When Hunting Hurts

It was back in ’96 when I was first infected with the hunting bug.

It started off with just minor archery target practice, then went to acute 3-D league, and then I ended up with a chronic case of bowhunting fever.

I soon infected my husband and had him shooting my little lefty bow in no time.

Now hunting has become the soothing balm for the stresses and strains of the daily grind.

It has not always been so stress-free though. Even now, there are times when I am on guard. It started almost from day one.

My mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, couldn’t accept the fact that her son would let his wife go off hunting with another man. At this time, my husband didn’t hunt. He didn’t even own a gun, let alone a bow.

I wasn’t raised in a hunting family, for my father had never hunted. Because I grew up in the city, I knew no one else who did. As if by chance, my eldest daughter’s good friend’s dad was a hunter... a hunter who was looking for someone to bowhunt with.

We set up a day to go hunt whitetails at the nearest public hunting grounds closest to the city where we both lived. He had hunted there many times before and knew of several places where he could set me up in a stand. I had the blessing of my husband Mike but not his mother.

That was now many years ago, but she still believes "hunting" was not what we were doing that cold December morning. I was there with my bow and sharp arrows to fill my hunting urges, nothing else. It’s a fact that there are far fewer women that bowhunt than men do, and none that I knew of at that time. I felt I had no other option but to go hunting with a male hunter. That’s just the nature of the sport.

"What am I supposed to do?" I later asked my non-hunting husband. "Hunt ALONE?"

"Yeah, I guess so", was his weak reply.

I started to become quite upset with the prospect of me, this "greenhorn" having to scout, locate good treestand sites and set up a stand by myself – which I had never done before, and gut a deer on my own, should I be lucky enough to actually arrow one.

My anxiety level started to go up, as this was all so new to me.

I subscribed to several bowhunting magazines, watched many bowhunting videos and listened intently to all the guys down at the local archery pro shop talking about their hunting exploits. I also got loads of information off the Internet. I started to become more confident in my hunting abilities to finally go solo.

"How can you go out alone?" my mother-in-law scolded. "That’s too dangerous!"

I could feel my blood begin to boil but I bit my lip, and said nothing. I felt I just couldn’t win with her. I was thankful that my own mother encouraged my hunting pursuits and even stuck up for me when my mother-in-law spoke with her one day.

"I don’t understand why she can’t just stay at home and be happy. I stayed home with my kids and was perfectly content to do so. Why can’t she do the same?" chided my mother-in-law.

"I think it’s great that she goes out and does what she enjoys!" my mom chimed in.

I had never been more grateful for a rebuttal and was so proud of my mom for speaking up.

Even now, though years later, I have become guarded as to how much info I give out to my mother-in-law. It’s hard to hold back when I want to share with her, but I don’t. And it hurts. Hunting can hurt.

"I’m going hunting this weekend," I used to say.

"Ohh?" she would say with eyebrows furrowed. "Is Mike going too?"

Hunting is acceptable to her only when I’m hunting with my husband. If he’s not going along, the response is a lackluster "Oh." When he goes with me, she is elated.

I have hope that one day she will be happy for me and take pleasure in my abilities to take wild game and my desire to teach other women and kids about archery and hunting.

It does help that my husband sees the passion I have for this addition called hunting, and stands behind me. For this, I am ever grateful and knowing this helps ease the pain, when hunting hurts.