By Christie Schmutzler, Bentonville, Ark.
I was 13 years old when I declared myself a vegetarian. To me, hunting was wrong. The thought of eating an animal turned my stomach. I cried every time I saw an animal die. I railed at people who hunted. I climbed on my soapbox and preached at the meat-eaters.
Then I met the love of my life. Not only did Josh love the outdoors; he loved meat. I was appalled at his ability to kill an animal and eat it. I begged him not to, even cried at times, but to no avail.
When our son, Noah, was born, I tried to teach him to hate meat as much as I did, but his dad’s influence prevailed. We were raising another meat-eater and a lover of the outdoors.
As Noah got older he decided he wanted to hunt. He took the hunter education class with Josh, and the passion for hunting shared between father and son began.
Noah shot his first deer with a crossbow. He was so excited, but I just couldn’t be happy for him. I refused to have anything to do with the process. I stayed in the house, dreading the sounds coming from outside.
As time went by and more and more venison was brought into the house, I started to become curious. I wanted to know what made the hunting experience so enjoyable. I wanted to know what the meat tasted like. Why did so many people act like it was the only meat to eat?
The first time I tried venison, I gagged. I couldn’t get past the thought of eating a deer that I had seen pictures of on the trail camera. The second time I ate venison was a little easier. Josh put it in stir-fry with a wonderful spicy sauce. It was delicious, though I didn’t admit it at the time. I was starting to teeter on the edge of liking the taste, yet I was still conflicted.
The day everything changed for me was the opening day of the 2013 gun season. The weather was chilly but not overly cold. I was in the house, as usual, when I heard the boom of the gun, then silence. I was just getting up off the couch to see if Josh had succeeded in getting his deer when the door burst open. Josh and Noah were both shaking, excitement gleaming in their eyes.
“It was a buck, a big buck!” Noah exclaimed.
I looked at Josh; the look on his face was priceless. He seemed in shock. He just kept saying, “Oh, I hope I got him,” over and over.
After what seemed like forever, I donned my jacket and boots, and we went in search of the deer.
When I first saw the buck, my heart jumped. Was I really going to look at this poor deer? Yes, I was. I steeled my resolve, and hid behind a tree while Josh and Noah made sure he was dead.
Peeking out, I saw the wide rack. I was in awe. The buck was beautiful—a perfect 10.
I called a taxidermist and we were off to have the deer caped for mounting—another first for me.
I felt like a different person. I was excited—excited for Josh, excited to show off such a beautiful deer. I went home and looked at the pictures of Noah and his deer. I started printing them and framing them. In the back of my mind, I imagined myself with a deer of my own on the wall. Could I do it? Could I pull the trigger on a deer? Could I look it in the face and kill it? It was a lot to process.
I spent the rest of the season contemplating the next year. I practiced shooting Noah’s youth-model .308, and finally, after much thought, I was ready for the 2014 season and my first hunt.
Opening day of gun season found me in the blind with Josh and Noah on either side. I was drowsy—it was still early, the sun just starting to rise.
Then I got the nudge. A buck was coming up on my right. I waited patiently, watching for my shot. My heart was thumping, my hands shaking. My opportunity came fast as Josh whispered, “Take the shot.” I pulled the trigger. The sound in the blind was deafening. I looked at Josh as he and Noah patted me on the back. I had done it. I shot the first deer of my life, a beautiful 8-point buck.
I can’t wait to see what the 2015 season brings. The hunting experience has truly changed my life for the better.
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