Written by blogger Kristen Schmitt
I didn’t plan to become a bowhunter. It just happened. As someone who wants to know where her food comes from – and the story behind it – I thought it a natural transition for me. After all, I had talked with many female hunters – many of them bowhunters – when working on my National Geographic article about the link between the increase in women hunters and the local food movement. Not only does bowhunting help me learn new skills, it also helps me control where my food comes from and what my family eats. This meat is unattainable through the commercial meat industry that supplies our global food system. Bowhunting is one of the few ways to obtain truly free-range meat, but it requires waiting for hours high in trees, connected to nature, keenly aware of the true circle of life.
It’s 4:56 a.m. and I’m awake, listening to geese muttering on the pond outside my window. Every night for the next three weeks we’ll have hundreds flying in, using our pond as their overnight hotel during their migration. The low squawks and light splashes seldom wake me, but today I feel like I’ve never slept. The anticipation has been building for days. Even two weeks ago it didn’t seem real when I hung my new camouflage clothing outside with slightly nervous hands, careful to hang everything as orderly as possible; and placed my boots where they would be safe from rain in the days ahead.
But now, at 4:57 a.m. – the skies still dark and star-splattered – I’m a whirling mix of anticipation, nervousness and excitement. I turn off my alarm and quietly slip from the sheets, untangling the comforter and flannel blanket from around my feet, careful to let my husband sleep. It’s my morning to hunt, and I need some coffee and quiet before dressing in camo and insulated rubber boots. October mornings are frosty in Vermont, so I’ll wear fleece pants and a thick jacket. Once dressed, I’ll grab my arrows, release and compound bow, and head into the dark woods and its tangles of wild blackberry bushes. The bushes are empty of berries now, but remain full of pickers, which will tug at my fleece as I walk to my tree stand.
After taking a few steps, I hesitate, feeling the actual distance between my house and tree stand for the first time. Darkness fills the void between them, broken only by shadows from the murky moonlight. Each step leads me farther away from what I know. Although I should be clearing my head and listening to each rustle and crack in the forest, my reverberating heart doesn’t allow it. Several thoughts remain crammed in my head:
I hope I can find the haul line for my bow so I can climb into my stand.
What was that?
God, it’s dark out.
I pause 50 yards into the woods, on the verge of turning down the path toward my tree stand, knowing this turn will block the final light from my kitchen window. And then I continue, whispers of spider webs making me run a hand over my cheeks and hair as I start the final steps to my stand.
I will remember this day forever.