I certainly never imagined that I would be a hunter. In fact, I’m fairly certain there was a time in my life where I condemned all hunting as cruel and senseless. I was probably 15. And yes, I ate meat.
I’ve always loved animals. Real animals, of course, but even stuffed animals. I remember vividly an incident as a young girl when a stuffed lamb got accidentally thrown into the fireplace. You guys, I cried tears of regret for a week. I even bandaged the thing up and put it in a little basket beside my bed at night because I felt so bad for it. (I’m not going to tell you how old I was at the time of that incident).
I guess you could say things began to change drastically for me in Afghanistan. The process from butchering to the table is not so hidden or sanitized there as it is here. I was exposed to the sight of dead lambs draped across the back of bicycles on a regular basis. And there was also that time one of my students decided he wanted to gift me a turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving, and much to my surprise brought me an actual live turkey. Which we then had to butcher in order to eat.
My sisters were shocked at the change in me, when on a visit home one Christmas, we were passed by a truck with a flatbed full of dead deer. Don’t look, they shrieked, knowing this would have sent me into a tailspin of wailing in the past. Instead, I found the sight rather funny, and surprised them by bursting into laughter instead of tears.
Getting married to an avid hunter and spending time in Saskatchewan furthered my interest in hunting. I even pushed bush for the Hubs a few years back. Unfortunately, that ended with the Hubs having to hunt for his lost wife, instead of a nice big buck.
At some point this year (and watching a few seasons of Meat Eater on Netflix might have had something to do with this), I decided I was going to hunt. I thoroughly enjoy eating deer, and the idea of extra free meat in the freezer for the winter was very enticing. I took my hunter safety course, spent some time practice shooting, bought myself some serious outdoor gear and was ready to go on the first day of hunting.
I soon learned what most hunters already know. That hunting is partially about being prepared, but a lot about being in the right place at the right time. I had one fairly good opportunity early on in the season, but that was it. I spent time in a blind, I hiked through wildlife lands, I walked through fields of snow (and nearly died in a ditch that ended up being chest deep with snow rather than knee deep as I had thought). I had a small taste of success on the day the Hubs, his dad and I managed to push a nice buck in the direction of the Hubs rifle. But I was so itching to get a real chance to shoot myself.
It’s crazy how obsessive I can be. I literally lost sleep just thinking about situations in which I might be able to shoot a deer. I replayed that one chance I had over and over and over again in my mind. I was getting anxious about the days passing by; my window of opportunity quickly closing. I seriously considered calling in sick to work to get extra hunting time.
And then, the answer came in the form of help from a friend. There was this spot where the deer just came in droves at the right time of day. I set myself up the first evening and I. Was. Focused. My eyes never strayed from the treeline. I watched and waited. I noticed every movement from a chickadee taking flight at 150 yards away, to a blade of dried grass blowing in the wind. But not a single deer came my way. Nothing, nada, zilch.
At this point, I began to take it a little personally. Why would the deer not come for me? Why had I spent so much time away from my kids for this? My poor Hubs had given so much of his time and energy to help me out, and I hadn’t even delivered. You know how these things go. By the time I was walking back to the truck, empty handed once again, I was having a full on inner crisis on my various failings, all my shortcoming as a woman, wife, mother, and human being.
On my second evening in the perch, the atmosphere was immediately different. It was a cloudy day, but the sun was dipping below the clouds, and shinning for the first time in a few days. As soon as I sat down, a deep quiet came over me. I felt my mind slowing, my heart opening. I felt at rest and at peace. The quieter I became, the more I could see, and hear and feel. As I scanned the view in front of me, I began to see things differently. The treeline in front of me was a mass of branches and trunks, stripped bare of the leaves that give them substance and life in summertime. I stared and stared at them. And as I did, something inside of me broke.
My heart recognized a Truth in those trees. They were seemingly dead, hollow, devoid of colour and life on their own. But in the radiant glow of the setting sun, they were stunning, vibrant and full of beauty. The Truth came in a wave. I am like those dead winter trees. I have nothing to give or offer, no inherent beauty of my own. But even stripped bare, in the radiance of the Son, I become alive, set on fire, and filled to the brim. For I was made to house the fullness of God.
I sat in the trees, watched the sun illuminate them, and wept tears of gratitude for a God who knows exactly what I need to hear, and just how to speak to my heart. Who patiently draws me to Him, and who loves me enough to remind me that He is enraptured by me. The trees burned bright for over an hour, until the sun dipped below the horizon, but the moon was already rising, also brilliant as it reflected the sun.
I never did see any deer out there in that “perfect” hunting spot, and I never had another chance to shoot one. So you might say that my first ever hunting season was a failure, but I happen to think it was a success.