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From the desk of a deer hunter’s widow

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 16 October 2015

The chill in the air here in northeast Wisconsin marks the fall season, and at my house, that means it is time for deer hunting.

Between bows and guns, deer hunting is much more than a nine-day event. For weeks already, my house has been transformed into a hunting blind.

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There is a trail of camouflage attire and crunchy, dead leaves leading from the garage to the living room, accompanied by the musty, earthy aroma of the great outdoors.

A crossbow sits on my kitchen counter, conveniently located for an impromptu round of target practice in the backyard, and my regular weeknight Bravo programming is replaced by the Outdoor Channel. Watch where you step and sit, as there may be a stray rattling antler laying around.

Little did I know when my husband and I met nine years ago, this annual big buck fever would consume him for the better part of September, October and November. I specifically recall the day he looked deeply into my eyes – as if peeling back every layer to my soul – and said, “I have a very important question to ask you … how do you feel about hunting?”

My casual response: “Well, I don’t hunt. My family doesn’t hunt. But I think there are a lot of things that need to be shot.”

Though I had passed his test with flying colors, it took a few years for me to get the hang of being a “hunter’s wife.” I had unknowingly signed up to learn skills like cooking venison, removing cockle burs and trimming deer carcasses.

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My vocabulary has expanded to include words like “drop tine,” “brow tine” and “atypical.” I’ve also gotten pretty good at whipping out the spotlight from under the seat of the truck to shine deer on a drive home as they munch on corn stubble in the fields.

Over the years, I have learned how to be a supportive hunting spouse. For example, I quickly figured out that comments like, “Maybe this just isn’t your sport” and “All the cavemen needed to kill a deer was a rock and a stick” were not well received when my hunter came home empty-handed. Washing hunting gear in lavender-scented laundry detergent did not go over well either.

These days, I send my hunter out into the wild with a kiss, words of encouragement and snacks to nourish his body as he sits through the cold, wind and rain in the name of feeding our family. I say a prayer for his safety and cross my fingers that when he returns there will be a 200-pound carcass on the tailgate and a 16-point rack in his hands.

I admit, I do this in part because his victory means the hunting gear could get packed away early, but more importantly, this is my husband’s passion. It is the one thing that will get him out of bed at 4 a.m.

Each year, he dreams of shooting that trophy buck worthy of hanging on the wall. He lives and breathes for this challenge, and nothing would satisfy him more than luring a big buck to his stand and respectfully ending its life with a dignified kill shot.

Deer hunting is a passion that involves both luck and skill but, after all, so is dairy farming. Both can be humbling reminders that we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, and sometimes she is just smarter than we are. There can be volatility, ups and downs, bad timing and outside forces beyond our control.

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But there is something about the “hunt” that keeps you coming back for more. Perhaps it’s a brush with that brute of a buck – or hitting that 100-pounds-of-milk-per- cow mark. A taste of victory keeps you hanging on to your hopes and dreams.

Similarly, being a deer hunter’s widow is not unlike being a dairy farmer’s wife. During the height of the harvest, you know not to call to ask what time he will be home for dinner; you just know to have a warm plate ready when he walks in the door.

There are times when you attend social functions without him and politely respond to the enquiries of his whereabouts by reassuring people that you are not getting divorced; it is just “that time of the year.”

Though deer hunting is only a seasonal hobby, and dairy farming is a year-round career, supporting my hunter gives me a glimpse of what it is like to be the better half of a dairyman.

It also fills me with admiration for the many wives, better than I, who not only hold down the fort but also hunt or farm right alongside their husbands.

So to the hunters and the dairy farmers, may you have a bountiful harvest this fall, and don’t forget there is a special someone at home who loves you and supports the pursuit of your passion.  PD

peggy coffeen
  • Peggy Coffeen

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