one of the most defining moments of my life. Years have passed, many animals have been sent directly to my dinner plate, memories have been stacked alongside the bounty of my deep freeze, and I am a different person than the girl who climbed her first stand and shot her first deer. But in many ways, I'm the same. I still shake uncontrollably at the sight of an animal in the wild, I still morn the loss of life while at the same time thanking the animal for its sacrifice to feed my family. This post, this hunt changed my life forever and for that, I am forever thankful.
It was a cold Thanksgiving morning. My boyfriend at the time and I were at a turning point in our relationship. After a year of relatively good times, things were starting to go sour. The weekend after opening day I came home to a half-empty apartment. It felt terrible because at first, I experienced a sense of relief. Relieved that I wouldn't have to hear him complain everyday, wait up for him or have to be the one to tell him to leave.
Once the initial shock melted away, I was sad, lonely and angry. I had moved to the town I lived in essentially so we could be together. I worked hard to pay for everything and wasted money that needn't be wasted on a guy like him. Most of all, I was angry because I didn't know what would come of my hunting season. We had been hunting his friend's property and I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to continue hunting there.
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, out 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.
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 loaded another shell just in case.
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.