Almost a decade ago I began receiving semi-regular dispatches from a junior hunter who loved spending time in the woods.
Come spring, she’d bag a turkey, and send along the photos to prove it. In the fall, she’d typically fill her deer tag, and write the details of her successful hunt and email it along.
The first email I remember receiving was back in October of 2003, and the young hunter, Holly Hughes of Corinna, had already had more success than some hunters I know … like me.
“Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to bag a 120-pound crotch–horn buck,” Holly wrote back then. “I’m 12 years old and this is my third deer since I started hunting in 2001.”
The message appeared on deer-themed email stationery, and was signed, as was every message she sent over the years, “Your outdoor friend, Holly Hughes.”
I got a kick out of that, and eventually met her at a sporting expo, where she walked up and introduced herself as “your outdoor friend.”
For awhile, Holly’s “your outdoor friend” emails showed up regularly. Eventually they stopped. And to be honest, I didn’t really notice. Other avid young hunters filled the void, shared their tales, and told me how much they enjoyed spending time outdoors.
Earlier this week, though, I was pleasantly surprised to receive another email from Holly. She’s not a kid any more. But the Youth Deer Day stories we published resonated with her, and she decided it was time to check in again.
Here’s what she wrote:
“I guess you probably thought you would never hear from me again. It has been several years since I last had correspondence with you,” she wrote. “In fact it has been seven years(I am now 22 years old!) You would lead off in your article about this time of year how you could always count on having from a young girl from Corinna, Maine, who would share another hunting adventure and would always sign off [as] ‘your outdoor friend, Holly Hughes.’.
“Yes, this is Holly and after reading your article in the Bangor Daily News I couldn’t resist your request for Youth Hunting Adventures/stories. Obviously I’m not writing to share one of those stories, but to encourage our youth to share the events and memories of the hunt.
“Hunting continued to be a tradition in my family. I can remember every hunt with my Dad and sharing those events with you at the Sportsman Show. I will always continue to participate in this wonderful sport. I am looking forward to this deer season to top off the buck I harvested my first day out last season.
“Again, this is not about me but passing on the tradition and encouraging today’s youth to participate in hunting and sharing their stories with you for others to enjoy reading and observing the pictures. (Brings back memories)
“Trust me, there will be more memories to come.’Best of luck’ to all of those youth hunters for the 2013 deer season … be safe.
“Your Outdoor Friend”
As you might imagine, receiving that email after a seven-year hiatus made my day. And it gives me a perfect leaping off spot to reiterate the point Holly makes: We’re interested in your deer stories. We want to see your deer photos. And since parents are typically the ones who read this space, here’s a challenge: Use your child’s successful hunt as an educational tool.
A successful hunt can be an ideal writing prompt; ask your child if they want to write their own tale for submission to the BDN. Then email those tales (and photos) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow John Holyoke on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke