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Transitioning from 'Observer' to 'Hunter'

Sarah Eckelkamp

It's November 10 – opening day of rifle season in Missouri. Typically lows in the 40's, but today, it is 14°… but that's okay, because I have plenty of layers planned for my attire. Plus, the anticipation of deer season this year has fogged my reality of how chilly 14° can feel when you're sitting still for hours on end.

Sarah's Deer HuntLast year, I sat with my husband in his stand for the first time to experience what deer hunting was all about. The thrill of seeing a deer sneak out from behind his stand, combined with Mother Nature's never-ending beauty, made my first observation of deer hunting exciting; even without having a rifle in my hand. Fast forward to this year and I planned to, once again, "observe," since he hadn't gotten a deer last year, and I didn't feel like I had witnessed the whole shebang. "Observing" quickly turned into "crossing my fingers that my husband gets a deer opening weekend and then maybe I'll borrow his rifle for the second weekend and I'll have a shot at it." Thanks to my supportive father surprising me with my own rifle, plans quickly changed once again to "opening weekend: I'm ready to pull the trigger!"

As my plans evolved from observing to hunting myself, my eagerness also quickly grew. After sighting in my rifle earlier in the week, I was intimidated by the distance my Dad told me I could shoot, so I was ready to prove to myself that I could do it on a live target. When my first doe came into shooting range, I was more than ready to take a shot. When my husband whispered into my ear that I left my scope cap on, my first chance had quickly come and gone. For the next couple hours I was beating myself up for messing up the opportunity. I was replaying it all in my head and making sure if I was given another chance, that this time, I was for sure ready.

With my eyes peeled to the same spot in the field where the past five deer had appeared from, I hadn't seen a new doe come in from my left. She was almost in front of me before I even noticed her. I got in position, clicked off the safety, and lined up the crosshairs just as I'd read about on QDMA's website just days before. I pulled the triggered and she dropped. I couldn't believe it. She had stood broadside, right in front of me, and lined me up for the perfect first shot!

Sarah and Dennis DeerWhen I returned to the cabin, my four-year-old couldn't have been more excited. Question after question came flying out of his mouth: "Mom, is your pack full of meat?" "Are we going to get your knife now?" "Are we going to have it for dinner?" "Can we go see it?" "Can I hunt with you next time?" And that's when I realized, the best is yet to come. I got addicted just in time to get my son hooked, too. He's old enough to share in the excitement with me and also knows where his food is coming from. I have no doubt, when he's old enough, he'll be sitting right next to me and/or my husband in a stand and the memories will only get better. I'm thankful my Dad, brother, and husband all shared their hunting passion with me enough to get me started, so I vow to do the same to the next generation.