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From Outcast to Mentor

HinkleBy Roger Hinkle

-- I have been hunting since I was 11 years old. I have found nothing I enjoy more than sitting in the woods and watching nature at work. When I graduated high school, I joined the Navy. The worst thing about being in the service was I didn't get much time to go home and hunt.

When I was 19, I married Heather. That cut into my hunting time even more. Now the trips back to Ohio -- once reserved for the deer woods -- are more family-oriented, thanks to my wife. Truthfully, I was in the dog house most of the time whenever I wasn't in the woods.

Heather and I had some pretty good arguments because she just didn't understand the need I had to be in the woods.

In 2006, I bought a house in Ohio and moved her back so she could be with her family while I was deployed in the Gulf. In 2007, I was honorably discharged from the after completing my obligation. I enjoyed my time in the military, but it was just cutting into my hunting too much.

Once home, I talked my wife into going hunting in the fall, so I bought her a new crossbow and had her practice all summer. And I hung a double ladder stand in one of my favorite places on my grandfather's land.

On opening day of archery season, we went out and set up about three hours before dark. The first two hours, we saw nothing. I was becoming very disappointed. I knew that if I was going to make her understand what I loved so much, it had to be exciting for her.

A doe finally came walking out about 50 yards in front of us and started feeding. I knew the crossbow was capable of placing a lethal shot at that distance, but I told my wife to wait.

Well, the doe never came any closer, and it got dark on us. Nevertheless, once we got out of the woods, I could tell my wife enjoyed it. She was beginning to understand.

The following day, we headed out about the same time to the same place. I always see bucks in that area and was praying a nice one would show.

About an hour into our vigil, a little 8-pointer came walking right toward us. As it was coming in, I told my wife she should pass it up and wait for a bigger one. The buck walked within 20 yards of us before slowly venturing away. When it was at 40 yards, my wife whispered and told me she had to shoot it.

I quickly ranged the deer and told her what line on the scope to use. She pulled the trigger and made a great shot. The little buck ran off, and my wife was beaming.

It was almost dark when we got down from the stand, so we headed back for some lights to track it. When we returned to the woods, we started following the trail, which grew faint after about 50 yards. Eventually, we lost the trail.

I felt bad watching Heather's excitement falter. I told her that when I got off work the next day, I'd go out and find it. All that night, she was depressed, and I was afraid she wouldn't want to go hunting anymore.

I found the buck the next day. It had tipped over and rolled down a hill just 10 yards from the last spot of blood.

When I went home to get the four-wheeler, my wife was elated.

For the next several months, I had to endure her taunting ... her claims that I wasn't going to get a buck bigger than hers. She thought she was aggravating me, but it was really just making me happy. I knew she was hooked.

I knew the key to getting Heather hooked was fast success, and that was what happened. The following year, she was eager to get into the woods. The third day out, she took another buck from the same stand.

By the way, she chose the name "Hunter" for our son. Three weeks after she shot her first buck, we found out she was pregnant. I look forward to when I can take him out and get him hooked on hunting.

--Roger Hinkle

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