Wife, Mother, Hunter
by Virginia Hawthorne
There I laid flat on my back with my jeans soaked through from the icy snow. I had slipped getting out of my truck and I felt a stabbing pain radiating from my now extremely swollen left hand. As my husband, Daniel, came around to help me to my feet he could see from the look on my face his usual calm and rational wife was nowhere to be found; I was an emotional train wreck!
As I looked into Daniel’s eyes, I knew instantly I was not myself. However, I had already passed a point of no return. My trip up the mountain that afternoon was well intended, but it turned into a nightmare. Daniel had been doing his usual midday checking of trail-cameras after ending his morning hunt. He was checking to see if the monster 200-inch buck we had been chasing for the last two seasons had visited any of our other setups. Later that evening, I was supposed to hunt while he stayed back with our children, but Dan’s truck got stuck on one of the icy back roads. Let’s just say he was not a boy scout that afternoon, and he was in need of me bringing him some supplies.
The trudge up the mountain was easy going. I had two very happy children in my backseat and all the gear needed to get everyone down the mountain safely, or so I thought. When I arrived at his location he surprised me by letting me know he would have to drive my truck the rest of the way up the mountain because it was “a little sketchy”. Daniel was able to get us the majority of the way up the road to where he could carry the supplies to his truck. Afterwards, with a kiss and a good luck wish, I began my horrific journey back down the mountain.
In 4-wheel-low my truck was sliding all over the place. I could barely let off the brake from a standstill without my truck fishtailing or sliding downhill. I suppose this is what I get for buying a used truck without first checking the tread life of the tires. At this point I had two very cranky kids, who despite just being fed a hour prior were complaining of starvation. My, then two-year-old, daughter added to my stress level by screaming at the top of her lungs that she needed a fruit snack.
I finally made it back to the main dirt road that was “easy going” for me on the way up only to realize the packed down snow was like an ice rink for a relatively heavy truck with less than 10 percent tread left on the tires. I kept telling myself I was almost there only to turn the next bend to see a bigger and scarier hill on the other side. My only thoughts at this point were to keep my children and myself safe. It was just then my truck lost control and I ended up sideways on a small mountain road with my front bumper in a ditch and my back facing a steep downward sloping mountainside. I was hysterical, but luckily Daniel came to my rescue and towed me the remaining few miles down the mountain.
After gaining my composure later in the evening, we realized the injury sustained to my left hand might have meant my season was over. Late that night Dan received an email about the buck we had been hunting. Our “monster” had been slain. This was devastating news because the last two years we had put in so much time chasing this one whitetail buck. This meant we had to re-strategize our remaining season.
With the weekend coming to a close, the kids and I headed home. Dan remained in the woods to setup alternate options for our remaining hunting season. Luckily, my hand healed quickly, and Dan was able to locate a few mature and promising bucks. It was a relief to know that my hunting season didn’t end because of silly injury or another hunter bagging the “buck of a lifetime” we had been chasing.
With a renewed sense of anticipation, I raced back to camp on Friday night to set up for my hunt on Saturday. On Friday night, while looking at trailcamera photos from the previous week our son would declare each of the bucks as something he’d like to have a shoot at once he comes of hunting age and our daughter would talk about how deer was either a “mommy deer” or a “daddy deer.” I went to bed envisioning a successful hunt the following day.
The following afternoon, on the way to the treestand, I ended up spooking a doe and two fawns. I love seeing wildlife when I’m already sitting in the stand, but I never like spooking deer on the way into my stand. It made me nervous that I may have spooked the only deer I was going to see that night. Fortunately, my fear was put to ease soon after I crawled into the tree stand.
Having the opportunity to watch two young bucks lock horns while I was undetected was enough for me to feel as if I had a successful night in the stand. The little bucks hung out at the base of the tree sparring and playing for about an hour. I was beginning to wonder if they would leave before it got dark. It was just then both the bucks looked up hill as if they had heard something coming into the area.
Looking in the same direction as the bucks I saw a beautiful buck coming my way. As the buck neared my tree, it appeared bigger than anything I had ever seen or taken before. The buck’s rack sat high on its head and I was convinced the tines were taller than anything I had seen on the hoof. I knew instantly I was going to take a shot at the buck, given the opportunity. The buck pushed the two yearlings out of the area and presented me with a picture perfect broadside shot at 26 yards.
Slowly, I drew my bow and placed my sight-pin midway on the rib-cage of the buck. The buck popped his head up to look around; I waited calmly for the buck to relax and go back to grazing. Finally, the buck relaxed and took a step, presenting a good shot opportunity. I took a deep breath, and released my arrow.
I felt confident with the placement of my shot. The arrow hit exactly where I had placed my pin on the buck; yet, the buck ran off like nothing even hit him. I crawled down from my stand and went to the site where I last saw the buck. I found only a few drops of blood and no sign of my arrow. I decided it was best to call Daniel to help me track.
Daniel arrived, with kids in tow. We were losing light quickly. The temperature was dropping, so we headed to my truck to get some warmer clothes. On the path back to my truck, the kids spotted a drop of blood on the ground in some patchy snow. With my daughter safely in a backpack, my son and I began tracking the deer from this point. Daniel went back to look for my arrow. He found my arrow, covered in blood, not far from where I lost sight of the buck.
Things began to look bleak as the blood-trail became weak and the buck traveled uphill. The kids were tired and cold, and trailing the buck proved to be difficult with fussy kids. We decided it would be best to call it a night and return with reinforcements in the morning. In the morning, my husband’s friend, Alex, came to aid in the search. Meanwhile, Alex’s wife, Holly and I kept 4 small children warm and happy back at camp.
Upon the men returning, my heart sank. They came back with an empty truck bed and in my naivety, I believed this to mean my buck was nowhere to be found. Daniel and Alex had a good laugh at my expense, until Daniel felt bad, gave-in and showed me the photo of my buck lying in the snow. The reason they didn’t bring the buck back was because I still had to go back, tag, and clean the buck.
Seeing the buck in person, there was some ground shrinkage. Although, he wasn’t my largest buck to date, he sure made me happy. Now it was time to do all the messy work. Luckily, in my marriage our idea of romance isn’t giving flowers or taking me out for fancy dinners; romance is gutting my buck. What can I say, he likes taking good care of me. It was nice after all the dirty work was done I able to watch my kids play in a partially snow covered hillside as we took the photos of my successful harvest.
Even with all the events of the season, both good and bad, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have girlfriends who tell me they don’t understand why I go through all the trouble of hunting when I have small children. Daniel and I choose to hunt together, as a family, because it is something we are both passionate about. I’m not just a wife. I’m not just a mother. I’m not just a hunter. I’m a wife, mother, and a hunter. I’m passing on a lifetime full of family memories with every trip to the deer-woods, and that is why I go through all of the “trouble.”