When I was growing up, Pops would take us hunting out in these hills surrounding the house and the barnyard. He grew up out here, scouting and sneaking and watching the animals and how they move through the valley. He’s never lost his fascination and appreciation for the way they can survive and thrive out here, even in the middle of the harshest winters.
He studies them, their patterns, how the big buck spends his days bedded down in the bull berries, where the group of does and fawns water in the morning. He taught us how to tell the difference between a whitetail and a mule deer.
He made sure to note the direction of the wind and why it mattered.
He geared us up with blaze orange and we went sneaking over the hill, crawling on our bellies.
He packed jerky in his pockets. Coffee in a thermos in the pickup.
When the time was right, he taught us to shoot. When we were old enough we took hunter’s safety through our shop courses in school and we went out and took our own animal. He mounted the horns for us. He was proud.
Pops remembers every deer taken on this place. Where we were. Who was with him. How cold it was.
He keeps a book of photos from the hunts, dating back to when he was a young man, hunting with his uncles, with his dad, with his young kids and now with grown daughters and the man I married.
When my uncle was here a few weeks back, I went out with Husband on a bow hunt in the east pasture before the snow fell. We all paired off, two hunters in each corner of the place. I followed along and couldn’t help but think of all the stories swapped around the kitchen table the evening before. The memories attached to all of these trails, all of these hilltops, all of the breath held in the wind out here is not so much about the animal taken, although it’s never taken for granted, but more about the time spent together in the quiet of a place so special to us.
Here’s one of my favorite memories…