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Bonus Report: A Memorial Hunt at the End of the Season

Lisa Armbruster is a hairdresser. She is a beautiful person both inside and out. While she clips my hair, we talk about deep subjects such as divorce, faith in God, and our children. And of course if anyone talks to me long enough, eventually we will talk about hunting.

Last year, Lisa's father, Lendon Mack Koonce, became very ill with cancer. Lisa asked me if I would take her dad hunting. Of course I said yes. But in my delay to wait for nocturnal animals to become more visible, pushing back the hunt date a couple of times, we ran out of time. Mack passed away on November 12, 2012. I will forever regret not making that hunt happen.

Lisa and I planned a hunt together for the following season, in memory of her father. Life and all of its responsibilities threatened to postpone the trip, but finally, with only two days left in the deer and turkey season, we made it happen. On January 4, despite an arctic blast crashing through the Texas Panhandle, we went hunting.

Lisa had gone elk hunting with her father, but that was more than a decade earlier, so the first thing to do was make a trip to the gun range. We started with a single shot 20-gauge. "If the turkeys come in close, we'll use this," I told her. Lisa peppered the turkey target every time at 20 steps. Who knew hairdressers could shoot?

Next, we fired a scoped .243 rifle at close range. "For deer or hogs, we'll use this, "I told my patient student. "Any shot will be close, as the blind we are hunting from is set up for bowhunting." Lisa steadied the rifle on shooting sticks and placed three shots into a space the size of a golf ball near the bull's-eye. She's a natural. We were ready.

The day started with sunshine and light wind, but soon things got ugly. The temperature dropped and the north wind blew a gale. For 1½ hours, Lisa, her husband Jason, and I shivered in a brush blind staring at nothing. After all the anticipation, all the talk of making new memories, was this really the way our hunt would unfold?

At 4:30 p.m., Jason's gloved finger pointed to the north. Four long-bearded Rio Grande gobblers were coming at a slow walk toward the blind. "Get your gun ready," I whispered in Lisa's frozen ear. "I'll tell you when to shoot."

It seemed like a lifetime, but eventually the four cautious gobblers were inside 25 yards. When one of them separated from the others, I told Lisa to get ready. I whistled and got the turkey's head up. Lisa wasted no time and pulled the trigger. The hard-hit tom flopped into a nearby bush. She fired the 20 gauge again and he lay still. I gave my friend a bear hug as tears welled up in both our eyes. Jason was speechless. His wife was a turkey killer!

There was still time in the day, the last best hour, so we retreated back to the blind. Not 30 minutes later, three whitetail does appear 200 yards to the north. Jason was now in the gunner's seat with the .243 rifle. But the sneaky deer went around us. A short time later, they popped out at 60 yards, but behind a screen of brush. When I leaned forward to see if Jason could sneak a bullet through the brush to the biggest doe's chest, she caught the movement. White flags waved good-bye as the trio vanished in the fading light. Bad guiding.

Following a frigid ride in the dark out of the canyon, we finally arrived at ranch headquarters to a warm fire in the hearth. We talked about the day's hunt as if the cold and excitement had happened years ago, not mere hours. Though it was not said, I know my friend was thinking of her dad.

It was not the epic turkey, hog, and deer slaying I had envisioned, but I think it was a memorable time for all nonetheless. It proved once again to me, a hermit and a solo hunter most of the year, that hunting is a sport meant to be shared. And memories are more important than filled tags. Thanks, Lisa, for letting me take you hunting!

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