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Last year I had to drag a deer 600 yards in the dark by myself. Well--no more of that! My friend was delighted to give me an old lawn tractor that had not worked in years. I was sure that by studying some manuals and taking it apart, I could make it into a good deer dragger.
There was a time not too long ago when local teen Amanda Snedden would not even think about killing a deer. She told me, “Last year my dad said, “Come out and just see what we do during deer season.”“
Homework in her lap, she sat on the sofa and talked about her first experience in the woods, what she likes about school and her dream of a future working with animals.
“I want to be a veterinarian, so I never really wanted to kill an animal.”
“Thinking about it, I realized, you kill a cow to eat. It is not too cruel to eat the meat, so I toughened up and decided to go deer hunting.” Amanda shared that she really likes deer sausage, too.
Amanda likes Greek plays and reading. She is enjoying the challenge of her high school studies and she likes sharing about what she has learned from her classes. We talked about friends and the popularity of hunting.
“I share with them that I hunt but I don’t try to force my ideas on others. It’s not popular to go deer hunting. I even have two friends that are vegetarians. They tell me, “We respect what you do but we wouldn’t do that.”“
One day last season, she joined her dad in the stand. For five hours she just sat and watched for deer. Even seasoned hunters take their turn at the end of a long wait just to see a deer. Youth hunters that can find quiet times in the woods learn early the reality of deer hunting.
|Amanda Snedden with her first deer harvest, a four-point buck that weighed 175-pounds. Amanda is the daughter of Tim and Holly Snedden of rural Windsor, Missouri.|
The first deer Amanda saw came right in to her from the creek bottom. She and her dad had been in the stand an hour and a half when the hunt unfolded. “I was looking the opposite way. When I looked I saw antlers. My dad said “Take your time.” The buck was 50 to 75 yards out. I was nice and steady and pretty calm. There was no heart pounding. I pulled the gun up and looked for him. When I thought I had a shot, I focused and took the shot.”
“The deer stood there, then walked in a circle. My second shot I took when he was in a clearing. The deer went about thirty feet before he fell. After I shot it, I cried. I was so happy. My dad said, “I knew you could do it.”“
“My (older) brothers and sisterin law were dogging on me about not being able to kill a deer. So now they can’t say anything about it. I got my first deer before they got theirs.”
Amanda and another youth, both hunted opening day with their respective guardians.
Sign youth up for hunter education classes, take the time to teach the youth about firearm safety and how to hunt ethically. These help to ensure our young hunters to choose good hunting practices, know firearm safety, and it creates a love for our hunting heritage.
According to a portion of a recent report sent out by Jim Low in the October MDC outdoor news:
“A poor acorn crop contributed to this year’s strong youth deerharvest, according to Conservation Department Resource Scientist LonnieHansen. He said the scarcity of acorns tends to concentrate deer whereacorns or other food are available, making their behavior morepredictable.Hansen also noted that pleasantly cool, clear weather worked in younghunters’ favor.This year’s youth deer harvest included 6,194 (50 percent) antlereddeer, 1,567 (13 percent) button bucks and 4,506 (37 percent) does.The youth deer harvest makes up approximately 4 percent of Missouri’sannual deer harvest. More than 71 percent of deer taken in Missouri eachyear are killed during the 11-day November portion of firearms deerseason. The remaining harvest comes from archery deer season and themuzzleloader, antlerless and urban portions of the firearms deerseason.”
Author, Age 1 riding her Irish Setter.
|Author, Age 3. Ripon, Wisconsin|
|Author , Age 5.||Author , Age 5.|
Harold, Tom and Gordy. Jerry, Wayne and Jake. Sherby, Ken, Dave & Kurt. Bob, Harry, Lee, Dale, Matt and Dick. The list goes on. Old flames from my youth? Not hardly. This is a partial list of the men who have knowingly or unknowingly been my hunting Dads over the years. Oh, I have a biological Dad, but he has been largely absent from my life and in fact, several of the aforementioned gentlemen have been more of a Dad to me than my own father ever was. With some of these men, the spoken and unspoken father/daughter dynamic is quite clear. But most of these guys have no idea that I regard and appreciate them in a paternal sense. In fact, All My Dads range from 18 to 80 years old, so it isn't about age.
"Is there venison in this?"
My daughter Liz's question gave me that immediate hot faced flush we all dread when the moment of truth is upon us, the curtains suddenly part, and we are naked on the stage. I had not meant to deceive her, but simply wanted her to know the facts. For three months I had slipped venison into everything from spaghetti, to burritos to Swiss steak while she staunchly maintained that she hated venison or any other wild game for that matter. I was trying to win her over by proving her wrong, which is flawed psychology at best. Now on the hot seat, I was poised for the catharsis, knowing full well I was about to create in her a complete rejection on sheer principal.
I'm a tough old broad. But as I watched my purse getting ransacked, and my cherished mini pocket knife getting confiscated, the lump in my throat rose and I cried inside. The inscribed knife was awarded after I successfully completed my NRA Certification as a firearms instructor over twelve years ago. It had been a permanent resident in my handbag ever since. I had not flown since the 9/11 tragedy and had no idea that this wee fixture was a no-no, and had quite forgotten it was there as we rushed late to the airport at 5am. After being searched, frisked and deemed harmless, my daughter consoled me and we proceeded to our plane. We were on the way to an all womens archery hog hunt at the Palmer Ranch in Florida.
I am not much of an archer, but I recognize greatness when I see it. We all know about the father of modern bow hunting, the late, great Fred Bear and thank him for his contributions to the sport. Most of us have seen the trick shots Byron Ferguson makes with his traditional bows, and some of us have seen Ted Nugent hit a pheasant in mid-flight. Legends of great archers such as Robin Hood and his Merry Men still stir the hearts of those who read their stories. But how many take notice of the greatness of the average sportsmen and women to be found in their local bow hunters' club? I met some great archers this winter, and I would like to honor them with a little well-earned recognition and many heartfelt thanks.
Last fall, my parents gave me some money and told me to buy Lisa, my daughter, something special. Since she had been talking about wanting to take up bow hunting, I bought her an adjustable youth bow, a dozen arrows, and a quick release. Now what? Although I was pretty good with a longbow in college and had shot a recurve for a short period of time many years ago, I had no clue how to even begin to use a compound bow. My husband put it together for us, and we set up a dense hay bale in our rifle range.
I used what I could remember and what I could guess to at least send an arrow to the target. My daughter just got frustrated, and I knew that if I did not get good help fast, this interest of hers would die quickly. As a mother and a hunter who wants her to be the best she can be, I was not willing to let that happen. I went right in the house while she was still trying to find her lost arrows and called our local archery club.
I had seen the sign for Perry County Archers for the last eight years along one of the routes we often drove. I had never actually seen the club as it is a few miles down a side road. I had most recently heard about them through my local sporting goods dealer. He told me that they give lessons in the winter, but he did not know any details. A couple of months prior, I had tried calling the club to ask about lessons, but there was never an answer, and there was no answering machine. I was afraid that this would once more be the case, but to my surprise, the club president himself picked up the phone.
Dale Bates and his wife happened to be at the club, using the indoor range. I asked him if there were any lessons available, and when they started. It just so happened that they started the next morning and would be held for ten Saturdays. Club membership was only $35/family/year, with a $5 sign-up fee the first year. For this fee you have 24/7 use of indoor and outdoor ranges. Youth members get free lessons, and all equipment is provided for those who do not have their own bows and arrows. Lessons for non-member youth are only $15 for ten three-hour lessons.
Lisa and I were there the next morning, and I purchased a family membership just in case I wanted to use the facilities if I also got back into archery. The local archery store owner, also a club member, instructed the young people about safety, club privileges, expected behavior, and the importance of devoting the next ten weeks to the sport. He said he knew that there are so many school sports in which they might be involved, so they would have to make a choice. They had to prioritize these lessons, or they would not benefit from them. No problem for Lisa. I, her homeschool teacher, scheduled this as phys-ed class. She wouldn't have it any other way.
The instructors were so wonderful. Nineteen-year-old Justin Haas, who has been shooting since he was eleven, took time out of his busy life to help other youth fall in love with the sport as he had. He proudly showed me a picture of his first archery class at the club. There were twice as many students then as there were in Lisa's class, he sadly noted, and there had been two classes that year! It upset me to see the decline of youth involvement in our rural county. Clearly something was wrong! I was glad that Lisa and I had made the decision to come.
The other instructor, Donald Schaeffer, brought his own son and daughter to the classes. Don's face would light up as he related Lisa's progress every week. He loves archery with a passion, and he told me that Lisa was a "natural". He worked with her to fine-tune her skills, suggesting equipment for me to purchase that would make the arrow fly better.
I was not able to watch my daughter's lessons, unfortunately. My mortal enemy, black indoor mold, is a big problem in the club building. The week I took the pictures seen here, I was wearing a huge mask. Even with precautions, it got to me. My eyes itched and watered, and I was ill for some time afterward. If I ever shoot at the club, it will have to be outdoors! No problem. They have 110 acres of beautiful wooded land with more targets than I could count during all the walks I took those Saturdays while I was waiting for Lisa. What a treasure I had found!
Lisa had so much fun with the other young members after lessons each week. They would put up special targets and have shooting contests. Nobody was envious of each other's skills, or if he or she was, nothing was said. They all simply enjoyed being together and shooting their bows. The instructors are to be credited for that. They managed to strike a good balance between doing one's best and simply shooting for the fun of it.
The club also has grocery shoots in winter and 3-D shoots from spring to Labor Day. In August, they have weekly shoots to help members to prepare for deer season. So far, we have not been able to attend any such events but plan to go to the next 3-D shoot to be held on Fathers' Day. I look forward to seeing these wonderful people again. This is such a wonderful club, filled with nice people. The nicest of all are the selfless instructors who sacrificed their Saturdays to help my daughter to fulfill a dream. In my book, these are truly the World's Greatest Archers.
This year was to be the year my daughter and I were to put a serious effort into figuring out how to hunt spring gobblers. We had half-heartedly tried for an hour or so last spring, but to no avail. For some reason, turkeys were just never on my priority list, so I never quite got around to learning how to call them into shotgun range. By the time I decided that turkey hunting would be fun, I no longer had the health or stamina to be in the woods during warmer months. I do manage to muster up the strength for a good deal of deer hunting once a killing frost hits, much to the delight of my daughter, who has come to surpass me in the pursuit of whitetails. She may no longer need my mentoring, but by law in Pennsylvania, she still needs my presence beside her until she is sixteen.
This spring was particularly wet and rainy, and the high mold counts outside made it risky for me to be out very much. In addition, I have had some bad cases of sinusitis, which make even everyday activities a challenge. I was watching yet another spring turkey season disappear. Since my husband barely gets out hunting anymore, and he knows even less about turkeys than I do, it looked as if Lisa would not get a chance to get out at all this year. She has no hunting relatives to teach her what I cannot teach or take her where I cannot go. Fortunately, there was one trusted friend who came through for us.
I have known Dr. Jack Armstrong for about three years. During my first office visit, I had told him how my sudden and severe allergies had made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy hunting. I would have expected an allergist to tell me to give up my outdoor pursuits for the sake of my health, but as it turned out, he was quite supportive. * He never once suggested that I should abandon my rural lifestyle or my hunting. He understands that my connection to the land is so integral to my well being, for he shares the same feelings. I believe that he grew to love the land because he was raised on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, and came from a family of hunters. His farm boy upbringing also shows forth in his common sense doctoring, his conservative values, and his love for God. I knew I had found not only an excellent doctor, but also a friend and brother. Over the next two years, I brought my husband and two of my four children to see him for diagnosis and treatment of their allergies. It felt good to have someone I could trust with their health.
Whenever Lisa and I would go for allergy shots during hunting season, Dr. Armstrong would ask us if we had seen any deer, or gotten any yet. When Lisa shot her first deer two years ago, he was almost as thrilled as we were. When she shot her first buck, he made sure he saw us after our next allergy shot appointment. He sat down with us and asked Lisa to tell him every detail of her exciting and successful hunt. We told him that he should come out to the farm and hunt sometime, and he said that he would take us up on the offer during Spring turkey season, and that he would show Lisa how to hunt gobblers.
The season was almost literally a washout. Lisa's hunt was to be the second Saturday of the month long season, but the rain that never seem to quit for weeks was accompanied by lightning. Dr. Armstrong felt that guns make very good lightning rods, so he postponed his trip to the farm until Memorial Day weekend. His brother, an avid hunter and quite adept with a turkey call, would come along to give Lisa the best possible opportunity to harvest a Tom.
As it turned out, neither the weather nor the turkeys would cooperate that day. The trio took off early that last Saturday of the season, and attempted to locate a gobbler, but apparently, the birds had better things to do, such as keep under shelter in the soggy mess. Lisa had fun anyway, showing her mentors the farm, our new orchard and food plot, and the multitude of deer trails on the ridge behind us. Then the brothers came in to dry off a bit and see our family's small collection of antlers, along with Lisa's "Robin Hood", the contest-winning arrows she glued in place and hung in the family room. My husband joined us as we chatted for a while, enjoying the pleasant visit with two outstanding and selfless men who gave up their Saturday to help pass on a great Pennsylvania tradition.
As is true with any hunt shared with friends, the success of that day is measured more in the fellowship enjoyed than in the game animals taken. Mark Armstrong, we learned, is every bit as nice as his brother. There must be good roots in the soil of that family farm. When he and the good doctor left, I told them they are welcome to come to our farm and hunt any time. I hope they will take me up on the offer to come during archery deer season, for my seven acre clover field is looking mighty good now, and from the looks of my beleaguered apple trees, the deer have found my young orchard to be a popular place to hang the feedbag. I know a certain young lady hunter who will be picking out some prime spots where her special guests can place their treestands.
Those of us who face severe physical limitations in our lives often make the mistake of equating our accomplishments with our worth as human beings. I admit to being guilty of this myself. How many times have I watched a hunting show on television and compared my hunting success with that of the celebrities? There were more times than I care to admit! No matter how many times I hear or repeat the saying that it is not the game that I take, but rather the companionship of friends that counts, deep down inside there is still a part of me that is driven to succeed. OK. Maybe that part of me isn't so deeply hidden.
I have been a high achiever since college. I can remember getting very anxious about upcoming exams, especially in Anatomy and Physiology, my favorite courses. I loved to get high grades, which I consistently did, and I suppose I surprised everyone when I announced that I would not continue to pursue a degree in nursing. I dropped out, got married, and began to raise my family. I channeled my drive for success in a slightly different direction- trying to be the best wife and mother I could be. After twenty-three years I am still married to the same man, and we have four wonderful children. You would think I would see that as a great success in a time when many relationships fail, but old habits die hard, and I still tend to set my sights on achieving my idea of success.
I have come to enjoy a variety of physical and intellectual pursuits. Hunting, of course, is number one on the list. I was not raised in a hunting family, and neither was my husband, so we pretty much had to start learning from scratch. I devoured books and articles on the subject of deer hunting, and was quite proud of the fact that it only took until my second year for me to tag my first buck. Nobody had taught me; it was my own accomplishment. I did not score every year, but I hunted my heart out, not quitting until the season was over or my tag was filled. One evening on the last day of a deer season, I came out of the woods and found a note on my windshield from our game warden. She told me that of all the hunters she knew, I was the one whose truck was there from the earliest light until darkness fell. The one day I left early, she knew that I must have gotten a deer! I had more determination that most hunters she met, and they should learn a thing or two from me. That letter was as great to me as winning a big buck contest.
Five years ago, I lost the vibrant health and stamina I once possessed, and my hunting has suffered terribly. Gone are the days when I would strap on a pack and disappear with my gun for the day. After a five year string of success in my new hunting grounds here in Central PA, I have had five years of what I have often perceived as near total failure in the deer woods. Hunting has not been the only casualty as I watched my life become increasingly limited. This past year has seen an overall improvement in my asthma, but my sinus infections have been getting more frequent and more severe. This was my first summer without a garden, and I took no produce, jelly, or baked goods to the County Fair...... there would be no blue ribbons this year. My self-worth as a mother hit an all-time low when I had to tell my daughter I did not have the strength to take her and her goats to the fair either. A thoughtless friend tried to tell me I had an obligation to take her, that I am really not that sick, and that I was depriving my daughter. The words cut like a knife to my very heart. My daughter saw my predicament and came to my defense.
Lisa wrote to my friend to tell her that my illnesses have been very real, but even with all of my suffering, I have never failed to give her the happiest days of her life. She would give up the County Fair a thousand times over for those times we shared. What days were they? Those were the days I mustered all the strength I could, and took her out deer hunting, being there for her first doe, then again for her first buck. As I read the letter my heart swelled with pride for the fine young lady my daughter had become. My eyes filled with tears, but these were tears of joy! My daughter did not see my diminished abilities. She saw a mother who did her very best to introduce her to the wonderful world of hunting! I think my old game warden would be very proud of me still, don't you?
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