We finally filled our freezer with venison, and here is the very unconventional hunting story of how it all went down.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and we were expecting a houseful of guests that were set to arrive at any moment. So as any host would be, I was frantically trying to get beds made and the house tidied up before our guests arrived for the weekend. And then I noticed my husband, Jed, out of the corner of my eye with his bow.

At first I thought maybe he was helping me tidy up by putting his hunting gear out in the shop, but nope, that wasn’t the case at all. He calmly said to me, “I just shot a buck.” Hmm, OK. I still had a list of things to do before guests arrived, but they would all have to wait because now it was time to follow a blood trail instead.

We called in reinforcements — my father-in-law Lee Wiley, who only lives about a mile up the road and has always been a part of the process. Keeping these hunting traditions alive is just as important as the harvest itself, plus, no one can track an animal like that man can.

So we all put on our boots and began wandering through our yard — which also happens to be a thick forest — and carefully followed the blood trail to the very end. There it was, this magnificent animal that will nourish our family throughout the winter months, and how incredibly thankful we were in that moment to have found it together as a family. Experiencing moments like this with the two men who mean the most to me is an indescribable feeling. In fact, every deer I’ve ever been a part of harvesting has been with these two men, and I just can’t imagine it any other way.

This, of course, is when the real fun begins, and we were in need of backup because carrying heavy things isn’t really my thing, and my father-in-law has a tougher time wandering through the forest than he did in his youth. But as luck would have it, our niece had just arrived with her new boyfriend, whom we had never met before, so after a very quick introduction, we put that young man to work, gutting and packing out his very first deer. Nothing says welcome to the family like his very first introduction to the world of hunting. That young man put on his boots, rolled up his sleeves and got right to work like he had been doing it his whole life. So, if my niece happens to be reading this, we want it on record that we think he’s a keeper!

This isn’t exactly how we had planned for our weekend all together as a family to begin, but I suppose that’s all part of hunting — harvesting food when the opportunity presents itself. Plus, sharing moments like this and the food it provides with the ones we love is truly one of life’s greatest joys.

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