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Nichole's Journey | The Mind, Body, Hunter Connection

Nichole's Journey | The Mind, Body, Hunter Connection

I’m a killer. I just haven’t been the one pulling the trigger. Until now. As a lifelong athlete and personal trainer, I care deeply about quality nutrition. As a lover of the outdoors and the preservation of our beautiful, wild place, I am equally as passionate about sustainability and preservation of our wildlife. I’ve never killed anything before, and frankly, I never thought I would. I spent years, for practical and for moral reasons as a vegetarian.

I even flirted with veganism a few times (I refused to define it as a relationship). Despite my extensive research, varied diet, and supplementation, I still didn’t feel my best. I knew going in that there was no real substitute for meat as a source of iron, B12, D3, zinc, and aminos… and the list goes on.

The more I researched, the more I was convinced that I needed meat in my diet. Hunting checked all the blocks: sustainability, conservation, and nutrition. That was 2015. I had no tools, no background, and I was new to shooting, but I was motivated.

Fast forward to October 2020, and my inaugural hunting trip with the Hunter Recruitment Project.

We were skunked earlier that morning. My hunting mentor, Baker, and I were sitting in the blind with two broken windows. The cool fall air not only chilled me, it gave me away. Three whitetails appeared at the edge of the food plot. The wind blew our scent directly in their path, immediately alerting them to our presence. Baker says whitetails are the jumpiest creatures on the planet. As they were here, they were gone.

It’s around 5pm and we’re waiting in another blind, in the pouring south Georgia rain. I’m over exaggerating my slow movements in the blind, sloth-like, to stay hidden from the skittish whitetails that have to be out there. I move like concrete, alternating between wiping humidity from the windows and creating it with my coffee.

I bit my lip as I scanned the woodline for activity. I was a little irritable and impatient, unsure if I would have another chance before heading back home. As the only female in the group, I’ll admit, there was also a little ego involved. I’m competitive (mostly with myself) and I didn’t want to come home empty-handed after setting a goal that was now, after five years of waiting, finally within reach.

The only thing predictable about nature is its unpredictability.

In the blink of an eye, the rain broke and was replaced with a red sunset. The warm red sky sat in contrast with my to growing irritability. I’m still disgruntled.

"Red sky at night…" I stared out the window to my left for a moment, taking in the sunset as I continued to scan the wood line.

Still nothing but silence and that warm red glow.

I bent down to grab my coffee. Just as my hand set on my thermos, I felt a hard squeeze on my arm.

Then Baker whispered, "Deeeer."

I very slowly released the coffee and shifted my gaze. There she was.

A large doe about 100 or so yards out moving from the wood line to the center of the food plot.

I felt oddly calm. I grabbed my rifle and very quietly chambered a round. Without speaking, Baker and I changed positions as I slid the barrel out the window and propped a knee on the chair behind me.

Baker’s look was intense but I could read his mind: "Take as much time as you need."

I pressed my cheek against the stock. I had received a class on natural point of aim from a SEAL and a Green Beret earlier in the trip. My eyes aligned immediately with my crosshairs and what I knew would be the point of impact, right behind the shoulder. I breathed slowly noting the slight figure 8. My usually busy mind went still.

"Take… your—BANG!"

The blind shook, followed by silence. The lack of hesitation startled us both. Her body disappeared for a moment in a cloud of dust, but there was no doubt in my mind that I had hit my target. Wide-eyed, I lifted my face from the gun.

I’ll never forget Baker’s reaction, like a proud father, springing from his chair, hugging me and throwing high fives. I was overcome with the wildest mix of emotions: pride, excitement, accomplishment, and solemn reverence for the life that I had just taken. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The whole exchange was less than 5 minutes from the time we spotted her to the time I pulled the trigger.

We were losing light. We rushed a few photos and prepped to move her. Years of deadlifts now in practical application as I heaved an animal at least my body weight into the bed of Baker’s truck. I was on a high as we drove back with my doe. I succeeded in putting food on the table and giving back to the land.

I was the only woman amongst 13 men, but at that moment were simply one tribe of hunters. Bottles clanked followed by celebratory sips, still covered in mud, sweat, and dampness from the rain. Stories were being swapped between loud whoops and laughs- high on adrenalin and success.

A few of the guys had just finished loading 2 more does into the truck and Baker hopped down with his hands held up, “close your eyes.” The energy changed and the group quieted down. I knew what was coming. The warm sticky liquid smeared across my face bonded me to this animal making sure I would never forget. My peers nodded with shared pride and respect. I am a full member of this tribe.

I had just closed the gap between the beauty of nature and the necessity of nourishment. There is a price and not a single bite will ever be taken for granted.