It all started four years ago. My boyfriend and I had been dating for about three months; he was a senior at Gannon and I was a senior in high school. Weekends were our time to drive either way to see each other. Conveniently he was from the same town that I was, so he would come home to visit his family as well as see me. As soon as hunting season started however, that drastically changed. He would come home on Friday after class and go straight out into the woods. Saturday and Sunday, all day, would be the same thing. I’d be lucky to have an hour at night with him awake after a tiring day of walking and trekking up and down ravines and climbing trees. I never understood how he could do it, day after day and not be sick of it. I actually found it kind of annoying.
I had grown up with hunting. My dad, my grandparents, my aunts and cousins all took part in it, but it was something I never actively was a part of. As I got older, I drifted away from the hunting a little bit; my grandparents were having health problems, and my dad didn’t have time to hunt anymore. When I started dating Brian, the excitement started to come back but not until after dating for over a year.
Seeing him get so excited to go out in the woods made me curious. I already loved being outdoors, so how big of a difference would the actual act of hunting be?
October 2011, we had been dating for a year and three months, archery season opened up. Brian picked me up from Jamestown Community College and brought me to his house in between Falconer and Gerry. After finding me some camouflage gear that would keep me warm, we trekked outside to walk up to his tree stand. The hill was steep, the path was rough and since his steps were effortless in being used to the hiking I fell behind fast. So he would stop and wait for me to catch up, catch my breath, and we would start again. When we finally got to the tree I looked up and almost regretted my decision to come with him. The tiniest seat possible was twenty-five feet up in the tree. He expected me to sit on it and rest my feet on branches below me. Never before had I realized how terrified of heights I really was.
He later admitted that he should have put his spikes closer together for me, but hindsight doesn’t help the present situation. Brian literally had to push me up the tree. Each time I’d grab a spike above me, he would launch my foot up to the next spike to stand on. By the time I reached the seat we were both tired, but the windedness quickly left when I looked down. We were so high up! Brian had to tie me into the tree to keep me from having a panic attack, while he laid across branches with his bow in front of him.
We sat for five hours without seeing anything except a lone squirrel digging around for nuts. But those five hours became one of the best memories that I have with Brian. He was so patient with me on the walk up, so patient getting me up the tree and getting me down was also a process –the last spike fell out so he had me hang until he was on the ground then told me to let go, trusting that he would catch me. Sitting in that tree with him, with the natural world forgetting all about the humans within it was amazing. We heard deer; we heard squirrels scampering; whether or not we saw anything didn’t matter. It was the peace of it all. The challenge of getting to a spot and the reward of being a part of something so much bigger than myself was one of the best feelings I had ever experienced.
I wanted to experience more of it too. All my judgmental thoughts of Brian wanting to spend more time in the woods than spending it with me dissipated. Well yeah, I’d like to spend more time in the woods too. It was a stress reliever, a release. I’m so thankful for that day, and Brian wanting me to come out with him to understand why it means so much to him. That day I fell in love all over again; not only with the man that brought me out there, but with what he brought me out there to experience.