Author: Savannah Halstead
As a young girl, I remember the sound of my father briskly moving in and out of the house in his sturdy boots. He’d leave before the sun and return home with the moon to go sit out in our backyard timber in hopes of crossing paths with the particular animal he was after. Whenever Dad was successful in a hunt, my job consisted of holding a leg here or there to help with positioning the animal to ease his job of field dressing the game. In all of the times that I was able to help with the post-hunt process, one thing that never changed was seeing my father’s reaction after he was triumphant.
After so many times of helping my father, I decided I wanted to experience hunting more. I had always seen his excitement involving anything hunting related, but that was never sufficient enough. I wanted to see what this passion of his was truly about for myself.
We had spent countless hours practicing beforehand with various guns, particularly our 50-caliber Traditions Pursuit muzzleloader. Although we had shot it many times previously, I felt differently than I ever had before knowing I was actually going to be using this muzzleloader to take a whitetail deer in just a short time. Excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and power all circulated through my blood just thinking about my upcoming hunt. When early muzzleloader arrived at last, we loaded up the truck and drove to our farm in Northeast Iowa.
We sat out every morning and afternoon waiting for a buck to come in range. Turkey, squirrels, crows, and MANY bugs scattered around, taunting me with the realization that they were not what I was looking for. With minimal luck, I began feeling discouraged that I was probably not going to make a successful kill on a buck like my dad had done so many times before. He however, continuously reminded me, ‘if hunting was easy, everyone would do it’.
One late morning of early muzzleloader season, I vividly remember my dad silently exclaiming that a buck was coming right towards us. As quickly, yet quietly, as I could, I found a comfortable spot upon the shooting rest of the stand to provide additional support against my shaking body. Patiently waiting for him to come in range, this beautiful creature was the only thing my body could focus on. Once I locked in on the buck through the crosshairs, my pounding heartbeat was so loud that I barely heard my father tell me I could shoot whenever I was ready.
With a deep breath, I slowly pulled the trigger and before I knew it, I felt the slight kick of the muzzleloader against my shoulder. My ears began ringing instantly, however nothing else mattered but the buck on the other end of the gun. I watched as he ran through the CRP until I could no longer see him. Once the sight of him disappeared, so did my sanity. I was shaking uncontrollably, begging my father to let me go search for him right away even though I knew we had to give this buck some time. Instantly, my thoughts took over. Was it a good shot? What if I actually missed? Or worse, what if I had injured this buck and we were unable to find him? What could I have done differently?
When the time arrived to begin the search for my buck, I could hardly contain myself. I was ecstatic, yet concerned with the various possibilities. These feelings only heightened after we found a blood trail within minutes. Every sight of rich, bright red blood grew in size with every few steps we took. After tracking for about fifty yards, my first kill was laying in front of me. Feeling his smooth antlers within my hands and seeing this incredible, wild animal below me opened up a feeling inside me that I had never known existed. I had felt so connected with the wilderness and all that God had created. This entire experience was the beginning of the outdoors lifestyle for me. It was this day that I knew hunting was something that I was meant for and it meant for me as well.