For most families the autumn season brings to mind images of fall foliage, wind kissed cheeks and football. However, in my house, fall brings with it the promise of camo patterns, ground blinds, and the endless pursuit of the big buck. More to the point, for myself and a unique group of woman, November ushers in the season of the “whitetail widow”. While the plight of the aptly dubbed “football widow” has long been acknowledged, the sorority of hunting wives has gone unnoticed. In a country where football dominates the fall, wives and girlfriends don jerseys and learn the basics of the game or spend their Sundays preparing buffalo wings and nachos, while the lesser known “whitetail widow” is drawing back a bow of her own or preparing the game meat, which is the bounty of the season’s harvest.
Unlike the average sports nut, the outdoor sportsman is not only watching from the sidelines but stalking in the fields himself. This type of involvement in the sport of hunting requires the entire family’s involvement. In order to embrace it, a commitment to more than Sunday afternoons in front the big screen is required. The occasional office pool or the acquisition of team paraphernalia will not suffice. The hunter and his family cannot live vicariously through superstars who battle it out in professional stadiums. They must, instead, rally the fortitude to create their own arena in the woods and fields of their own backyards. Such a level of commitment requires more than a passing interest, but rather a deeply held desire to carry on an ages old ritual. When you take into account that the average American household contains two working partners who are average people working long hours at “day jobs” that leave little time for outside interests, it is easy to imagine how simple it would be to forego the effort hunting demands in favor of more passive activities. A true sportsman has a stick-to-itiveness that is infectious. It is this never say die frame of mind that dominates the household, till their obsession becomes your passion. Consequently, the entire family converts into hunting devotees, dedicating their time and attention as well. In this manner hunting is the ultimate team sport.
As a member of one such team I know firsthand what this means; In mid November at 4 am the alarm sounds a muted call to action. Those mornings when it fails to stir my superstar, I rouse him gently, careful not to wake the children. Coffee and camo come next as he collects his gear and laces his boots. Next he’ll drive 20 minutes in the dark crisp morning to a local farm where he has been given permission to hunt. He’ll trudge through the trees to his stand hoping not to jump a deer. Then once settled in the stand he’ll begin his hours long vigil, constantly scanning the area and listening for the telltale sounds of hooves on the brush below. Most mornings he’ll descend the ladder having nary caught a glimpse of his desired prize before embarking on the rest of his day….the wage earning part. On those fruitless mornings he takes with him no bounty, just the beauty of the morning and the potential for a successful afternoon hunt. Occasionally, the fates will grace us with a harvest. On these mornings the community which includes myself, his hunting buddies, friends and family are set in to motion. Cell phone calls from the stand alert us all to the “big buck down”. Although, every call he places is to a dedicated team member, the demands of the regular work day beckon. So a plan will be made to back out for now and follow a blood trail at dusk.