by Alex Stokman
A few weeks before rifle season opened, my son and I went to the gun range to sight in his .243 rifle. The man next to us said “I see more men bringing their daughters than mothers bringing their sons”
He’s right, we are an anomaly.
I’ve been hunting deer for over twenty years. I took a break for the early years of motherhood. Now motherhood brings me back to hunting. My son, now age 11, is eager to hunt. He likes eating venison and knows the only way to fill the freezer is to put in the time and effort to harvest a deer. But this isn’t always easy.
Last year, my son became eligible to hunt as an Apprentice Hunter. This is a relatively new FWP program (created in 2015). As our first step together, although not required, we (mother and son) completed hunter safety.
Now we look forward to and plan our special two-day youth hunt, just prior to opening weekend. This year, we sat, we walked, we talked, we ate snacks. We scouted, and sat, and walked some more. We not only hiked the ups and downs of the terrain but emotions too; excitement, boredom, fatigue, disappointment, frustration.
My son commented, “This is hard work, I just want a deer.” It is difficult, and patience runs short. After 4 days of sneaking, standing motionless and still spooking the deer, we were drained.
On a rainy all too early Sunday morning, we were finally able to creep up on a small group of does. We watched them as we made adjustments; removing gloves, shouldering the rifle, sighting in as the does grazed 75-100 yards away. Waiting.
The rain helps cover your scent and sounds, I was thankful for that but we were also, getting cold and wet.
When he was confident in his aim, a shot rang out. I watched, as did he, that doe run away. Disappointment and tears filled his being. All too often we miss, flinch, get too excited and lose focus. I want him to succeed, but teaching him failure is one of life’s difficult lessons for both mother and son.
Trying to stay calm and comforting, we waited and watched. The group of does had not moved too far away. We walked into the spot we had last seen his doe. There, in a clump of grass lay his deer. A new wave of emotions, disappointment transforming into confidence and joy.
Motherhood and hunting are a lot alike. The ups and downs of emotions, failures, and successes. We keep trying, accepting when we miss and celebrating when we don’t.
Reflecting on this emotional weekend, I asked him if we would go hunting again next year. “Sure,” he said. “Why?” I asked. “I hunt because you do, mom.”