From 1976 to 1991, I gave birth to four sons and prayed each time for a daughter. I often complained to God about the absence of a little girl in my family. Not that I was questioning God's judgement, but complaining nonetheless. I wanted a little girl to dress in frilly little dresses, take to ballet classes, and do her hair in ribbons and bows. In 2001 God answered my prayers and blessed our family with a beautiful four year old girl we named Sara. I was thrilled and spent many paychecks on fancy little dresses and hair accessories, none of which she wanted to wear!
I soon learned that Sara had a mind of her own and besides that.... was just a little bit head-strong. I'm often told she's just like her momma! Before she was five years old, she had mastered fishing with a spinning reel and had turned into an incredible little angler. She then made the announcement, "I want to be a hunter, too!" There's nothing wrong with that, I thought to myself and by the time she was eight years old, Sara had shot her first whitetail. By the time she was 12, she had harvested four deer and her first Rio Grande gobbler.
Sara has had a few obstacles to overcome regarding her hunting. The first being that she is almost totally blind in her left eye. Being left handed, she had to learn to shoot right-handed. She did not let this slow her down though and is an incredible shot. Sara is also small and required a gun which she could handle. Her father and I set her up with a Rossi .243 youth model. Sara's gun is actually my very first gun, now a pretty pink camo design thanks to Camo Solutions in Evening Shade, Arkansas.
When the Youth Deer Season rolled around this past year, I opted to take 13 year old Sara hunting behind my mother-in-law's home. Sara's dad had built us a new stand in the back of the old barn which overlooks a large field. In the center of this field is two large whiteoak trees that the deer love to feed under. It was the perfect set up and regardless of the weather, we would be able to hunt comfortably, sheltered by the old barn.
It was still dark when we arrived at our destination and we quietly moved through the barn, weaving through the corridors till we reached our stand. We chose this route instead of walking around the barn and possibly spooking any deer that might be bedded down in the field or nearby. We climbed the ladder one at a time and set up quickly. Not a word was spoken. As daylight appeared, Sara seemed disappointed that there were no deer already present in the field. I encouraged her to not get impatient. It was still early.
By 7:30 our first deer appeared, a small button buck who was in no hurry to go anywhere in particular. He walked back and forth between the trees in the center of the field and the barn browsing and nibbling at the pears which we had left the night before. The acorns were abundant this year but he seemed more interested in the browsing. I whispered to Sara, "You can shoot this deer if you want. He's legal." She looked horrified. "He's a baby!" she hissed back at me. I just smiled. She appeared to know what she wanted and it apparently was NOT this young button buck. He remained with us for about 45 minutes before slowly exiting to our left.
Soon a red-tailed hawk appeared and we watched as she hunted for her breakfast perched high in the whiteoak tree. Crows soon appeared to intimidate and tease her. She ignored their constant dive-bombing and cawing. "I'm getting tired." I heard Sara whisper. I never force my children to stay in the woods longer than they wish to stay, but I encouraged her to stay a little longer. "Thirty more minutes, Sara. Then we'll go home."
Suddenly, we heard a small animal wailing in distress to our left in the woods. It's shrill screaming made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. At the same time something caught my attention to the right of the first whiteoak tree. I grabbed my Nikon binoculars. I knew it wasn't a deer. It was too small. I watched as it dashed through the tall grass and suddenly came to a halt, ears standing straight up. It was a coyote. The yote had also heard the distress calls of the wild creature in the woods.
"Sara, shoot..." Before I could get the words out of my mouth, I heard Sara's shot echoing through the hills. I had never taken the binoculars from my eyes and watched as the coyote tumbled through the tall grass. "Did I hit it?" she was asking. "Yes ma'am, you did!" She nearly knocked me out of the stand in her excitement to get down and find her kill. We hurriedly descended from our stand and took off in pursuit of Sara's latest trophy. After reaching the field though, we found ourselves in very tall grass and locating the coyote was not as easy as we thought it would be. Disappointment quickly set in and I heard Sara sigh loudly as she questioned whether or not she had even hit her target. "I know you did, Sara. I saw the coyote go down." I walked farther into the field and soon found what we were looking for... blood and lots of it.
"He can't be too far from here." I said outloud, though I was really talking to myself. Sara came running. She ran, following the blood trail and soon I heard her screams of delight. As Sara stroked the hair of her prairie wolf, I conveyed my regrets that she had not gotten a deer. Smiling up at me, she replied, "I'm thrilled with my coyote!"
Sara is everything I ever wanted in a daughter. She beautiful, confident, independent, and one heck of a little huntress and outdoorswoman. She's my little princess in camo.