When it wasn’t trapshooting season, we were at the cabin fishing, hiking, scouting for spots to build a deer stand, driving the countryside looking for deer or going to the gravel pits to shoot milk jugs with his 44 magnum handgun.
The most memorable time of year, however, was deer hunting season. Every fall my mom, dad, sister and extended family would go to our 2-bedroom cabin for deer hunting. This was a wonderfully fun time – grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends of cousins – everyone went to our cabin during deer hunting season. Thinking back I can’t remember where everyone slept, but I can remember everyone getting up at about 4:00 in the morning, making sandwiches and coffee and getting ready to go out for the opening morning of hunting season. Of course at that time, just the men would go hunting and the women would go to town during the day and go shopping. When we returned home in the evening to see the deer hanging in the yard we would guess who the big hunter of the day was. Then everyone would settle around the fireplace, watching TV, doing crafts (anyone remember latchhook?) or playing games or cards.
Unfortunately, when I was 10, my father was diagnosed with lymphoma – a very serious form of cancer. As the disease progressed, the outdoor activities slowed, but my dad continued to deer hunt. My mom always supported my dad’s hunting interest but did not partake in it herself. However, one season while my dad was ill, he shot a doe but was too weak to field dress it. My dad came back to the cabin to get my mom; she trudged through the woods with him, field dressed his deer and drug it back to the cabin for him – that is love. Through all the chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplants, herbal teas and every other treatment he was on, he still wanted me to attend firearms safety. I was 11 when I took firearms safety – a lot of the time my uncles had to take me to class because my dad was in the hospital or generally too weak to attend with me. Towards the end of the class we had to complete the shooting proficiency/field work part of the course. My dad was very weak but he was determined to accompany me to this part of the class and spend time with me. A few days after I turned 12 was the evening of the final Firearms Safety written exam and dad was in the hospital again. I called him at the hospital to tell him I had passed and I could tell he was happy. A month later he succumbed to the cancer and passed away at the age of 43. Unfortunately, after my dad’s death, the hunting trips came to an end. It was just too difficult for the rest of my family and my mom sold our cabin.
Fast forward four years and the outdoors influence of my dad was still with me. When I was 16 I got my first job – at the local gun club. I loaded trap houses, sorted shells, pulled, set and scored for trap rounds and ran the counter for two years. During that time one of the other kids I worked with let me borrow his gun to try shooting trap. I only hit 8 out of 25 birds, but it was fun! Soon after that I went to college, but my mom and one of my uncles took me shopping for a trap gun – they knew my dad would haunt them if they didn’t get me a gun after I’d demonstrated an interest in shooting! I got a 12-gauge Remington 11-87 and would shoot as much as I could during college.
After college I moved to southern Minnesota, got my first "real" job and met Brian, my future husband, at work. I learned Brian was a hunter and when I told him I had a shotgun in the trunk of my car I don’t know if he was scared or impressed. In any event, he took me duck hunting, pheasant hunting and deer hunting. It took me two years to get my first deer, a spike buck, but after that I was hooked! We joined a local trap club and started trapshooting. Soon I expressed to him an interest in trying archery. We each got bows for Christmas and started shooting in our backyard. We then joined the local archery club and after two more years, I finally shot my first deer by archery! Brian and I are both board members of the local club and we are usually involved in some sort of archery activity, be it indoor leagues, 3-D shoots or hunting, when we are not at work. Hunting, and archery in particular, is a wonderful family sport and we bring our 1-year old daughter Isabella with us to most of these activities. I am thankful for the outdoors experiences and lifestyle I was exposed to as a young child and I and look forward to carrying on a family tradition of living outdoors with Brian and Isabella for years to come.