Hunting & Heritage  |  05/05/2022

Raising a Hunter When You Aren’t One


By Emily Spolyar

On Mother’s Day, an appreciation of the trials and tribulations one mom cheerfully went through to support her daughter’s passion

My mom didn’t teach me to hunt, but she’s the reason I’m a hunter.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person whose compassion, empathy, and generosity runs deeper than my mom’s. She’s the queen of putting others’ needs and interests before her own, so when I wanted to get into hunting and she didn’t have the slightest clue why, she did everything right to encourage me- without knowing a single thing about it.

She didn’t tell me I wouldn’t fit in. She didn’t question my capabilities. And she didn’t complain (too much) when I processed deer, birds, and other critters in her kitchen. Although I know there were times she vehemently hoped it was just a phase, she still supported me to the best of her ability.

I remember the first time I went deer hunting; my mom came with me after learning I had neglected to get a safety harness for my tree stand. At the time, I was spitting mad listening to her brightly colored snow pants swish with every. single. step. I had carefully selected my camouflage and laid out my plan, which sure didn’t include my mom posted at the base of my tree stand in case she needed to catch me.

Most the time, however, her support didn’t include being out in the field with me, despite my endless invitations. Instead, her support came in other forms, mostly through patience and forgiveness.

She forgave me for the times I faltered, like when I accidentally fed her parasite-infested fish (discovered halfway through the meal). Or the time my first bird dog chewed through 7 of the 8 seatbelts in her van, which cost more to replace than what the van was worth. Or when I threw carcasses away in her trash can a week before garbage pickup and by the time it came around, the dumpster was crawling with maggots. She even pushed aside her “what will the neighbors think?!” embarrassment from me hanging deer in our garage and raising pheasants in our back yard to use for dog training.

Now when I send her pictures of my outdoor adventures and she mistakes snow geese for seagulls, or northern pike for eel, or when I have to preface trophy pictures with “this is a big deal” to let her know what an appropriate response would be, I no longer get discouraged wishing I had people in my family who get it. Instead, I laugh and my appreciation grows deeper for what she’s gone through to support me in doing something she doesn’t understand.

My mom might not have taught me how to fillet a fish or blow a duck call, but she did teach me to be fiercely independent, to break down boundaries, and she never discouraged me from trying new things. In the end, that was all I needed. So for that — and so much more — thank you, Mom.

Emily Spolyar is North Dakota Precision Ag and Conservation Specialist for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.