This fall has been one of firsts. And that is a good thing when you are 63 years old. And the irony is that one “first” led to a second “first” and that steered us toward a third “first.” Indeed one could say it has been a very “firsty fall.”

First. I killed a whitetail buck with my new takedown Hoyt recurve bow. I had never shot a deer with a bow and arrow.

Let’s back up a moment. Back in the late 60s I had a Shakespeare Necedah recurve bow made from laminated pieces of lovely wood. Like a wood canoe paddle, wood bows have soul.

I bow hunted for deer in high school and again after college for a few years. Marriage, two young daughters and a black lab all required my time so I chose to be a husband, dad and bird hunter. I continued to hunt deer with a firearm and managed to put venison on the table on a regular basis. Archery took too much time so my old bow was stowed on a shelf in the workshop.

Fast forward to a different marriage, daughters matured into adults and married,  and three black labs later.

A year ago, Miss Nancy, my lovely lady, vented frustration when she discovered that deer were making trips into her garden sites and food forest. She is a devoted disciple of permaculture practices and at this point in the development of her food production, deer are not in the formula.

Venomously she spat, “It makes me want to hunt deer!”

Hunting is not foreign to Nancy. Her father, at age 88 just completed another fall on the deer stand. He is an ardent hunter and angler and two years ago, I had the privilege to help him bag his first mature turkey gobbler. Nancy’s mother has shot her share of deer so even though Miss Nancy has never hunted, the hunting gene has always been present. She runs on the protective side and when I first met her she would catch any spider that was scrawling across the floor and release it outside.

Over the winter, I suggested that Nancy consider buying a compound bow and take up archery. I felt she would enjoy the practice and focus of simply shooting at a target and that maybe she would even enjoy archery hunting for a deer. She agreed so last February we went to Full Draw Archery, owned by a neighbor, Willy Lines.

Not only was Willy enthusiastic and helpful in guiding Nancy towards a bow and a pink camouflage trigger release, but also I decided to upgrade and buy a new recurve.


Now I am old enough to qualify for a modern crossbow complete with a trigger and scope, but the thought of that or even using a compound with sights and a trigger release wasn’t attractive to me. I like the archery challenge of instinctive shooting without aids like scopes, sights, and triggers.

Willy, the most skillful archery shot I know, gently tried to convince me that I would likely be more successful in killing a deer if I bought a compound bow. He said, “Tom, I’ll admit I’m using training wheels (the cams on a compound bow), a sight, and a trigger. And I would really like to shoot a deer with a recurve bow, but I guarantee I’m more effective at killing and minimizing wounding a deer with the compound bow.”

I nodded, smiled and bought the takedown bow. He knew I would.

Nancy and I took our bows north to the Yukon Territory for the summer where we shot 4-5 times a week into expensive hay bales that we bought at the Whitehorse Feed Store and Pet Junction. (Three bales of hay in this boreal neck of Canada cost us forty-two dollars!)

Once Nancy became consistent in placing a good grouping of arrows, she asked, “What if I cry if I shoot a deer?

My quick response is that every hunter who kills any game animal should feel regret over the act of intentional murder. I shared that I have shed an occasional tear when I walked up to a dead buck. It’s a huge responsibility to understand that you were the murderer and thief who just stole a life.

I told her, “The day I don’t feel any remorse in killing game is the day I need to question my hunting.”

We both are keen on hunting because it is a way to provide healthy meat to our table. We spend less than $100 per year on grocery store meat. Admittedly in farm country the venison I put on the table is augmented with genetically modified corn and beans that has been sprayed with herbicides so I can’t call it organic. But it is free range, free of antibiotics, and wild meat.

So when I shot the buck in early November, it was beginning to get chillier and chillier sitting on the deer stand. The cold was hard for me, and really difficult for my lean wife. So she suggested on the morning that we were out, that we use her tag on the deer. That way I could still go out when and where I wanted to hunt in the state.

As I gutted out the deer, I set the heart and liver to the side to take home. We always have a ritual of eating heart steaks with scrambled eggs blended in with veggies the morning following the kill.

As for the liver, we usually cut the lobes into meal-sized portions and freeze them. But this year Nancy tried something different in delivering my final “first.” She rendered most of the liver into pâté.

The result was a resounding treat! I am submitting her recipe as she delivered it to our west coast kids via email.

“I just made a large mess in the kitchen trying something new: venison liver pate  (imagine the little accent marks that make that word pah-tay).

It was an overnight adventure (soak liver chunks in buttermilk overnight), an olfactory adventure (mortar-and-pestle juniper berries and cardamom pods, add fresh rosemary and thyme, then cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), an auditory adventure (sizzling onions, garlic, and spices with the liver chunks, then run it all through the roaring food processor). But most of all, it was a WORKOUT.

Because once you have this lovely fragrant puree you need to squish it all through a sieve so that the final version has no little bits of rosemary stem or cardamom you didn’t pulverize enough. With one break, that squishing took TWO HOURS.  That’s a lot of work for 4 sweet little jars of pate all labeled and in the freezer.

The last cup or so of stuff had all the little bits in it, and my arms were tired from spatula-ing it through the sieve, so I decided to have that portion be part of my dinner tonight and tomorrow. Done.

I think I’d do it again, but I’d make sure Tom was home instead of at deer camp and we could take turns pushing it through the sieve while drinking wine and reading to each other. That would be better.”

So with the late November landscape of snow and cold, I am lucky to last one to two hours in a deer stand. But with visions of additional “sweet little jars” of pate, how can I not persist?

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