By Krystal Slagle
-- I moved to Virginia about six years ago. I was a city girl looking for a change of pace. The fresh air, mountain views and friendly people were a shock to me - it was a stark contrast to city life in Philadelphia.
My mother was an animal rights activist. Every animal had feelings and deserved to roam the earth with humans, so when I met Kevin, his deer mounts made my skin crawl.
I was seven months pregnant with our first child when bow season was about to start. Kevin frantically prepared, and I wrinkled my nose in distaste. It took some begging and pleading, but finally I gave in and agreed to join him on his hunt. After a few thorough lessons on safe and effective crossbow use, we were off on our first journey into a new world for me.
Crossbow in tow we drove to Highland County, Va., where his family leases hunting land. I clearly remember his stepfather and stepbrother laughing at the idea of me going into the deer woods. Kevin had complete confidence in me even though I nor anyone else did.
We set out early that afternoon looking for a mature doe to harvest. Waddling through the woods with my bulging belly was no easy task. The weather was unseasonably warm and I huffed and puffed as we climbed the mountain. We settled into a spot that Kevin had hunted most every bow season and waited.
A treestand was out of the question, as my balance was not as good as it normally would be. Instead we were on the ground and Kevin had made a makeshift blind out of brush. I squirmed as the baby bounced around, much like a kangaroo. Moments after I made a sigh of frustration, Kevin motioned for me to be still. "Here comes a doe," he whispered.
"No there's not," I replied as I rolled my eyes.
Shortly thereafter, I saw the doe's head bobbing toward us. It was moving at a decent pace. I carefully raised the crossbow and waited for the doe to get into range. I set my sights on the doe and held my breath. The arrow hit with a loud thud, and the doe ran up a nearby ridge. Kevin was giddy, and I just couldn't understand why.
"What did I do wrong," I asked. "She ran away ... and took my arrow with her!"
"Just listen," Kevin said.
I stopped my wailing to hear the doe bound up the ridge and then fall. We tracked the deer and found it halfway up the ridge. Soon afterward, I called my parents. I was so excited I couldn't contain myself.
Two months passed, and I gave birth to our son, Hunter. A year after that he was sitting on his first buck that he and his grandmother harvested during rifle season. Now we are scouting and exploring new hunting land for this season.
I have a lot to learn and many years of experiences ahead of me. Each season teaches me more and gives me more appreciation for the outdoors and its possibilities. I am still a firm believer in animal rights, but I am also a firm believer in the fact that responsible hunting helps control the deer population, which ensures that deer herds are biologically and socially balanced.
I came to Virginia for a new life and a fresh outlook. I'm happy to say I got more than I had ever dreamed possible.
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