With archery season just a couple of weeks away, deer fever has once again returned to my house. A couple of new trail cams have been placed around our property, and the first evening the cameras were out, a doe, a small buck, and a bigger buck with a nice basket rack passed through our land. This is the first year in many where the deer population seems to be up from previous years.
My husband, Jake, is the hunter of the family, and now he’s introducing the next generation to it too. The extended Stirmel family members are not trophy hunters; we’re all about filling the freezer and making sure conservation is top of mind. It definitely makes it more rewarding when the goal isn’t to get the biggest buck but to teach the value of preparing for that hunt by scouting the woods and making sure the gear is clean and in working order.
Our 3-year-old, Emma, quickly learned the difference between buck and doe and is eager to clarify when I point out a “deer” in the yard or a field: “No, mama, that’s a buck!” I stand corrected.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with a preschooler is teaching the art of being quiet. We started explaining that concept a few weeks ago, and she’s grasping it more every day, especially when a few deer within earshot of the patio door were spooked by her excited squealing. And if we want her to be quiet during an event or when we’re out at a store or restaurant, a quick reminder to use her “hunting voice” usually does the trick. We’ll see how long that lasts in the woods.
She’s been watching so many hunting and fishing shows with Dad lately that anything camouflage is prefaced with “hunting.” For example, a camo shirt isn’t just any shirt, it’s a hunting shirt. A reversible blaze orange/camo fleece winter hat isn’t just any hat, it’s her hunting hat. And Dad’s camo cap emblazoned with the Minnesota Wild logo is his “hockey hunting hat.” She’s had her own grunt call since she was about 18 months old, and she’s an old pro at how to use it and how to achieve the proper sound and volume.
Most little girls are into dressing up like stereotypical princesses. Not my kid. Her version always incorporates some kind of camo, and the other day she was a “Frozen pretend hunting princess.” We have the pictures for proof — that get-up consisted of a slightly too-small Elsa dress from a resale store, her camo fleece hat mentioned earlier, and a dollar-store pink plastic tiara over it for good measure. She chose her grunt call and a dollar-store magic wand in lieu of the knock-off Nerf “deer rifle,” claiming the magic wand is more powerful. Needless to say, there’s rarely a dull moment at my house. Money can’t buy the kind of entertainment kids provide.
It’s probably safe to say this might be a successful hunting year. It remains to be seen whether Emma’s hunting interest wanes when the reality of processing the animal sets in. But that’s part of the learning experience, so if she wants to hunt, she’ll have to be involved in the not-so-glamorous parts too.
I wish all the hunters a safe and successful hunt this fall. Feel free to post your stories and photos on our Facebook page at facebook.com/TCTWIS.
Jenn Stirmel is The Country Today’s copy editor and page designer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.