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Third place winner Shanelle Lounsbury
Schoharie Central High School

Mysterious Nature

As my alarm goes off, I struggle to open my eyes. Because of the fall time change, what used to be daylight has now changed to dark and I'm confused at first. I try to force myself out of bed before I drift back to sleep and put off the day's hunt. I get up at the planned time of 4:30, so I can be out the door and sitting in the woods an hour later, before the sun comes out and the animals wake. Straining to move with the little sleep I've had and stiff joints from hard work the previous day, I manage to put on the camouflage clothing to prepare for the 40 degree weather. I check my pockets and bag one last time, making sure I have my turkey call and all other necessities before I leave. All bundled up, covered from head to toe with no exposed skin for the turkey to notice, I enter into the brisk morning air. The fresh crisp fragrance outside really wakes me up and gives me a boost, as I take a deep breath of the cool air into my lungs. Dissolving away as I exhale, my warm breath makes a white cloud in the cool atmosphere, as it slowly drifts off in the breeze. Looking up I observe the stars straining to shine through the cloudy sky. They manage to poke through, leaving a blur of light.

I load the .20 gauge shotgun with the aid of the dim flood light above my head, feeling the metal barrel and wooden stock. It boggles my mind how such a small object produces such power. This reminds me of the responsibility and capability I have in my hands, and I hope I can put it to good use on this opening day of turkey season, for a clean shot and a prize bird. Throwing the gun over my shoulder, I make my way on the footpath to the dark woods. Remembering to lift my legs higher so that I don't trip, I feel the dampness on my pant legs from the dew on the grass. I keep a steady pace, straining my eyes to avoid any sticks lying in the path. Hearing the running water, I know I'm headed in the right direction, quickly making my way to the little stream. I jump across the water, my boots sinking in the mud, which acts as a suction cup, and I play tug-of-war to win them back so I can proceed. Wiggling my way out, the mud finally releases and I continue quietly up the hill.

After what seems like forever, I eventually make it to where I saw the birds go in the woods to roost. I feel my way around and find a big tree to lean up against and set up comfortably for the long wait. The thick grainy bark supports my back as I rest against its strong base. I prop my knees up, dig my heels into the rich ground, set my gun across my lap, and close my eyes, listening to everything around me. All pressure is lifted off my body, as a peaceful sensation overcomes me, and puts a relaxed smile on my face. I hear the leaves rustle in the breeze and hear the acorns fall to the ground. Feeling so content, sitting there warm and cozy on the inside as the chilly air calmly brushes up against my face, I soak up the moment. The cloudy sky covers the morning sunlight, but soon blows over to reveal the first rays. How beautiful and peaceful it is to sit there watching the rising sun as it comes over the hillside and shines through the leaves. This morning it has a pink vibrant glow and I look on with admiration at this magnificent world we live in. Without a care in the world, I smell the fall aroma and dampness in the air. Looking out into the forest I can now see silhouettes of the giant surrounding trees, making me feel small. The details of the woods become more apparent by the minute as it slowly gets brighter. The glorious colors of the leaves make a collage on the soil, completely covering the ground.

With no warning, a turkey flies down from a nearby tree right toward my direction. I realize I have chosen an ideal location, as I slowly raise my gun. It couldn't have been any better through my scope, as I look deep into the eyes of this bird 20 yards away. The tom looks around and I observe the long beard, deep red head, spurs and glistening black feathers. My adrenaline starts running and my heart starts pounding; my breath seems to be taken right away as I steady my hand and aim. "BANG!"

Once that animal is in my hands, a burst of excitement rushes over me and boosts my ego! The wait has been worthwhile and it's a shame that not everyone has experiences like this. Besides being adventurous, hunting opens my eyes to the appreciation of the creatures around us and makes me respect what they have to offer. It opens up another perspective by developing relationships with the animal, connecting them to their surroundings.

Not many women share my interest in hunting, but I am proud of my differences. For prom I was the first in my school to wear a camouflage dress. Hunting is a passion; a game of patience, acceptance and wisdom. I consider the sport as a privilege and take pride in my skill. I have developed into the character I am today thanks to hunting, and spread this craving onto others. I have been hunting for three years now, and I finally came home with a trophy to show off. My 15 pound turkey and my 9 point buck taught me that, in the end - it's not all about the kill, or the decoration on the wall; it's about the thrill and admiration. It's the great outdoors and beauty that brings me back, as I am able to get away from civilization and technology, and be at one with nature. It prepares us for life because we never know what to expect; nothing is predictable. My hunting experience has impacted me the most, and taught me to take life as it comes and enjoy life along the way.