Hunting Mom

An article from WWA’s Doctor’s Orders

By Dr. K.C. Brooks, an avid waterfowler, dog lover and practicing veterinarian at Lodi Veterinary Care.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s November, 2019 eNewsletter.

Thank you to Wisconsin Northeast Region DNR staff for photos of Wisconsin’s hunting moms!

In a previous column I mentioned that I was blessed to have parents who introduced me to hunting at a young age.  They also gave me appropriate guidance and mentoring. This resulted in a life-long passion for hunting.   For many youth, an introduction to hunting and the outdoors comes from a male family figure such as a father, grandfather, uncle or brother.  I was lucky enough to have all of that, but in addition to them, I had my mom.  While many mothers support their children’s outdoor adventures, my mother went one step beyond that to actually join us in the duck marsh, deer stand, and turkey blind.

WDNR Conservation Warden Cara Kamke turkey hunting with son Xander

I suspect the whole story starts like many relationships.  My mother was a true city girl whose only real outdoor experience was a couple of summer camps and an occasional fishing outing with my grandpa.  When she fell in love with my father, a man who spent more time fishing, hunting, and camping then he did indoors, she became an active participant in those same activities.  I suspect those first hunting trips were more about spending time together versus a passion for the sport.  I experienced similar outings with my wife when we were dating, and they ended shortly after the first bitter cold morning in the duck blind!  For some reason my mom was different and I am one lucky son because she was.

Denise Goetsch (wife of Byron Goetsch, retired WDNR Regional Conservation Warden) out with her son Ryan and dog Izzy

Throughout my childhood, mom was an active participant in deer hunting only.  The rigors of raising five children and having a full time career as a teacher probably left little time for early mornings in a duck blind or hours of working cover on a pheasant hunt.  In fact, I suspect she secretly enjoyed the fact that we were “out of her way” for a few hours.  While not an active participant in the hunts, she was always very supportive of us spending time in the outdoors and more than willing to turn our harvest into a meal (once the fur and feathers were removed by us).  As I grew older, she was also willing to allow us to do the preparing of food.  This ultimately would lead to a passion for cooking which piggy-backs nicely with a passion for hunting and gathering.

When deer season arrived, mom became an active participant in the tradition.  She was up early and on her stand well before daylight.  She was incredibly patient and often returned with stories of close encounters with deer, squirrels, and birds.  While she seldom fired her gun, her example of patience and being more about the hunt than the harvest was the perfect example for a young child.

Samantha Jahnke, & Anne Jahnke hunting Columbia County Nov. 2009

Once the children left the nest, mom became a regular in the duck blind.  For many years she joined my father almost every morning of the duck season in a favorite blind on Green Lake.  They would rise early, make a short drive to the lake, throw out several dozen hand-made wooden diver decoys and then she would take her place in the blind next to dad.  Starting in 1989, she made the annual trek with the family to east-central Saskatchewan to hunt snow geese and ducks.  I remember vividly one of our first field hunts where we laid in wheat stubble watching thousands of mallards buzz our decoys.  Instead of firing a volley of shots, she and I just stayed still and actually broke into laughter over the incredible sight of so many ducks.

A few years later, she was a part of my favorite waterfowl memory.  It was the 1990’s and my mother was in the boat along with dad, my dog Brodie and me.  It was the kind of day waterfowlers dream of.  There was a stiff breeze from the northwest, overcast skies, intermittent snow flurries, and lots of ducks.  We were set up for divers.  They were everywhere.  We were being very selective in our shots but in a short period of time I shot my share of ducks.  I decided to retire my gun and focus on working Brodie.  Not too long after that dad also stopped shooting, leaving mom to fill the remainder of our limit.  It was a magnificent day.  Brodie was in her prime, retrieving every duck that fell but staying steady as a rock.  Most importantly, I was spending the entire day with my aging parents creating a lasting memory over duck decoys.  Eventually, a pair of Butter Balls sped downwind past our decoys, made a wide swing and fully committed into our decoys.  Mom fired her gun and one of the birds stayed belly up in the decoys.  Brodie took her command and promptly delivered the bird to hand.  I was preparing for the next flight when my mom broke the silence with words that I will never forget.  She simply said, “I think we need to go, because I am out of shells!”

Jean Romback Bartels, WDNR Secretaries Director for NE Region with her cat in the deer blind

Mom continued to make the trip to Saskatchewan hunting alongside us into her late eighties.  Once she decided to quit shooting, she still made the trip to be with her family to enjoy the hunt.  She was in a layout blind watching snow geese circle at age 90.  I would like to say that she was an exceptional shot, but she probably was not.    I never heard her blow a duck call and I can’t remember her harvesting a banded bird.  I lost my mom last November at age 93 and this duck season while be bittersweet because of her passing.  She not only allowed me to become an avid hunter, she shared that with me.  When I climb in the blind with Jojo this fall, we won’t really be alone because her spirit will be there with me.  I can only hope that we have one of those days where I turn to Jojo and say, “I think we need to go, because I am out of shells.”.  Enjoy your hunt!