A big welcome to our deer-hunting family

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

HE SAID: The regular readers of this column know by now that my cute and talented wife is a girly girl.

Dainty. Petite. Particular.

So it may surprise many of you that she is also quite possibly the most successful deer hunter I've ever known. And I've known some deer hunters.

She grew up in the hills near Van Buren where guns are probably 10 times as common as the inner tubes that float down the popular Current River. Everyone in Carter County hunts. Callie has told me stories of pregnant women climbing up deer stands.

Callie has killed a monster buck (8- to 10-points are the norm) almost every year since she was 12.

I, on the other hand, grew up in a family where my father hunted church prospects instead of deer. We shot baskets instead of rifles. We pulled pranks, not triggers.

In trying to assert myself as "one of the family" I tried deer hunting for the first time two years ago. I failed miserably.

Callie's dad took me out to shoot the rifle a few weeks before the big hunt. I took the hunter safety course, earned a perfect score on the test, in fact. But carrying and shooting a gun was foreign to me, almost like a wearing a wedding ring for the first time. I looked down at the thing and wondered what the heck I'd gotten myself into.

Keith, the patient and accommodating father-in-law, gave me all sorts of tips (on hunting, not marriage.) Keith guided me to not one, but two opportunities to kill a good-sized buck. I choked big time. I rushed. I panicked, missed wide left somehow like slamming the game-winning uncontested layup off the side of the backboard.

But I'm going to give it another shot this year. Maybe my jitters will go away. Maybe I won't see another one. But then again, Callie's giving up her lucky spot just for me, bless her deer-killin' heart.

Which, of course, means more pressure not to screw up.

But if I do bag the big one, maybe I'll see why she loves the sport so. Or maybe I'll just wonder why such a girly girl would want to spend several cold hours in the early morning waiting to shoot an animal. That's one thing about Cal. She always keeps me guessing.

SHE SAID: I feel a bit like I've come out of the closet or something.

I've never really volunteered information about my passion for hunting since moving to Cape Girardeau.

My dad always teases me about not displaying photos of myself with dead deer on my desk at work. I tell him there's no reason to subject co-workers to that. It's not a pretty picture to those who don't participate.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that people who grew up with concrete sidewalks, malls and fast food could possibly understand such a connection to nature.

Hunting is a difficult subject to discuss with people who question the ethics of such a violent pastime. "Harvesting the surplus" is my usual standby, an explanation I haven't forgotten since my own hunter's safety course over a decade ago.

But the truth is, hunting is just something I grew up doing. First as a chattering little girl tagging along behind a dad who was constantly "shooshing" me and then by myself when I was older.

Sometimes I think I've outgrown it. After all, I'm a "city girl" now by Van Buren standards. But then the first of November rolls around and I find myself excited at the prospect of propping up beneath a tree and watching the sun come up over a Carter County hill.

Could I do that without a gun across my lap? Sure.

But the fact that I don't makes me think there will always be a little bit of that wild country girl inside me, no matter how large a city I live in.

My dad can be proud.

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