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Growing up, the coming of fall meant a couple of things to me – Friday night football and Saturday Razorback football (both of which I loved). But when I started dating my now husband at age 14, I was introduced to a whole new world, in a sense. The leaves changing and the breezes cooling didn’t signal the chance to yell “Woo Pig Sooie!” For him, it meant the time had finally come again when he could creep out into the woods, watch the squirrels scurry by, and climb a tree to watch nature be itself. It was hunting season.
During our high school dating years, I spent many, many Saturdays high in a deer stand with my cute boyfriend. I was as “cityfied” as a small-town girl could be. My family didn’t hunt so this was all new to me. But I learned quickly that if I wanted to spend the weekend with my boyfriend in the fall, this is where I would do it. Decked out in camo from head to toe, my eyes on him as his were on the woods – watching and waiting for a buck to stick out its neck.
The hours leading up to a rifle fire were peaceful and beautiful. This was a part of God’s creation I hadn’t taken in until entering my boyfriend’s world. But this – this was what he lived for. He noticed every bird, every type of tree, every track and paw print. He would point things out to me I wouldn’t have noticed in a thousand years. For him, this wasn’t just about killing deer, I could tell. It was about creation, solitude and reflection. It was more spiritual than I realized.
When we climbed down from the stand and made our way back to camp, we were greeted by my now father-in-law and other family and friends. “Camp” was nothing more than an open plot of land, an old camper and a bonfire. But this was where the camaraderie happened. “See anything?” The men would trade stories about what they saw and what they didn’t. Me – a young girl more infatuated with her guy than the woods – just kept warm by the fire and took it all in. To me, this was a different sort of thing to get excited about. There were no pom-poms, no barbecue, no overtime. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that should I marry into this family, this would be my life. And, against all odds, that’s exactly what happened.
My husband and I have now been married for eight years and in many ways, the calendar revolves around deer season. But the amazing thing is, I don’t resent it. Surprising, even to me, is that I actually look forward to hunting season – not because I like to climb stands and kill deer (I have two kids now and haven’t done that in many years) – but because it ushers a joy and peace into my husband’s spirit that’s not there other times of the year. He’s happier and more fulfilled, and that spills out onto every aspect of our family.
Now that we have two girls, hunting season is again a family affair. At ages 5 and 2, they love to go to deer camp with daddy, ride the four-wheeler and spread out the corn. And, it makes my heart happy to see them, at an early age, falling in love with their daddy’s passion for the outdoors.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have believed this would be my life. I didn’t know the difference in a rifle and a shotgun, and I would have laughed you out of town if you’d said I’d have a deer head in my living room. But it is what it is. I’m a hunter’s wife – deer mount, freezer full of meat, and all.
Yes, by the end of hunting season, I’m ready for it to end and to have my husband home more. But for the most part, I don’t give him a hard time about going. I let him do his thing in the fall and he lets me do mine, which usually means I wind up at my parents’ house watching the Razorback game. Because some things just never change.
Check out Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website and get up-to-date on all regulations, season dates, and more. Happy hunting.
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