Tiffany Atley says family is why she loves to hunt

By Tiffany Atley

Whenever hunting is mentioned I immediately envision hundreds of memories spent in the field with my dad, brothers, mom, stepdad, and stepbrothers.

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My first memories of hunting don’t even involve carrying a gun. I remember rising early on Saturday morning on the weekends my dad had visitation and loading up his energetic beagles for a morning of chasing rabbits. As the youngest of three and the only girl, what choice did I have but to go along? I suppose I could have stayed with Grandma, but most Saturdays I chose to go.

My oldest brother would help me layer on clothes and soon we were on our way. I loved the fresh, crisp winter air, the enthusiasm of the beagles, and watching the pursuit of a rabbit through the snow.

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Deer hunting is my stepdad’s favorite season and soon my mom was in the field too. We had a small house in Morgan County, Ohio and I spent many deer gun weeks with my stepdad, mom, brothers and two stepbrothers. We would spend the day piling in the truck and driving to different places to make drives.

As the youngest and least experienced, I was always placed on the standing position, usually with my mom or stepdad, and later with my brothers. While we waited for the drivers to push deer to us, we would whisper about any topic that came to mind. Sometimes it would be about the outdoors, types of trees, what kind of habitat deer and other animals needed; other times we would talk about what was going on in school and my friends.

I think in my teen years I enjoyed the conversation and one on one time with my mom and stepdad as much as being in the field and part of the family. In fact, although I went deer hunting on and off since I was about 12, I never shot a deer until I was 19. I recall several distinct opportunities to shoot a deer, but for one reason or another I never pulled the trigger. Once I had a doe about 50 yards in front of me and my stepdad was whispering to shoot, but I just stared down the barrel at her until she trotted away. Another time I had a large buck only 40 yards in front of me, and again I stared down my sights at his chest until he spooked and ran off.

I have often asked myself why I never shot the deer. I think in the beginning I was fascinated with their grace and beauty. I truly enjoyed watching them so close to me. Later I struggled with whether I felt hunting was “right”. I knew how my family felt about hunting, but it wasn’t until I read a Laura Ingalls book that I realized that hunting is very similar to harvesting a garden. When we plant vegetables, we harvest them just prior to them being fully ready, just before they would begin to die. The same is true of hunting. Hunters are harvesting the animals before they die and therefore are putting the harvest to good use feeding their families or donating to shelters.

In the last few years I have come to cherish hunting as the time I get to spend with my family, especially my brothers. Often siblings grow apart after they graduate high school and begin a new part of their lives. But I think hunting has kept us close. My brothers and I love to meet at dad’s house for an early breakfast before going out to hunt. I enjoy just talking to them in the truck on the way to a local farm and as we crunch through the morning’s frost.

Hunting has played an important role in who I am. Without hunting, I know I would have missed out on a lot of special memories. Of course, many of those memories are now the butt end of jokes and “remember that time when Tiffany …” that I could do without. There are just as many embarrassing moments that involve my brothers and I can tease them because I was there. Sometimes when we get going about “Deer hunting 2005” and other hunting memories and our friends look at us like we’re crazy, we just tell them you had to be there.

So be there. Make your own memories. Take your wife, girlfriend, sister, mom and any other female in your life and go rabbit, pheasant, deer, or turkey hunting. Take her fishing, camping and hiking.

If you were reading closely, you may have noticed I never mentioned how many deer I have shot over the years, or how many times I filled the bag limit on rabbit or pheasant, because that’s not what I enjoy most about hunting. What I love most about hunting us making memories with my family, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

While only in her mid-twenties, Tiffany Atley has been outdoors since a very young age. In addition to hunting, she enjoys recreational target shooting and occasionally shoots at local club events for pleasure. Atley is featured on the cover of the Ohio Hunter Education manual, on page 22 of the 2005 - 2006 Hunting Regulation book, and has appeared in the Ohio Magazine in an article on turkey hunting.

Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Steve Buehrer and the overwhelming support of the Ohio legislature for House Bill 296, there will be thousands more family memories made in the Ohio outdoors in the coming years.

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