by Michelle Ralston

My first ever deer hunting season is in the books. What a season it was! I wasn’t successful in harvesting a deer, but to say it was a failure would be a lie. Far from it!

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I would be hunting, I’d have rolled my eyes and laughed at you. Yet there I was—getting up before the crack of stupid, sitting quiet and motionless in a blind (yes, those that know me, I WAS quiet and still!), walking in and out of the woods in the dark (seriously…) and having SO MUCH FUN!

I have always loved to shoot guns and never needed an excuse to go shoot. After expressing an interest in learning to shoot a bow, I purchased my first compound bow—a Barnett. I discovered that it was as much fun as shooting my pistol! Not long after that I had a chance meeting that changed my life…I met Bridgette Holbrook. We started chatting and she told me about this group that she was starting called Wildlife Women. I decided I wanted to be a part of this group of women.

I started the 2017 hunting season by going turkey hunting with my husband. Another first for me! First attempt at hunting ANYTHING. I saw a couple of turkeys, heard a bunch, and even called a couple in! I was immediately addicted! I wasn’t able to harvest a turkey this year…but the 2018 season opening is coming soon. Turkeys beware!

But back to deer season…I gained so much this year. Friendships, memories, and most importantly confidence in myself. I learned a lot about myself this hunting season. I learned that I can live in harmony with bugs, especially spiders. I learned that I could be quiet and not fidget. I learned that I could draw on an animal with intent to kill it. I learned that even if I missed, I could still be my own biggest cheerleader.

I missed the one shot I had this season to harvest a deer. The old me would have berated myself, put myself down, shut down, and would have quit on the spot. The new me told myself it was ok to miss, that I should be glad that was over with (because everyone misses at one time or another), and I could move forward to the next opportunity. To me that’s my biggest victory…I’ve changed. And for the better.

The one moment that sticks out the most is my last attempt to hunt a deer. It was so cold! I mean in the teens cold! But Bridgette and I got bundled up (think A Christmas Story bundled up) and went out. We finally got to the blind, after being mobbed by horses and trying to tie knots with frozen fingers! No deer but we did see turkeys! I mean 10-feet teasingly close turkeys! And before we decided to call it, it started snowing. Snow falling, the birds and squirrels running around doing their thing, the world going quiet—it was so beautiful. The whole season was worth that one moment in time. To sit and watch God’s creation do what it was made to do, to live to its fullest potential in that one spot. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. I’ve learned that I’m strong. I’ve learned that I’m tough. I’ve learned that I’m not a quitter. I’ve learned that I am braver than I ever thought. I’ve done things this year that I would have never ever (not in a million years!) done. And I’ve done them because they made me nervous or anxious! Wow…that’s HUGE for me. Seriously, ask my family. I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone time and time again this past year. I’ve amazed even myself with my gung-ho attitude to try new things.

And this group of ladies that I’ve come to know, they are such a blessing to me! They are like family. Willing to offer their advice, their time, and their support. They will never know how much that means to me. Thank you all!

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