On the morning of December 24, my husband, Arden, and I woke up to make a morning hunt. He didn’t want to go because the wind was blowing in all directions, which is not good for hunting deer. And the morning before he harvested a buck. He asked me if I wanted to go. I, of course, confirmed—so he crawled out of bed. Then he asked if I wanted to bring the dogs, which we sometimes do, because they are like our children and come almost everywhere with us. I said no.
Arden and I headed out with the little flat-bottom boat. When we arrived at the area we hunted the day before, we tied the boat to a tree and went into the woods. I didn’t want to walk too far … sometimes we walk for miles in the swamp. We have to crawl over downed trees and sometimes walk in water over our knees. This morning I didn’t want to walk far, so we set out with our rifles, hunting bags and my little chair.
We set up in an area that was open, which didn’t happen too often, where we could see nearly 100 yards in all directions. Most of the time it’s so thick that seeing 30 yards in one direction is good. I set up with the wind in my face, leaning my chair on a tree, with Arden sitting on the ground next to me near another tree. It wasn’t long before I heard some noise behind me, so I looked over my shoulder. It was a squirrel, of course. Arden saw the squirrel, too. It played in one spot long enough that I got used to the noise and stopped looking in that direction.
I suddenly heard shuffling of the leaves, a little louder than before. I still thought it was the squirrel, so I didn’t look. Then the strangest thing happened: I heard someone call, “Ms. Kaye.” I spoke in my regular voice and said, “What in the world?” and I stood up so I could see in the direction of the voice. Arden looked at me. “Shush.” Still in my regular voice, I said to Arden, “There’s a deer.” Nearly forgetting that I was hunting, I began shuffling and making all kinds of noise.
The deer continued going about its business in no hurry, paying no attention to either me or all the noise I was making. When the deer went behind a tree, I picked up my rifle and waited for it to step out. Arden was urging me to shoot the entire time it took all he had to not shoot the buck himself. I thanked him for waiting for me to shoot after it was over. The buck stepped out from behind the tree and just looked in our general direction. I was caught up in the moment and took the shot a second later. The deer ran 50 yards and quickly tipped over.
I started crying and shaking. I couldn’t talk, and Arden didn’t know what was going on with me. Finally, I was able to calm down and tell him what had just happened to me. “I heard ‘Ms. Kaye,’” I told him. “That’s what my dad—and only my dad—would call me.” It had been 6½ years since I heard that voice, and I took it as a clear sign he was still watching over me. And, you see, Dad would let me open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve. That was his present to me. Thank you, Daddy.
Six years after her father’s passing, the author felt his presence stronger than ever as she killed the biggest whitetail of her hunting career.