November marks the two year anniversary of a great family tragedy. We won't dwell upon the date, we will however move forward with life leaving behind the darkness of that day. It is apart of who we are...who we have become. It's what we do with the defining experiences in life that matter. A dear friend and well known author, Jane Kirkpatrick, told me once that we all have a story. Each story is different, some are not as exciting as others to most but we ALL have a story. When I was writing my book A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter, I was writing it with the sole purpose of preserving my family traditions and a way of life that over the years is changing, like all things do. I wanted to document for my daughter and future grandchildren, the ways things were before I was too old to remember. So I wrote my story. Then I published my story. Others have read it and enjoyed it. Maybe others...not so much, I don't know I haven't heard. I am hopeful that my story may bring a smile to someone's face or spark a memory of their own, or they may learn something by walking along with me on my journey. It might be boring or uninteresting to some, but it's My Story. My sister is apart of my story but she also has one of her very own.
My sister's story from that November night is tragic, and dark and unpleasant. But it has an amazing ending, filled with faith and hope and love and a bright shining light which guides her. She is growing and flourishing from her experience and has turned away from the darkness and ran to the light. She will tell her story some day. She has young children and her main goal is their growth and development and happiness. They are doing very well today, due to God and my sister's nurturing. We talked on the phone yesterday while she was shopping. We discussed the need to tell her story some day when the time is right. She believes that she'll know when that time it. Immediately after ending our conversation, she walked past a sign with a road map and a compass and a phrase written at the top of the plaque, that said "The World is Waiting to Hear Your Story." She smiled and purchased the plaque to hang above her desk as a reminder. And when the time is right she will tell.
So...what's your story?
A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter
We drove along the deserted forest road without speaking, taking in the majestic beauty that surrounded us. We hadn't been here in over 25 years. Things had changed in that time making things appear new like we were seeing them for the very first time. We carried no map, no GPS, only the direction indicator that lite up on the pickup's rear-view mirror. We stopped and ate lunch in the sun along side the vanishing creek; roasted chicken from the grocery store deli and BBQ-ed beans from a can while sitting on the tailgate of our daughter's little Chevy. Memories of our life together washed over us in waves as we recognized familiar looking places. "Somewhere along here is where we went on the trail ride. We crossed the creek and rode up an old skid road," my husband Dennis said. I had no recollection of that but I did remember trips up here with my parents and once with Dennis's mom, Arlene. That was before we were parents. Arlene and my dad are both gone now...the memories where sweet.
We stopped without concern of time to take photographs of God's splendor...color spots of glittering gold. In the bottom of the draw, five lone surviving aspen trees stood 40 to 50 feet tall surrounded by a thick grove of young suckers, the rebirth after a massive forest fire a few years back. While we strolled amongst the spindly white bark the sun peaked through the branches. A symphony of golden instruments softly played overhead in the gentle breeze showering us with tender leaves that settled into a carpet below.
Mule deer doe with their fawns gathered together in small bands basking in the sun, taking in the unusually warm October day. They stood in pose long enough for me to adjust the settings on my new digital camera, allowing me to capture their beauty.
I appreciate the time...alone once again with my husband and friend of thirty years. Our only child, a girl, is away at her last year of collage preparing to begin her life on her own. We adjust to her not being here with us. Unlike so many other couples that became parents soon after marriage, Dennis and I had 10 years together, just the two of us before we started our little family. We already know how to be alone with each other and are comforted by each others presence. I enjoyed the opportunity...being surrounded by natures spectacular golden treasures...and I don't just mean the aspens.
The tepid air brushed our faces as we walked silently single file through the normally crunchy sage. Rain alternated between a steady drizzle and spontaneous showers building up on the brim of my cap before dripping down onto my face. I turned and looked into Michelle’s unsuspecting eyes and smiled as I gave a hard flick of my finger to the underside of the bill to clear the heavy drips from my hat. Large droplets of water spattered her face. She giggled and shook her head like a dog fresh from a bath slinging water back at me.
“I’ve never had to deal with rain dripping from my hat during deer season before.” I said.
“I know,” she replied, “it’s cool, I love this. The rain makes everything look so new and interesting, and it’s so quiet. I just love walking in the rain.” Then I turned away and we continued our walk in silence.
We awoke on opening morning to the sound of pelting rain on the metal trailer roof. I slowly opened my eyes; surprised to see it was already quite light, then I glanced blurry-eyed at the tiny travel clock sitting at the side of the bed. I could barely make out the time without my glasses, but it appeared to be nearly seven o’clock. Dennis, my husband stirred beside me and looked at the clock.
“What time is it? I can’t read it,” I asked.
“It’s time to get up,” he said, “it’s seven.” The rain had started on Friday, the day before season and continued nearly all day and well into the night before letting up. It was great that the parched earth was refreshed. I was excited about being at deer camp in the rain. Dennis and I prepared our espresso and poured a bowl of cereal while our daughter Michelle rolled from the bunk, taking our time for the first hunt of the season. At 9:00 am we climbed into my sister Karen’s truck and headed down the road towards the cinder butte to make our opening morning hunt. Mom left with Karen’s kids in the orange truck and headed south to get on her stand down by the Holey road, our destination.
“As late as it is, I hope we don’t just follow someone through the woods,” Dennis said, knowing that most hunters hit the woods at the crack of dawn. “We need to get out earlier.”
“What do you expect hunting with a bunch of women and kids?” I said with a chuckle.
Silently we walked as I scanned the darkened terrain off to my left. The only sound was the patter of the rain as it continued to fall at a soft but steady pace. Something felt familiar, and then I realized that we were approaching the same area where Michelle and I had jumped the big buck from his bed two years ago on opening morning, the last time we hunted here. I envisioned the large buck and a doe running away from me in the wide open as I stood searching for the safety on the lever of my 30.30 rifle forgetting that I had decided to carry my 30.06 bolt that day. By the time I located the safety, the buck was out of sight, I hadn’t fired a shot. Michelle stood watching in wonder “why isn’t she shooting?”
“Deer! Bucks, bucks!” Michelle shouted at a whisper with urgency; her words jolting me back to the present. Startled from my thoughts, I panned the landscape searching for the bucks-bucks that she was obviously so excited about. Spotting the movement off to my right, just 35 yards away, two large bucks had jumped from their bed in the wide open and ran single file, now in the scattered ponderosa trees. I raised my rifle...
EXCERPT from A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter.
Creative Non-Fiction By Sherrie Gant
I just read an article, well part of an article, about a hunting technique called "still hunting". According to the writer, still hunting is not a hunter sitting still and waiting for their prey to come to them but when a hunter slowly moves through the woods and marshes on the prowl for prey using the wind to their advantage and blending into the environment. They are an expert tracker that moves very slowly and quietly taking one or two steps then standing silently for several minutes waiting and watching for sign of game. The writer said that a "still hunter" can take as long as an hour to cover 100 yards.
Well I'm not sure what category me and my family fall into. We walk slowly over mountaintops and slopes and wide open deserts. I've crawled on hands and knees under thick branches of pine thickets and climbed over windfalls that look like a pile of discarded Pick-Up-Sticks. We attempt to walk silently, but in the dry desert during deer season, it is nearly an impossible task trying to avoid stepping on dry branches, brush and dry pine cones. Each step crunches and snaps as we slowly but steadily walk on usually covering a couple miles per hunt in a two hour period. If the wind is blowing our noisy steps are masked by the howling air current as it passes through the tall treetops, but the scent of human swishes around in all directions. So we adapt to the desert conditions by slowly walking while keeping a keen eye out for fleeing deer. Does usually aren't as skid-dish and often trot or bounce through openings at a pace slow enough to allow us to get our riffle sites on them to scope them, confirming they don't have any antlers. Young bucks often stay with their mothers during season while the older larger bucks hang out together in small bachelor herds. We walk along keeping a watchful eye and ready hand to raise our rifle in a moments notice as the bucks jump from their day beds often only yards away. They lay in the open, watching us approach until they catch our scent and jump up hitting the ground at a full on run. They always startle the cr#p out of me and they are extremely wise about the route they choose to flee. I have jumped bucks in the wide open only to have them place themselves behind a large tree and run straight away making it very difficult to get a bead on them before they are tiny specks in a cloud of dust.
In the description of a "still hunter", it said they are expert trackers. I'd say we fall into that category. At least, without bragging, my mother and I do. My husband is colorblind and often has difficulty seeing blood. I have done it for a life time learning from Mom who is one of the best I've ever seen using all her senses to locate. I once tracked a wounded buck for four hours and several miles into the desert before pushing him out to my mother who finished with a single shot what I attempted with six. I connected twice but not in a good spot to keep him down, plus I forgot to pack my extra ammo that morning and ran out of bullets. I call that story a miracle. I did a lot of praying during those 4 long hours and God answered. Knowing the landscape was monumental in the success of this story because I radioed Mom and told her which way the buck appeared to heading so she drove the five miles and met him there.
I'm more of a "still hunter" during elk season because I'm often plowing through one or two feet of snow. Other then the swish, swish of the snow falling away from my shins as I walk, it's pretty quiet. I take a few steps then stand and listen then begin walking again. I'm usually the one on the mountain top crawling under the trees and over the snow covered logs on the steep slopes, attempting to flush out the elk that I tracked there. Last year it took me three days to modify my actions before I out smarted and finally flushed the branched bulls. I had jumped them and caught glimpses of them for two days before I finally moved them down the correct side of the hill into the lap of my sister. She got the bull, a nice six-point, with a single shot then watched two four points pass by. While she reaped the fruits of my labor, I ticked off a huge black bear who growled at me and then I reached the kill in time to spend the next several hours packing it off the hill. Am I ungrateful? No way, I wouldn't give up my role for anything. We work as a team and after hunting together for a lifetime...we do pretty well.
As I am awakened this morning by the drumming of rain pounding on my rooftop I'm reminded of a story I have heard throughout my life many times on this day-Columbus Day.
We left the warmth of our tiny camp trailer nestled beneath the tall trees, it's size minute in comparison to the old growth pines which towered hundreds of feet above us. The wind howled as Daddy drove down the narrow dirt road heading out on our daily hunt. Mom looked through the window watching for deer as the tops of the giant ponderosa trees whipped and swayed overhead. My sister Karen and I sat between them on the bench seat of the old Chevy pickup truck completely unaware of our parents growing concern.
We spotted deer huddled together moving quickly out towards the open desert country in large herds. Excitement grew with their sighting. Tall clusters of antlers jutted up into the storm darkened skyline like naked tree branches amongst the sage as massive bucks surrounded themselves with harems of doe, making it impossible to harvest a buck.
The winds gained strength as gusts broke tree branches with the ease of snapping green beans freshly picked from Momma's garden. Momma voiced her opinion to Daddy and he quickly agreed as a small pine tree toppled to the ground beside them; they needed to get out the forest and head for safety of the open desert, fast. Dad picked up speed until they finally reached the treeless desert and the shelter of the tall rock formation near Fort Rock.
According to Wikipedia, "the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (otherwise known as the Big Blow,) was an extratropical cyclone that ranked among the most intense to strike the United States Pacific Northwest since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 "Great Gale" and snowstorm. On a larger scale, the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 "Storm of the Century" and the "1991 Halloween Nor’easter" (aka "The Perfect Storm"). MetLife named the Columbus Day Storm the nation's worst natural disaster of 1962. Wind gusts measured throughout Oregon from 58 to 170 miles per hour; in less than 12 hours, over 11 billion board feet of timber was blown down in northern California, Oregon and Washington combined. This exceeded the annual timber harvest for Oregon and Washington at the time."
Hours later when the winds had subsided, we headed back toward camp. Momma worried if our little 14 ft. camp-trailer survived the storms wrath. Dad tediously worked his way through the brush around large branches and trees that had blown down blocking the narrow roads. Huge pine trees that once reached hundreds of feet into the sky now lay defeated and broken with their large webbed footballs exposed, awaiting a slow death, looking like the aftermath of war. After hours of travel, we finally reached camp to the surprise that our little sanctuary of deer-camp had survived. All of the tall trees that surrounded our camp still stood tall, sentinels, protecting from Nature's fury.
Even though I was just a baby on that day, I heard the story repeated over the years many times. I am still reminded today when I walk through those woods climbing over some of the very same trees, now logs, victims to the storm. Many nothing more then rotting bark with those eerie twisted arms of roots with fingers that reach out in distress in all directions, nothing more then grey weathered skeletons left behind to remind us of Natures power and strength.
The Columbus Day storm was actually on October 12th, 1962. I'm not sure why today, Oct. 10th is Columbus Day. Go figure?
Ok guys, this book, A SACRED PLACE, Memoirs of a Female Hunter, isn't just a "chick" book. I know the title says Memoirs of a "Female" Hunter, but we are all alike basically when comes to the passion of hunting, right? True there are some emotions involved, and guys don't usually like to show emotions Well, there is that one part about a "monthly" and yes I talk a little bit about love and there is a tiny bit of romance, but men like romance, especially when it's at deer camp, wouldn't you agree? I know my husband would agree. It must be something about the smell of sweat after a two hour walk and the lack of shower, or the way I carry my rifle and help him drag a buck or pack a 75lb. severed bull elk head off the mountain top. There is nothing more sexy than a chick in the woods with a gun, and she knows how to use it. My husband must agree with that. After all, we've been married nearly 30 years. (I was very young when we married.) He hunts with me, my mom, my sister, our daughter, and my niece. He and our 10-year-old nephew are the only males in this hunting party.
I agree that this sort of sounds like a chick book, but trust me it's not. Throughout the pages I share my passion for the hunt, talk about God and my faith in Him. But I also talk about fast trucks and running from the law and rifles and ammo and hand guns, a lot about guns and ammo actually; and the thrill of seeing "the big one". There is tracking involved, following a blood trail, and field dressing and a little more blood, but don't worry readers with a light stomach and non-hunters, I try to tread lightly in the gore department. There are a few guy experiences, and horse experiences. I talk about deer and elk and big fish stories and fast horses and family and kids, great big bucks and massive bulls. Now that sounds like a GUY book to me.
It's not a book about bragging what a great hunter I am, or what a fabulous shot I just made, I personally hate those stories. It is a book about learning, and growing, and believing, and trusting and overcoming, and love and passion and family and heritage. It's a book about 50 years worth of memories.
I've had non-hunters read this book and love it. And I've had fellow hunters read it and love it. I've actually had more men readers then women that I know of. One non-hunting, animal loving, heterosexual man told me it was a great book. He said he didn't want to put it down to go to work and couldn't hardly wait until he could read again just to see what happened next. That was quite a complement.
So there you have it in a nut shell, what ever that statement means, my personal review of my new book
A SACRED PLACE, Memoirs of a Female Hunter. Now don't just sit there...Order it now and get busy reading. I want to hear your opinion.
Also Available on Kindle
"Summer" age 25 grazing in her pasture.
A couple of weeks ago I had to make the difficult decision to euthanize my equine friend of nearly 31 years. We had been together since his birth and I was merely a child. His heath was quickly deteriorating and I wasn't going to let him suffer from a fall or something traumatic. I wouldn't have been able to handle the stress. So my husband of 30 years and I prepared ourselves and arranged an appointment with the vet to humanely do the task. On the eve of the appointment Bo lay down in the corral, too weak to get back up he lay there slowly fading. I wasn't going to wait for the vet and make my dear friend suffer for hours before any vet could arrive. My husband reluctantly offered to speed the inevitable with a firearm. I didn't want him to have to go through the trauma and I certainly didn't want to do it myself, so we called our equine loving friend, a horse trainer and Bo's farrier of 25 years.
We promptly let the three mares out of their paddocks turning them out to green pasture to graze and to remove them from the corral where Bo lay. On a warm sunny September morning and a single muffled pop of a strategically placed 25 caliber bullet, it was done. Bo would not suffer.
While the mares looked on between bites of the tender grass, my husband promptly removed Bo from the premises. While my husband was gone I looked out the window and saw that the horses had returned to the corral. They left the grass and wondered around the dirt corral. After a twenty minute stay, they returned back to the grass for more grazing. Not once did they call out or vocalize for Bo's return like they always do when one horse is taken away or moved to another pasture. They remain silent, just looking off in the direction that the flatbed trailer had gone. Even that night when all were stalled and Bo's stall and paddock remained empty, they surprisingly remained silent.
The Winds of Summer, our 25-year-old Quarter horse retired race mare shared the barn for over 20 years stabled along side Bo. And Glory, Summer's foal 11 years ago has been Bo's neighbor her entire life. Since Bo's departure, Summer has been very unsettled. Where she once stood quietly in her paddock waiting to be released daily out to pasture, she now paces in circles wearing a deep path in the dirt. She circles nervously, around and around the large paddock. From the looks of the churned up ground she paces for hours. I know she must be mourning the death of her friend. It is the only thing that is different. She must smell his death. There was blood shed unfortunately. I'm saddened by her reaction. I know animals mourn the lose of a fellow animal friend as do we. My dog Bear moped around for 2 months after the tragic death of his kitty, Simon.
Now each morning when I let Summer out of the her paddock, what was once an ampted up race horse galloping up the lane to the be the first to reach the pasture, is now a lack-luster mare that trots or barely reaches a slow lope often bringing up the rear.
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and