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Embracing the Lifestyle

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October flew by way too fast; it always does.

But this year illness – Fischer first and me next – robbed me of two weekends (with gorgeous weather I might add).

And with a promise to "guide" my brother’s archery hunt the following weekend and Old Man Winter arriving for the last one, I found myself in the field hunting just four times.

It wasn’t that long ago that I boasted about spending 21 days afield in October.

And with Scott drawing a mule deer buck tag in the badlands, the focus of the upcoming deer season is understandably and happily on him.

I spent a lot of October bummed about this.

Some of it admittedly coming from a place of self-pity, but much of it also coming from feeling lost again.

Motherhood has come with many highs and lows, and I thought I was through the thick of the latter, but now that hunting season is in full swing I’m forced to accept the realities of this "season" of life and make the sacrifices I knew were coming.

Hardest of all, is just learning who this new version of me is and how to find joy, pride and gratitude in different ways.

To be honest, I know a part of me will always reminisce on the freedom that existed pre-Fisch.

If only I appreciated it more at the time.

But as I scroll through my photos in search of what to write about this month, there is plenty.

And I will try to be prouder of simply being a mom and raising Fischer to embrace the outdoor lifestyle, even if that doesn’t always equate to me harvesting game.

October 3

I cooked venison shanks, potatoes, onions and carrots in the crockpot all day.

Per usual, I rushed around the kitchen trying to put dishes away, prepare dinner and feed Fischer intermittently between tasks.

Fischer eating venison

I was shredding the meat to put back in for a few minutes when I thought, this is probably soft enough for him to eat, so I tossed a chunk on his highchair tray.

He grabbed it with his little fist and clumsily got it into his mouth.

He looked puzzled at first and then it was gone, and he squealed for more.

I set down piece after piece and they continued to disappear until I was concerned there might not be enough left for me and Scott.

I’ve always been proud to almost exclusively eat wild game in our house but having it come full circle in this way was unexpectedly rewarding.

Since then, our little meat eater has had pheasant, caribou, pronghorn, turkey and northern pike.

October 4

After much debate I decided to get a pronghorn doe tag on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

I knew I didn’t have much time, if any, to devote to it, but I had a few starting points from hunting there last year and the meat is just so delicious.

I figured if I did get one, then I really didn’t need to fill my doe tag and we could solely focus on Scott’s mule deer.

Casey and Cayla with Cayla's pronghorn

Casey Anderson, Game and Fish wildlife division chief and my NDO podcast co-host, said if I did get a tag, he’d get one too.

We scheduled a weekday to hunt together.

I did daycare drop-off, but Scott had pick-up duty.

Casey and I enjoyed a gorgeous fall day, chatting about life and sharing hunting stories as we tried to spot some pronghorns.

He commented that it’s nice to hunt with someone new because you haven’t heard all their stories before.

A story for another time, I was able to fill my tag that day, and Casey (who graciously let me go first), came really darn close.

But honestly, the best parts of the day were just the laughs in the pursuit, particularly when I confidently exclaimed that the strange object in my binoculars was a "giant puffball mushroom with a bird eating it" that turned out to be a rather large hawk.

Because I probably wouldn’t have gotten the tag (let alone filled it) without Casey, and I knew how much the Anderson household loved pronghorn meat, I happily gifted him a backstrap and a quarter.

Rumor has it, one of his sons has promised me a hug the next time I see him.

October 25

My brother drew his second nonresident any deer bow tag and after missing more work than I’d like, all I could offer him was the Saturday afternoon he arrived and the following Sunday while grandma babysat.

We started in the area he was successful last time, but our glassing proved fruitless, aside from a bull elk, which was neat.

Despite my sickness still lingering, it felt good to be out west again and sleep in the Kelty, which reminded me we needed to make more time for this in the future.

Fischer with his uncle showing him the antlers from his deer

We left my brother that Sunday on top of a butte, wishing him good luck and told him to keep an eye on the weather.

I suggested an alternative spot with better road access as rain and then snow was forecasted to move in that week.

But I grew worried as the storm potential worsened, I told him he may want to get out of there by Tuesday night, but he was seeing deer and I know my brother too well to think he’d leave his tag unfilled.

I went to work Wednesday expecting him to be at our house by the time I got home but he wasn’t.

Not known for his communication skills, I thought maybe he simply kept heading home to beat the storm.

But at around 5 p.m.

I got a text that said, "Just getting on I-94," I responded "Deer?" and he simply said "Yes."

To nobody’s surprise he walked in just before Fischer’s bedtime with a dandy mule deer rack.

Fischer has a pretty cool uncle, and middle namesake to live up to.

October 28

I’m usually not one to complain about snow for improving pheasant hunting conditions and scaring off those unwilling to plow through the drifts.

But with the October we’d been dealt, little Fischer hadn’t even gotten to enjoy a nice weather pheasant hunt, but while we’re adamant about bringing him, we aren’t entirely sure at what temperature is no longer safe.

But if he’s going to grow up in North Dakota, he can’t shy away from the 20s or he’ll be inside half the year at this rate.

So, we bundled him up, much like Randy Parker in a "Christmas Story," and stuffed him in his pack, willing to call it quits if things headed south.

And to our surprise, after the initial bundling and pack stuffing, he was a trooper all day.

Me? Not so much.

Scott can attest that I was one to complain that day, I just couldn’t believe the conditions were already this bad in October, especially after a season like last year.

And even more disappointing, for all our effort, we really didn’t see many birds.

On a pouty plow back to the truck, Finley went on point in some bushes.

In a mood, I drug my feet up the hill assuming the bird would likely flush before I got up there, flying out the wrong side, or I’d miss.

But we approached and Scott said, "I can see its tail, I think Fins is going to get it," but just then it flushed and started to fly over the bushes when my shot crumpled it.

Pretty much the quickest way to turn my mood around.

Fisch obliged to a few photos before warming back up in the truck.

Fischer held by Cayla looking at a harvested pheasant

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