Football and Hunting

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By Breanne Thiel, Faces of Hunters blogger. 

Last fall I sat in a football stadium instead of hiking in the backcountry. I switched from being an outdoorsman in the field to being a spectator in the stands. I assumed the role of supportive big sister instead of a hunter. I made these transitions because of my mother’s indirect teachings through her actions. 

My mother is not an avid hunter, but has always been supportive of my decision. When I was 11 and told my parents I wanted to hunt, I wasn’t told I couldn’t because of my gender. However, in adulthood I learned my mother had had mixed feelings about me hunting. For the first couple years my mother accompanied my father and I when we went. Instead of automatically assuming it was a bad idea, she came along to see for herself. 

Today, my mother continues showing support by waking up at three in the morning just to french braid my hair before my father and I go hunting.

Through, my mother’s actions I’ve learned that sometimes being supportive means having to sacrifice something that you want to do. That in order to get support from others, you in turn have to be supportive of them. Being supportive doesn’t mean being there when someone is excelling, but means being there for someone when the going gets tough and knowing when to show up even when you haven’t been asked. And being supportive means being understanding of another’s passions, dreams and goals.

My brother has wanted to play college football for as long as I can remember. One morning while driving to school when my brother was 10, he started asking about college. I was getting tired of his questions as a big sister seven years older than her brother tends to do so I started asking him questions. One question was what he wanted his college major to be.

“Football,” he had answered quickly.

“You can’t major in football,” I replied.

“Yes you can, you can play football in college,” he had fired back at me defensively.

I then explained to him the logistics of college and athletics. The rest of the car ride was filled with silence as he pondered what he had just been told.

breanne_broLast fall was my brother’s senior year playing college football. The first three years I spent more time hunting than spectating. His freshman year, I drew a wild bison bull tag, which is a once in a lifetime tag. His sophomore year I drew a bighorn sheep tag, which took 15 years to draw. His junior year, I went mountain goat hunting with my father, who after 33 years of applying had finally drawn.

For three years I had a mental battle each week over whether to go watch my brother play football or go hunting. Each week I beat myself up because when I was hunting, I wanted to be in the stands supporting my brother and when I was in the stands supporting him, I kept thinking that I should be hunting. I would feel guilty for being here instead of there and it didn’t change when the here and there switched. 

The guilt I felt was self inflected because in the back of my mind I knew the time was nearing when I would no longer be able to watch him play. My brother never made me feel guilty for choosing to go hunting instead of watching him play. 

Football is to my brother what hunting is to me. We understand this about each other.

Last fall my brother needed support as he was closing a chapter in his life. The best way to be there for him was to spend more time in a football stadium than hunting. I needed to support my brother by being in the stands watching him play in person instead of watching on the computer, or hearing how the game went over the phone. I needed to take Fridays off of work because I would need three day weekends since the closest games were 12 hours away. 

Last fall it was my turn to support my brother in his passion because his days as a football player are over, my days enjoying the outdoors as a hunter are not. Next fall I can still enjoy my passion while brother has to find a new way to enjoy his.