Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series. To read the second installment, click here.
My journey from target archery to bowhunting continued soon after my plane landed in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. I remained nervous and still had many questions, so I was relieved to receive a warm welcome at the airport and again when arriving at Bluff Country Outfitters near Alma, Wis.
Meanwhile, our 2½-hour drive from the airport passed through some of the most scenic country I’ve seen. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area had soon given way to vast cornfields and deep blue skies that stretched endlessly until merging with western Wisconsin’s rolling hills. In camp, ATA staff and Tom Indrebo’s Bluff Country Outfitters team put me at ease. Everyone took pains to make me feel welcome. This hospitality included delicious food, a cozy dining room, and beautifully rustic sleeping quarters.
After dinner the first night, our guide asked who wanted to hunt in the morning, despite a warning of 25-degree temperatures. About half of us raised our hands, including me. I felt a moment of pride in realizing I was going to prove something to myself by braving the elements – and the dark woods – in the pre-dawn hours. Though 4:30 a.m. came too soon, I was determined to test the coldest morning of the hunt so I could enjoy the rest of the week knowing I was comfortable in the woods.
Although I was terribly cold while hunting from the ground blind, I was amazed by the beauty of the early morning world. My blind was tucked into a corner between the woods and a massive cornfield, where I was privileged to watch the sunrise as I waited for deer. Despite my “city girl” nerves, I didn’t feel scared outside and alone in the dark, as I had expected. Rather, I felt excitement and adrenaline each time a leaf skittered by or a squirrel darted past my blind. Ensconced in my blind, hidden from view on three sides, I felt a sense of coziness while watching the world shake off night and come to life.
But no deer appeared. Returning to camp at midmorning, I felt no disappointment. Rather, I was excited to head out for the evening hunt. Once back in the woods, I waited for fear to creep in as darkness overtook my perch on a hill at another farm. Again, though, adrenaline consumed me. I felt as much a part of the landscape as the doe that walked 50 yards from my stand, and the drumming grouse that nearly unseated me with its unearthly noise. Encouraged at seeing a doe, I was ready to head back out as soon as possible, but a fierce storm blew in the next day. Instead of welcoming the dining room’s warmth, I itched to return to the woods.
The next night, I overlooked a foggy field from my blind. The mist clinging to the rolling hills around me made it difficult to see. When two does finally wandered in, my heart began pounding. I didn’t want to shoot a doe (after all, Wisconsin is known for trophy bucks), but I also knew I needed to draw my bow, just once, and hold on the deer to feel confident I could, indeed, take a shot. Surprisingly, I was steady as I drew back and just as steady when putting my top pin on the deer. Thus assured, I let my bow down.
End of Part 1
To read the second installment, click here.