female hunter walking to her stand in the dark

As I hike to my deer stand, my mind drifts back to when I was a young girl walking into the dark confessional at my church. Yes, I grew up in the Catholic Church, and the memory of stepping into the strange cubicle for the first time was nothing less than a mixture of fear, hope, and the promise of purity and forgiveness. Likewise, the walk in the darkness to my deer stand sometimes also raises fear in my heart, but my hope for a safe and enjoyable hunt comforts me once I settle in.

 In my deer stand, a thin piece of camo mesh separates me, not from a priest but from my Lord, who hears me without my saying a word. The woodsy bug repellent burning in my Thermacell swirls around my head. The smell triggers memories of the aromatic scent from the incense burned at church and how mesmerizing it was to watch as the smoke floated slowly about and disappeared toward the vast cathedral ceiling. In my deer stand, I douse myself with Downwind scent killer as if it were holy water, and I am cleansed.

Alone with my thoughts, I thank the Lord for the beauty that surrounds me and my blessings, too numerous to count. I am confident He forgives me for my imperfections, and my spiritual well-being is once again restored.

Owning Up

I don’t go to the woods only to hunt for wild game—I also go to my deer stand to find my true self, which sometimes gets lost in the game of life. Hunting is not always about the kill. Being a hunter fulfills a vast space in my heart and mind. The anticipation and wonder surrounding what animals I might see keeps me on the edge of my seat, and truth be told, it doesn’t matter if it is a hawk, a rabbit, or a yearling.

yearling

n my deer stand, I can tune out the negative chatter that sometimes creeps into my head from watching the news or checking in with social media. The welcome silence seems deafening until I am startled by the sudden loud cry of a crow or the crashing sound of a noisy squirrel.

The rich smells of the earth, rotting trees, trenches filled with standing water, and pine trees purifying the air make the woods a natural potpourri that fills my senses. The setting sun plays shadow games with me, and I always fall for the sneaky way the shadows manage to look like deer.

woods with long shadows

Growing up immersed in nature on our family farm prepared me to be a hunter. The self-sufficient lifestyle, love, respect, and appreciation for our Creator and His amazing handiwork made me who I am today. I am so proud to be a hunter and thrilled to have my little deer stand where I can marvel at the sights, smells, and sounds the outdoors provides. I breathe in the fresh air and enjoy being in the moment. Many of my fellow hunters proclaim the woods are their churches as well, and indeed, we are cut from the same cloth!