Written by Amber Hallin
4 am my alarm goes off.
My feet hit the cold floor and I start to get ready. I’m going on very little sleep cause the
night before, I was like a kid trying to fall asleep before Christmas morning. Time is ticking, so I shower and go outside to get dressed.
Picturing the stand in my head I begin to get nervous. It’s a new spot that I’ve never been
to before. I have to climb over 2 fences and step across a 2 ft. wide creek in the dark. Quietly. Yeah right! Thankfully there is a full moon out so that will help, even if just a little. I pee one last time before taking the short drive to my spot.
I feel like everything I’m doing is wrong. Questioning and second guessing myself every
step of the way:
Did I park in the right spot?
Did I close the door too loud?
Was that coyotes I heard?
Did I spray myself down with enough sent killer?
Maybe I should’ve sprayed my boot soles one more time.
I start the 5 minute walk to my stand. My morning perch for as long as I could stay in it.
I made it without ripping my pants on the barbwire fence and without falling into the
creek. I walk through the pasture to find my tree. I make my climb up and get settled in.
The beauty of watching and listening to nature wake up is one of the few greatest
pleasures in the world. Where else can you go where you feel pure, venerable and raw in nature? The connection I had to the outdoors was amazing. I love being outside. And letting nature welcome me into her home made it that much more glorious! In the woods, I felt nature’s aura and it made me feel even more beautiful to be a part of it. I was happy. I was alive. It was life.
I was not raised this way. Meat came from the grocery store. Not from the woods. I
wore bows, not shot them. This was a completely foreign world and culture to me. I picked up my fist compound bow, a PSE Nova, only 3 short years ago. I didn’t quite understand it all. I’m a city girl, most all my friends would expect to find me on a beach and not the woods.
But now I’m bored. So I take out my phone to help pass the time. Photos, videos,
Facebook, etc… I had friends and family, including my daughters who couldn’t believe I had taken up bow hunting. So if I didn’t post anything they wouldn’t believe me.
Eventually, I did see mama and her two babies in the cornfield having breakfast but I
wasn’t about to make orphans out of the little fawns. I couldn’t imagine telling my own
daughters that “I shot a doe right in front of her 2 babies”. Then the land owner walked out in the field and waved hi!
Yup, I was done.
Which at that time was fine, because I had to pee anyway. So I gather my stuff and begin
the decent down the tree. Cross the pasture, over one fence and I approach the creek. Looks a lot different in the early afternoon light. I second guess where to cross. I take one step, then sploosh! My left leg goes about 2 feet down in the water. That sucks, but at least I can drive back home, change and take a nap before I go out again.
Rough start, but the afternoon hunt is here. Time to get set up in a new spot. I’m feeling
a little happier cause I’m heading into my backyard. To a stand I am familiar and comfortable with. It’s a good mile or so out to my pine tree. Quietly taking each step, I’m concentrating on my breathing and any noise I make. This is my sacred backyard. Pristine and untouched. But then I get to the bridge. The door to their world, their home. My heart is racing, its game time and there is no turning back. I walk even slower, more cautiously. Listening for any noise that might indicate a deer is around. I see fresh
tracks in the mud. My heart races even more. I try to remember everything I was taught about walking in the woods. Walk low and slow, stay hidden, be ready if you kick out a deer, stay quiet, and keep your head on a swivel and your eyes moving.
Finally at my pine trees, a small sigh of relief escapes my lips. I made it. Up the ladder I
go and get comfortable. Marking yard points with the rangefinder, I make note of where to
shoot. I visualized deer walking in front of me and hypothetically planned out my hunt. I had a good feeling. I was excited. The wind was strong and blowing in the right direction. It didn’t take long to change that feeling.
All of a sudden I heard a boom. Followed by a few more. Shotgun? Tractor? Band
practice? Trees falling? I didn’t know what it was. But it continued. I figured if anything
maybe it would help kick a deer out in my direction. Then a shower of gunfire was heard.
Bullets zipping by my tree. This was not hunting. This was terrifying. I was frozen in fear. I
didn’t know what to do. The neighbors were out shooting their new AR’s. This was not how I wanted to spend my deer hunt.
Finally the bullets and the wind died down. 6:30pm I see the corn stalks about 45 yards
out start to rustle. A few minutes later, I see mom and her fawn step out of the corn.
Preemptively I got ready, I hooked my release to my loop. They start walking down the path to my tree stand, nibbling on ears of corn along the way. They took for what seemed like forever. But the more I watched them, as anxious as I was to get a deer, I couldn’t separate mom from baby. As the fawn finished eating, mama walked right in front of me broadside 20 yards out. I had a great shot lined up. I kept going back and forth on the ethics of shooting a deer with its baby. I was excited I had a chance to shoot, but it bothered me to shoot it.
I let it walk.
Then I see another deer step out of the same corn the other two had come from. She was
a little bigger even! I held my breath. This was it. She was the doe I was going to harvest this year. My first one. My heart was racing. Now I wish I could say everything went in slow motion, that I could recall every beautiful moment that took place but I can’t. The adrenaline was rushing through me and I was ecstatic! She made her way down the same path, 20 yards in front of me. I went to draw back my bow and I went limp. She looked towards me. I froze. She continued to stand there staring my way. I tried to avoid eye contact, but I was mesmerized.
Here was this beautiful animal and I was getting ready to shoot her. I questioned myself for a moment. Could I still really do this? Was I capable of killing an animal? She put her head down and ate some grass as I was able to pull back into full draw. She lifted her head again. This was it, my chance. She was perfect. Slowly I exhaled and squeezed my release.
She jumped. I jumped.
She ran. I stood there shaking.
I did it.
At 7:10pm on a Sunday afternoon, opening weekend, I purposely took the life of an
animal to feed my family. She ran for about 110 yards. It couldn’t have been a better shot.
Right in her shoulder. Penetrated both lungs. It was a clean death. A deer’s death.
It wasn’t till a few days later that I realized how phenomenal that shot was. How all these
individual things worked together to get this kill. How lucky I was to not only see shootable
deer opening weekend, but to have one come in range. It was a great feeling and it’s got me hooked. At the same time, having that first deer on the board it doesn’t take that nervousness away. I don’t think that will ever leave me. But between the nervousness and the adrenaline, it’s a combination of excitement that I can’t turn away and avoid. I will continue to practice and educate myself to be a better hunter. To learn not only about deer patterns and hunting techniques, but also about conservation and the land. It’s a passion, a commitment and a desire to learn.
I’m a huntress and I make no apologies for it.