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I started my hunting journey randomly one day three years ago. My husband Jon is an experienced hunter and has been doing so since he was a kid with his father and brothers. I am part of a family of four girls, and our dad worked on the road a lot while we were little. Our family time was spent on the shore in New Jersey whenever we could, or around the dinner table. I wanted some adventure and Jon gave me the tools and skills to do it.
I’ll admit that I was beyond nervous when it came to shooting a rifle at the range for target practice for the first time. I’ve gone several times now, but each time is a little different. At fifty yards I feel solid. Then take it to one hundred yards and I get way more critical of myself. I’m like that with so many things, but this is one I wanted to get right no matter what. Two weeks ago, we set up our double tree stand overlooking two open fields, practiced shooting one last time before opening weekend, and went on our way.
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I’m not an early riser by any means, nor does my body like it very much either. The anticipation of the hunt and a four a.m. wake-up time makes me anxious. I can almost never sleep the night before we go out in the woods.
That morning, I woke up and got dressed while my body tried to catch up. The nerves made me feel cold and my teeth chattered. I felt better once we were on the road. The full moon was beaming down from the sky, lighting the entire town in its wake.
We hiked into our stand by the light of the moon and spooked a deer that was bedded down not far from where we needed to be. We froze and watched it. It stopped in the middle of the field. The moon has cast this beautiful glimmer of light onto the field’s frosted ground, like looking out into the ocean at night.
The sun won’t rise for another hour or so. We sat and waited. We were huddled together side by side and silent, listening to the first sounds of nature waking up. The sky grew brighter, and the frost began to melt. We see a deer almost immediately in the field over from us. It’s a yearling, but it’s a promising sight, and we laughed inaudibly at each other, both of us feeling this was going to be a great day.
We glassed for any sign of deer whenever we can, or drank coffee quietly to keep the chill away. Time doesn’t pass as slowly like I thought it would. Before we knew it, several deer have made their way to our location, and they were grazing comfortably some hundred yards or so behind us. I had my rifle ready, but there was no feeling of worry or pressure in the moment, only peace. I enjoyed watching them just be. Then the mature doe I had been waiting for walked into the clearing
Jon whispered, “Get ready.”
Different scenarios played out in my head. What happens if I freeze up and forget to take the safety off before I shoot? What if I flinch and miss? What if I take my shot, but it’s horribly off and the animal suffers? These have been my fears ever since I started going out with my husband to hunt. Nothing can fully prepare you until you’re actually in the moment and it’s time to put all that practice into motion.
I aimed my gun. She was just over one hundred yards away. Adrenaline had fully set in. It’s crazy how quickly it came on, and no matter how much I tried to steady my breathing, I couldn’t get my heart rate to slow down. My rifle was rested comfortably on the back of our tree stand bench. I had her locked into my scope and she hadn’t moved an inch. She gave me plenty of time to ready myself. Jon was patient and still. I counted down from three, more times than I can remember, breathing out, as I finally squeezed the trigger.
I don’t think I’ll ever fully remember that exact moment of taking my first deer. When it happened, it was vivid and intense, but now it all feels kind of fuzzy. I still can’t believe how perfect the shot was, right through the top of the heart and both lungs. She went down where she stood, instantly. I was so relieved and grateful. This moment was something that I had wanted so badly, and I got to finally experience it with the love of my life. I am so grateful for what he’s taught me and this life he’s given me, and I hope to have many more experiences just like this in the years to come.