A Hunting Story
Guest blogger: Dona Saucier, Executive Director of the Greater Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce
To start off, I’d like for readers to know, this is not an anti-hunting story. It is a story about a hunter and his adolescent daughter. It is about one person who is willing to make some compromises to spend time with a loved one.
My father had four daughters. I’m number 3 - a textbook middle child. And yes, I can hear several of you readers out there say what I’ve heard all my life. “No boys? Really? Oh, your poor father.” This tale I’m about to tell you will definitely reinforce the “poor father” bit, for sure.
As a child, hunting was part of our family life. If potato harvest ended early, and there were still a few days left before school started up again, the six of us would pack up and head to the woods in the old camper (one of those vintage 15’ x 6’ campers where the shelves and tables turned into beds at night) and park ourselves in a campground in the North Maine Woods along the Fish River.
More often than not, my father would take my two older sisters (5 & 6 years older than me) hunting while my younger sister and I would stay with my mother and pick pine cones and leaves and make crafts, play cards, or go for nature walks. It was great – while the other crew was hunting, we were camping. I love camping – and have very fond memories of “camping” on the Fish River.
My 8th grade year, my mother left to visit my two older sisters who were now attending the same university. So my father took me and my younger sister along with him on a short hunting trip. We left on a Thursday night after work and were to come back home on Saturday in time for church. Just a couple of days in the woods - what could go wrong?
At that time, as a young adolescent, I had developed certain ideas about things. Although I understood the whole farm-to-table concept and was grateful for what had been made available to sustain us, I had developed a profound respect for nature. I cared for local stray cats, watched ants work and spiders build webs with utter fascination and yes – I even actually hugged a couple of trees when no one was looking. It is a very unique, unconditional and spiritual experience – you should try it sometime.
I truly enjoyed the outdoors, but I couldn’t see the logic in hunting. I just couldn’t understand why we had to go out and hunt animals when we could buy perfectly good steak and chicken at the Shop n Save – a ten minute drive away – that I didn’t have to watch die AND I didn’t have to wait a week to shower or miss five days’ worth of Guiding Light in order to get it either.
Our first morning (Friday morning), my father attempted to teach us how to carry and shoot a rifle. He placed a target sheet on a tree in the campsite. My sister tried first, aimed, fired and missed the tree completely. Luckily, no one was hurt in the experience. Then, my turn. I hit the third ring before the bulls-eye – not bad for my first time. At that, my father asked how I felt. My response - I explained that I was upset because I had injured an innocent pine tree. I went up to the tree, put my hand on it, apologized and gave it a hug. Lesson learned: hug pine trees in the winter when the pine sap has hardened otherwise you can ruin a perfectly good sweatshirt. And ok, in my defense, the hug was just to see how he would react.
Yes, I know. I can hear you now. “Oh, that poor man.”
We spent that afternoon walking through the woods. My father pretended to be turned around a couple of times to test us – making sure we were paying attention and could get back to the truck on our own in an emergency. I tried dragging my feet and stepping on twigs to warn all the furry creatures of our presence. He did manage to bag a couple of partridge for supper that evening, which really didn’t faze me too much because I never saw them. They were so well hidden that I didn’t realize what had happened until it was over.
On Saturday, on our home, we went for one more walk through the woods. I’m guessing my father wised up, because we took breaks this time – sitting on fallen trees occasionally to rest.
My warning system was gone. It was during one of these ‘rest stops’ that my father shushed us, stood up rifle at the ready pointing toward the sound of some rustling nearby. I had no idea what the sound was, but I had made it so far without actually witnessing an animal going down and panicked. Instantly, I stood up and yelled, “Run Bambi! Run!”
Yes, I know. “Oh, that poor man.”
The next time I went hunting with my father I was in my late 30’s.