Carl Huskey changed hunting partners. It wasn't that he didn't like the other guy, he just found someone more suitable, more his type. He and his new partner plan to hunt together for a lifetime. Carl's new hunting partner is his wife.
"It wasn't like I put that on my grocery list," Carl explains. "She's got to be able to hunt before I'll settle down with her. But I really thought it was a neat idea."
"It's worked out real well," his wife Kathy agrees.
The Huskeys live in New Bloomfield. Their relationship started with a touch of romance-Carl sending her a bouquet of flowers anonymously at the hospital where they both worked. Their romance was even involved in their decision to hunt together. "We were romancing pretty hard and were involved in just about every aspect of our lives, so hunting became a part of the package," Carl says.
Kathy began to read some of the deer hunting magazines Carl had around the house, and she liked to hike along on Carl's scouting trips. "I enjoyed her company," Carl says.
"From the hunting advantage though, two heads are better than one. She remembers things that I might not and vice versa."
Kathy had been squirrel and dove hunting with her Dad and was an experienced target shooter by the time she met Carl. But it was after he harvested a big nine-pointer in 1992 that Kathy caught deer fever. "He had a nice buck and it was just inspiring. I thought, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'"
And she did. Ironically her favorite hunting partner had to work the day Kathy shot, field dressed and dragged a seven-point buck all the way up a ravine. She called and left a message for Carl from a neighbor's house. Carl didn't waste time. "I jumped in the car and took off like a bolt of lightning. I had to go and check this out."
He was impressed with her deer, maybe a little more than impressed. Kathy explains, "Of course all I heard was 'You got my deer, you got my deer' because he didn't get one that year." Carl and Kathy agree that a competitive streak runs through both of them. Sounds like most other hunting partners in the world.
There are other challenges involved in the wedded hunt. "He's always ready to get up at 4 in the morning and I'm wanting to sleep until 9. After a week of hunting and getting less and less sleep, I get pretty crabby," says Kathy, "so it's not always . . . "
"Happy-go-lucky," Carl says with a grin.
"No, and there have been times when he got my buck."
The Huskeys take their hunting seriously. They go to hunting seminars and study hunting magazines. They've experimented for several years with scents to attract bucks to their hunting areas. Carl and Kathy usually hunt on a 200-acre tract homesteaded five generations ago in Miller County near Tuscumbia. They have tree stands set at opposite corners of the property and communicate with walkie-talkies.
Growing in their marital relationship and in their hunting interests, Kathy has taken on the challenge of learning to bowhunt while Carl is training their three beagle puppies for rabbit hunting.
Now that Kathy and Carl are primary hunting partners, whatever became of Carl's old partner?
"He keeps trying to get all three of us to hunt together," Carl says.
But after all, in marriage, and maybe even in hunting-three's a crowd.
"We hunt together because it's something we mutually enjoy doing," explains Rich.
"I think a love for the outdoors attracted us to each other in the first place," Sara adds.
Their honeymoon at Bennett Spring reflected common outdoor interests. The couple also has a game room upstairs in their home, perhaps not unlike the one in your home-ping pong table and the like. However "game" has a double meaning here, for the room sports whitetail antlers, turkey tails, compound bows and fishing rods.
Rich is an experienced hunter but Sara initially was not. She went with her father on a few hunting trips during her childhood. But when Rich introduced her to sport shooting, Sara was interested.
On one of their first hunts together, Rich heard a shot just after daylight and was pretty sure it was from Sara's rifle. He got out of his tree stand and headed to where he could see her. She was pointing to the hillside and mouthing the words, "I got my deer."
Rich recalls, "I looked where she was pointing and saw a deer standing there. I thought to myself, 'No you didn't, you missed it.'"
While Sara kept pointing, Rich finally aimed at the deer and shot. When they both met at the site there were two deer to tag. She'd gotten her deer after all, and he got his in the same place.
Sara drives a red ATV and Rich a blue one to cruise through their 80 acres of rolling timber and red clover pasture. Their dogs, Eve and Bosco, race ahead. Sara points out pecan and oak trees they've planted near her deer stand. Rich leads the way to his stand across a rocky creek bed and to the almost opposite corner of the property. They hunt "together" but at safe distances. Safety is a priority for this couple, so much so that Sara serves as a volunteer hunter education instructor.
Sitting on opposite sides of the same tree, Sara and Rich have tried turkey hunting together. "The turkey always comes up on his side," Sara says smiling, "but maybe that's because he's the one who can call."
Even marriages made in heaven have their hunting seasons from hell. Sara recalls a frustrating spring turkey season. "It seemed like every morning we would get up and get dressed and it would start pouring down rain. We'd get undressed and go back to bed."
Then there was the deer season when Sara wounded a deer and Rich helped her track it, cutting into his own hunting time. After they found the deer Rich settled down for the beginning of his hunt the next morning. Sara continues the story, "Our Labrador, Eve, decided her master wasn't going into the woods without her and squeezed through the fence to track him down. As you can imagine, Rich was not thrilled to see Eve come running."
Nor was he thrilled to see her repeat the performance several times that season, each occasion taking a little longer to escape her rewired pen. "Between the dog and me, he didn't have a lot of time out there," Sara says.
They enjoy the benefits of hunting, including savoring tasty venison stew. Sara and Rich process their own meat, but that all started by necessity. "Rich shot a relatively small deer on the last day of the season. He went out of town, and
I found that none of the lockers would take it because they were full. I was left with this deer to do something with. In the end I'd ground up some of the most tender parts!" Sara says.
By the next year they'd done their homework and have been cutting up their own deer ever since. Sara even teaches a class on venison processing at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City each fall.
Who are these couples who head into the field together with loaded firearms? In addition to hunting together, these couples are partners in other outdoor pursuits including hiking and biking.
I once saw a woman wearing a pink sweatshirt printed with the words, "We interrupt this marriage to bring you deer hunting season." From what these two couples have shown us, maybe a marriage doesn't have to be interrupted by hunting. triangle
The hunt itself is only part of the pleasure. The Huskeys enjoy cooking wild game; venison fajitas are the family favorite.
3/4- to 1-pound venison steaks
2 cups sliced onion
1 green bell pepper cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 red bell pepper cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 package of 8-inch flour tortillas
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 bottle commercial fajita marinade
1 tablespoon lime juice
Trim fat from steak. Slice diagonally across grain into 1/4-inch strips. Soak sliced venison in a 1:4 vinegar to water solution for one hour. Rinse until water is clear. Combine steak, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon garlic and marinade in a heavy duty zip-top plastic bag. Seal bag and shake well. Refrigerate for at least two hours (overnight is fine, too).
Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon garlic in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté until crisp and tender. Remove and set aside. Add steak strips and stir fry until almost done. Add 1/2 cup of the marinade and all of the sauteed vegetables and cook until the liquid thickens. (Add corn starch and water mixture if necessary to thicken). Remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Divide mixture evenly among warm tortillas. Garnish with sour cream, grated cheese and salsa. Roll in tortillas and serve.
You should have the area cleaned and have your coolers or refrigerator, processing equipment and packaging materials ready before you bring in your deer.
. . . and keep it in good shape. Don't unnecessarily bruise it while dragging it out. Don't drive around showing it off and don't transport it on the hood of your vehicle.
Try to keep the deer below 40 degrees, even while you are actually processing it. If the outside temperature is warm, quarter the deer immediately and place the sections in coolers on ice or refrigerate them. Wear warm clothes so you can be comfortable in the processing area.
Make sure you sharpen your knives ahead of time. Have a variety of knife sizes on hand.
The area should be clean and all surfaces that contact the meat should be sanitary. We use the waxy side of butcher paper as a working surface and change paper between sessions.
Deer fat has a strong taste. Trim off all of the fat and any damaged meat.
Don't worry about losing small amounts of meat while skinning and trimming off fat and membranes. A commercial processor certainly wouldn't take time to worry about it.
As long as you have the meat stored below 40 degrees, there is no rush. Take time to rest. If you are tired, you may not pay as much attention to knife safety and cleanliness.
Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the different cuts. Don't waste the loins by grinding or tenderizing them. Don't overlook the two steaks inside the body cavity.
Air! If you will be freezing the meat, package it tightly so there is as little air as possible in contact with the meat. Reducing air will reduce freezer burn and extend freezer storage time.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
Assistant Editor - Charlotte Overby
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer