As a married man with children I sometimes feel the need to spend some quality time with my wife but without the kids. We sometimes go to a nice restaurant or on a walk around town. When hunting season arrives we make arrangements for a baby-sitter and head out hunting together. My friends laugh when I tell them about my date nights with her. I say they are great—she sits in a tree over there and I sit in another tree over here.
The real joy of hunting with Andrea is watching deer move close to her stand. I try to put up two stands that are close enough so that we can see each other. My heart starts pounding whenever I anticipate her getting a shot.
Being a volleyball coach, she has limited time to hunt in the early part of the season here in Montana. I try to maximize this time by preseason scouting and hanging stands in good locations. I also put her stands in places that will offer close shots. Quite often my best laid plans end up with deer coming by me and not by her. This is what happened on a recent early season hunt.
Anticipating a night off from practice, we arranged to drop our three girls off with Grandma. Some alone time in the truck during the short drive to the ranch we were going to hunt felt welcome. We talked about how our day had been and laughed about a previous hunting trip when I had forgotten her bow. I pointed out that I was able to salvage that evening by making a quick phone call, which led to the babysitter meeting us half-way with the missing bow. She now asks each time we get in the truck if I remembered to bring it.
Arriving at our hunting destination, we prepared to hike in to our stands. I relished the opportunity to walk hand-in-hand, as I most often hunt alone. My mind was racing trying to decide which stand to have her sit in, which one would give her the most likely chance for success. Deciding on a proven location, I watched her climb aloft and then quietly sneaked fifty yards away to my own location.
As evening approached deer began to filter out of the trees, headed to an alfalfa field. I love watching early season deer move lazily toward the fields. They often are in no hurry, browsing along the way. Occasionally bucks, still in velvet, and fawns sporting spots appear. This is a very different pattern of movement, as later in the season deer seem to move with more purpose, whether heading to fields or looking for other deer.
Seeing a doe emerge not far from my wife, I gave her a thumbs up and watched as she readied her bow. The doe was not in a hurry, and time seemed to stand still. The doe had moved closer and seemed to be headed to Andrea when she turned in my direction. I had to decide what to do, as I realized the doe would offer me a shot. I wrestled with the thought of shooting the deer, while hoping it would turn back and go her way. Finally, I decided I was there to hunt as well, so if she did give me a chance, I would take it.
I slid an obsidian tipped cane arrow silently back and watched as the arrow hit its mark. The deer’s flight path took her back toward Andrea, and she watched as the doe faltered and fell. I got a thumbs up from her, reassuring me that I had done the right thing.
As darkness descended, we took some pictures and I asked when her next available evening was so we could have another date night. As we dragged the deer out of the creek bottom toward the truck, we realized it would be another week before we would be able to hunt together again.
Throughout the week we talked about our upcoming hunt and I made arrangements to drop our kids off again with their grandmother. As best laid plans often change, we found out just before we would be leaving to go on our date night hunt that Grandma had forgotten and made other plans. We scrambled trying to think of someone else who would be able to watch our kids, and after a couple of phone calls and failed attempts we decided it wasn’t going to work out. Because of her limited time to hunt, I suggested she should hunt while I stayed with the kids.
We all drove out to a nearby ranch and watched as Andrea climbed into her stand. The kids and I sneaked back to the truck and decided to go for a drive around the countryside. This lasted for only a short time, and I realized the kids and I all needed to get out of the truck and run off some energy. We headed back to the ranch where we had dropped off Andrea and parked at a point where we wouldn’t mess up her hunt.
As we were climbing out of the truck we noticed some turkeys moving along a ditch bank not far away. The eternal optimist in me said I better give them a try, even with the three girls in tow. We moved to the far end of the field near where we had seen the turkeys. I was surprised that they hadn’t seen us, and in fact a jake was sitting on a fallen log almost within range.
I tried to get the girls to stay put as I made the final stalk on the turkeys, but our youngest was deathly afraid of the herd of cattle that were also in the field. So, the four of us moved forward and peeked around a group of trees hoping the turkeys were still nearby. The jake hadn’t moved, so I quickly shot before he ran away. The arrow was on target, and the stone point did its job. We tagged the bird and took our time walking back to the truck.
When Andrea got back to the truck, she was surprised to see that we had been successful with a turkey. She had not seen any deer but had heard a bear eating choke-cherries and making a bunch of noise. We suspected the bear was the reason she hadn’t seen any deer.
The ride back to the house was exciting, as the girls each wanted to tell their own version of the turkey hunt. Andrea listened, and then wondered aloud why we had been successful when this was supposed to have been her hunt. A date night with my wife had ended up being a family night. We all talked about the next time we could put Mom in a stand and go off to hunt together.
Equipment Notes: On these date night hunts, the author used a sinew backed Osage bow, river cane arrows, and obsidian heads.