By: Dani Bergen
It seemed so big, a dream I had played over and over again in my mind, till one day I woke up and realized that it truly was a dream. A reality dream!
The darkness was so engulfing. I was scared I was going to wake up and it would all be over. My eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to my new surroundings but somehow I just knew it was real. There was nothing more reassuring of my location than the, every so often, squeeze of my dad’s hand on mine and the clink of his shotgun strap every step he took. I couldn’t see his face but somehow I just knew he was smiling and I was the luckiest girl in the world.
My little five year old body was swamped in my dad’s large camouflage onesie, the velcro on my hunting hat was as tight as it could go, and a bottle of pepper spray was clasped in my left hand. Every step made my dream so much more of a reality, the true reality of the beginning of so many more pitch black nights of walking out from an evening of hunting. I knew it was real and I was living in the reality of a dream I had dreamt every night my dad tucked me in and told me stories of his hunting adventures. This evening was not being lived in my imagination. The walk in, the extra tree stand my dad set up just so I could come along, the young black bears, and the dried tears I could now feel on my cheeks when my dad decided to let the bears walk. I had experienced it all not a few minutes earlier. My dad could have left me back at camp and saved himself the trouble of waiting for my little steps and rolling up the legs of my onesie so I could walk. But he chose to do some serious bush whacking and take the trail less travelled by so many outdoorsmen and fathers. He took a “girl”, his own “daughter” hunting.
That evening in the stand my dad taught me some of the most valuable lessons of hunting I have ever experienced. He shared with me a passion of his, not out of guilt that he “had” to take his daughter along but out of a desire that I too would grow to love not just the sport of hunting but being out in God’s creation, experiencing the joy of the hard earned pursuit, patiently waiting in the silence, the reality of just hunting not killing, enjoying the people you are with, and a real appreciation and respect for the animal we are waiting for. I never realized then just how lucky I was, being probably the only little blonde pony-tailed girl walking through that bush with my dad and probably one of a very small group of girls who were actually hunting or having the opportunity to be in the outdoors and hunt.
As I write this I am sitting in a deer stand not but a short distance from my home, in the very bush my dad first took me tagging along for whitetail deer. I was like his little side kick. Not that I did anything to give him better hunting odds but the opportunity to watch my dad sneak quietly across crunchy leaves, slowly dodge from tree to tree, and crawl within shooting distance of an unsuspecting deer was just too magical not to be imitating his every move.
To say my dad inspired in me the love for hunting is not shy of the truth one bit. As a young girl living in the prairies of Saskatchewan, I could count on one hand the women hunters I knew. And yes, I mean women. Not little girls like me. The fact that my dad took me along when so many other girls didn’t even have a chance, truly set the arrow in flight for me and made this little prairie girl feel so special. All I wanted to do was tell all my girl friends about the amazing feeling of, what I didn’t know then but do now, hunting fever. And now 15 years later, when my best friend, my sister, too caught the hunting bug, I couldn’t be more stoked. Girl time hunting! So awesome! What happens in the bush stays in the bush.
Truth is, hunts may come and hunts may go. You may miss every shot opportunity given. You may not even have the support of a family member like I did. My trophy room sure isn’t huge with massive animals and tons of plastic eyes staring down at my every move, but my memory bank is overflowing with gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves, the call of geese flying overhead, the young cubs joining me in my tree, and so much more. Shucks what an inspiration to keep me hunting, pursuing, dreaming, and hopefully having the chance to inspire so many more women.
My name is Danielle Bergen. I’m a WOMAN WHO HUNTS! Nice to meet you.