My Forever Hunting Partner

de502849-f7d8-40a6-9f74-b6c57dafa422

When “I do” gets you something more than just a spouse

By Jenny Prenosil

Working through a pheasant field, I match pace with my hunting partner as we follow an eager black Lab. Anticipating the flush of a rooster, I scan the field before me. In an instant, our dog’s tail starts zipping in circles and he turns on a dime. I look over at my hunting partner who is already zeroing in on where the dog is focused.

“He’s birdy, get ready!” he shouts to me. I move in that direction, finger sliding toward the shotgun’s safety.

“Get it!” he shouts, which signals the dog to jump into the bunched switchgrass. A rooster flushes and a shot rings from my right as the cackle stops. I can’t tell who is happier, the dog or my husband. Both locate the bird at roughly the same time, both showing the same excitement as if it were their first. He holds up the rooster, praising our dog and then tucking the bird into his vest. Determined to find another bird, we march on.

Erik’s passion for the outdoors was one of the qualities that attracted me to him in the first place. Life forever changed the moment we sat down together on that first turkey hunt, realizing we enjoyed being each other’s hunting partner. 

Knives, fishing poles and camo replaced the traditional chocolates and flowers in those early years, and dates became trips to the field. Even the engagement ring sat at the end of a barrel of a shiny rifle, and our baby announcement featured our bird dog. But these moments are not the only treasured memories.

Photo by Jenny Prenosil

Many of the adventures that I’ve enjoyed are because I found someone willing to mentor and grow with me in pursuing new challenges in the field. Erik has shared in my mixed emotions that occur as you grow as a hunter: anticipation, frustration, excitement. Together we have experienced beautiful landscapes and pursued a variety of game, many of which were firsts for both of us. We mentor and encourage each other. 

Seeing the sunrise on the water or watching the sunset on the prairies can only get better with a loved one.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get you a bird” he says to me, sensing my frustrations at a missed shot. “That flush is exciting isn’t it?”

Jokingly he tells me I need to learn to shoot quicker than him, and I try to hide a smirk. At least the rooster didn’t get away.

Before Erik I hadn’t given upland hunting much thought. I came from a family of deer hunters. Although we would pursue other game, Erik talked about walking fields for birds and how awesome it was. So we walked fields. Then he would talk about how we needed a dog. The uplands started to grow on me with each invite out … and learning to be quick on the trigger.

Eventually we decided on getting and training a puppy. Seeing our combined efforts come together with an exhilarated husband and dog on wild birds made it all click for me: This IS awesome! Now the shotguns are always packed for every outing.

Erik and I enjoy hunting together, but sometimes we need to cover more ground. A quick kiss or a “good luck!” seem to be the ritual way of separating. 

Today that means I walk in the bottom of the draw as he covers the sidehill. Few words need to be spoken to communicate across the space. Hank gets birdy again while working through the field between us. In sync we both move toward the dog. A single rooster flushes perfectly in front of Erik, who shoulders his gun and fires. Hank zeros in on the downed bird.

“Good boy! Bring it here!” I can’t help but laugh as I see the excitement Erik gets watching Hank retrieve the rooster. 

I used to become jealous when Erik would harvest something and I didn’t, but not nearly as much anymore. Just as he shared in my stresses and excitement in our early pursuits together (and still does), I too share in his ups and downs by feeling the same emotions he is experiencing. 

Photo by Jenny Prenosil

We encourage each other to get outdoors, whether it’s with each other, on our own, or with others. His thrill of harvesting that rooster is contagious, and my mind shifts to how we will prepare it in the kitchen and enjoy it later. We won’t be going home empty-handed today. We nod to each other and continue following a proud black Lab.

While we continue to become excited planning our next pursuits together, the biggest adventure is about to unfold. 

We both look forward to the day our son Ryan can join us. We will grow from hunting partners to a hunting party. We’ll share in his excitement of pulling up on his first rooster using the hand-me-down single-shot .410, the thrill of his first successful harvest, and the reward of filling the kitchen with the resulting savory smells later. 

Together as a family we will share in his emotions as Erik and I have shared in each other’s.

Circling the field back to the truck, Hank sniffs every bunch of grass, looking for one more bird. We admire the roosters decorating the tailgate as the sun sets on the horizon. As Erik calls the dog to load up, I can’t help but sneak a glance at my husband. 

This is my forever hunting partner. The person who has shared in the intimate experiences that come from pursuing game in the field. It is the laughs, tears and shared emotions which strengthen us and our relationship. In these outdoor moments I can’t help but smile and be grateful for the journey we share together.
 

Jenny Prenosil is a coordinating wildlife biologist for Pheasants Forever. She, Erik, Ryan and Hank live the outdoor lifestyle from their home in Lincoln, Nebraska.
 

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to the the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!