It is often said that behind every great man there's a great woman. Since joining the Nebraska Bowhunter's Association roughly a decade ago I've had the great privilege of meeting some really influential and all around great guys that happen to be avid bowhunters. In that same time I've come to learn how truly lucky those of us who love this sport are to be surrounded, encouraged, and supported by some truly amazing women. With Mother's Day approaching I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to some of the special women in my life that have not only made bowhunting for me possible but have been incredibly supportive of my endeavors.
Hunting has long been a part of my upbringing. I remember fondly the traditions, and bonding that accompanied opening day of pheasant season, or rifle deer season. I remember my dad loading up my brothers and I into his old red Dodge truck, and with sleepy eyes heading out to freeze nearly to death as we impatiently waited for sun to rise in hopes of finding deer that rarely ever showed. Or walking for pheasants briskly through CRP grass on a chilly morning only to rush home to catch a Nebraska football game. I remember picking nightcrawlers out of the muddy lawns of my grandparents or neighbors to stockpile bait for the much-too-short summer fishing season. I remember Friday night sleepovers with the Roberts brothers that were really secret missions to wake up early so we could be fishing the Plum Creek by day break. I can't remember if we ever caught anything, or if we even woke up to go. I can't remember many of the deer dad shot (there weren't many in those days) or even pheasants we shot at. But I do remember that every time we came home from a night of catching nightcrawlers and were soaked to the bone the same ritual took place. My friends, and brothers and I would all enter the little doorway of our house and proceed to strip out of every piece of clothing we had on. Boys, as I've learned by raising one, have a special way in which they undress. Boys, it seems, are only capable of getting a piece of clothing off by completely turning the garment inside out and dropping it right on the floor immediately in front of them. Boys can be outright geniuses when it comes to turning a ditch full of water into a swimming pool, or building the Taj Mahal of bike ramps out of cinder blocks and old scrap lumber. However, if you asked a boy to take laundry off without turning every sleeve or sock inside-out they'd look at you as if you just asked them to recite the Emancipation Proclamation. If just isn't humanly possible. Never once do I remember my mother making a big stink out of this routine. Never once do I recall her chastising us for tracking mud across the house, and never once do I recall getting an earful about dropping our fishing gear on the front lawn to move on to our next adventure. Believe me I spent plenty of time in time-out for not living up to the standards that a model big brother should, mom wasn't a pushover. But mom supported every outdoor activity we had. She would cook up deer meat and rarely enjoy a warm meal herself as we were digging into seconds. Mom even had a knack for turning bullheads we caught into an edible (kind of) meal. Thank you mom, and thank you to mom's everywhere for cleaning up our messes and holding down the fort while we boys were off playing.
I have two sisters that were often asked to be a extra bodies on a team when we had pick-up sports games in our yard. They'd lovingly oblige to get tackled or shoved to the ground just to spend time with their brothers and the boys. Bryanne and Marissa were even up for the nightcrawler hunts and secret fishing trips we plotted. They are pretty good sisters, even when annoying their bigger brothers or having secretly had crushes on our friends. Somewhere along the way the outdoor bug must've caught on. Bryanne isn't really a hunter, but like mothers and wives of generations past she gladly turns the deer meat her husband Kory brings home into an outright terrific meal. She loves to camp and has just bought her second family camper. Marissa, has fully embraced the outdoor lifestyle as well. In the pictures above you can see she shot her first ever deer a couple of years back with her son there to witness the perfect heart shot I've smugly heard about roughly 500 times now. She also takes her kids fishing and camping regularly and patiently handles the duties of untangling snags, untwisting lines, rebaiting hooks, and all around crowd control that often accompanies youth fishing misadventures. Marissa has moved to Colorado and is constantly sending me links of places I could take her hunting. I'll take her up on that some day. These two special ladies are passing on the outdoor lifestyle to their next generation and their kids couldn't have better role models to learn from. Thank you to my sisters, and to sisters everywhere for being a much needed extra on a basketball team, for getting your hands dirty to make sure we had bait, and for raising your kids to enjoy the outdoors.
I was a late bloomer when I got into bowhunting. I was 21 before I took up the hobby. I had always hunted but bowhunting never really fit into the plan as successes of high school sports typically took our teams well into the playoffs and right past archery deer season. As is common with bowhunters the sport quickly becomes addicting and time consuming. Before long many of my weekends become early wake up calls for trips to the woods. Then I started planning trips that often take me out of state, or away from home for longer stretches of time. I see funny T-shirts, or quotes about wives become widows during hunting season. While humorous and true, it has to be acknowledged that hunting season can be a very selfish time for the bowhunter. It takes a very special lady to keep the operation running smoothly (as if I had really anything to do with it ever running smoothly before). But the true testament, to me, of what makes the matriarch of the castle so special, is not only the tolerance of the bowhunting lifestyle but the support of it. Bowhunting can be difficult at times. The bowhunting game has tried my patience more than once, and I've come back from trips with empty tags, or gone entire seasons without following a blood trail. At these times I can get down in the dumps. In those times I've never been more grateful for the support my wife Laura had given me. The kids are getting fed, the clothes are getting washed, and the lawn is getting mowed all while I'm off chasing my dreams. More than once I had turned Laura's kitchen into a mini meat locker, and more than once I got a stern "talking to" about how that will never happen again. I would eventually forget those discussions and do it all over because she knew what it means to me to be able to bowhunt, and to provide a meal for my family. I used to ask her to go with me to experience what I love so much but the early mornings, cool weather, and lack of beaches didn't seem to fit her agenda. However that has never once stopped her from giving me solid advice like "oh suck it up and go hunting". I can't begin to tell you what that support means. Having an ally like that in my corner makes it all possible. A special thanks to wives like Jamie, Amanda, Kelli, Shannon, Tami and all the wives of my hunting buddies for letting me steal your husbands to go on another one of my hair-brained schemes. Thank you Laura, and thank you to the wives everywhere for the support that make this lifestyle possible.
I may be a little biased but the most special of all ladies in the history of mankind is my daughter Emmalee. She never had a chance. Since day one I had it made up in my mind that she was going to be a hunter. Luckily Emmalee is a lot like her dad (luckily she got her mother's looks) and likes a good adventure. She's a trooper and keeps trying. Emmalee has been on several turkey hunts with me and is still passionate about "getting a big tom with a big beard" but her guide/mentor/dad doesn't seem to ever get her in the right spot. I have however made her cross a muddy creek that caused her to lose a boot and eventually her balance, causing her to fall over into the same creek. I have walked her down a trail where she dropped her phone (mandatory for our blind sits) and upon bending over to pick it up put her head directly into a sticky bush. I have bought her cheap boots that gave her massive blisters resulting in a piggy-back ride back to the truck. Despite it all she gladly goes and hopefully keeps going. Emmalee is a huge helper in my mini meat locker when we're grinding burger, smoking jerky, or cooking a meal. We have some pretty entertaining conversations in the blind and I'm a better person for it. Emmalee has taught me how to do trendy dance moves like "The Whip and Nae Nae" (don't ask to see it in action) and I've learned nearly every verse of every Adele song out there. Even though I can't hit the high notes that Adele can, it's clearly entertaining to Emmalee to hear me try. Thank you Emmalee and thank you to the daughter's everywhere that allow bowhunting dads like me feel like I'm doing this parenting thing right.
There is absolutely nothing better in this world than sharing a blind with my daughter Emmalee and my son Ethan when they get to giggling about something. I hope those days never end. Those days are only possible because of the special women in my life who have supported my passion for bowhunting. There doesn't seem like a strong enough way to show my appreciation to all the ladies who make this possible, but I'll try anyway. Thank you!
The Budget Bowhunter