The day our paths crossed, I passed on the opportunity to harvest a smaller doe that showed up just minutes prior to your arrival. I made this decision because I hunt for meat and the first doe, in my mind, couldn’t provide enough. So I waited. As I sat in my favorite tree stand, chilled from the wind, I began to doubt that another opportunity would come my way. I didn’t regret my decision; nothing is guaranteed in the wild, but I also knew that my decision meant that I might go home without meat. As much as I hoped for your arrival, I was still surprised when you showed.
It was an unforgettable moment watching you walk up with your grown fawn. I remember remaining motionless as I watched in awe as the two of you walked calmly along the well-worn path in front of me – a path you had probably taken a hundred times before. I knew I would have to move eventually to make the shot, but for a few fleeting moments, I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt just yet.
As you came closer, your fawn tagging behind your hooves, I remember thinking how it was one of the biggest, healthiest fawns I had seen all season. You did a wonderful job. I know this not just because of the fawn’s physical appearance, but because shortly after I made the decision to release my arrow, your fawn went on high alert, immediately cautious of it’s surroundings, and fled the area– just as you had taught it. It was a response that gave me assurance your fawn had been given the skills necessary to survive.
When you came into my shooting range, I took everything I could into consideration. I double-checked my sights, steadied my aim, took several deep breaths, made sure your fawn was clear of my arrow, waited until both of your front legs were parallel to each other, and it wasn’t until you stood completely broadside that I finally let my arrow fly. It zipped through the air seamlessly and in a heartbeat, it was done. I can write this today with pride because your life ended just as it should have - quickly. As I watched you quarter away and head toward a nearby tree where you laid down to take your last few breaths, I knew my hard work had paid off.
|A Thanksgiving Day doe to remember.|
The months prior to that moment, I worked relentlessly to perfect my shot. I did this for lots of reasons, but none more so than you. I shot, and shot, and shot at targets and missed, and broke arrows, and had days where all I could do was set my bow down and cry in frustration, wondering if I could make this happen the way I thought it should. I also had days where I shot like I had been doing it for years, but those fleeting moments of hitting spot-on weren’t enough for me. You deserved more than a decent shot – you deserved my very best. So despite my setbacks, I continued to press on and I’m thankful I did.
Once I knew you had passed, I wondered of your fawn’s fate. It wasn’t long before a group of five deer came by. Your fawn let out a few bleats and then quickly joined the others. I wondered if they, too, were now on their own, or if they were simply passing the time until their mothers returned. When the group decided to leave the area, knowing something had occurred that was out of the ordinary, it was almost as if your fawn knew it was time to continue on the path. And without hesitation, it left in the safety of the group.
With a few minutes to spare before the truck would arrive, I came and sat with you. I did this not out of remorse, but out of respect. It was a moment that I knew wouldn’t last long, so I cherished every second. I noticed every whisker on your face, the shimmer in your eyes, the hardiness of your hooves, and your thick coat. I ran my palm down your fur and it was the last link in the connection I had been looking for. It’s a moment that I will keep in my heart forever.
You were born into a beautiful place and you died in an equally beautiful place – underneath the shade of a tree, along the bank of a flowing creek, in the quiet of nature, just as you should have.
Thank you for what you provided me. I will never forget it.