Suzie Brewster

I spotted him on the campus of Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He had a smile that would captivate any heart. I didn't know him then, but he would soon completely change my life.

A few weeks later, this man about campus, Bill Brewster, wandered into the area where we were building a homecoming float and asked me to go for a Coke. That first visit led to a date for the weekend game and, ultimately, to a trip to Petrolia, Texas, to meet "The Parents."

We pulled up in front of his home across from the high school where both of his parents worked. We met his mother, and his father arrived shortly after, announcing there was at least an hour and a half of shooting light left. So, after a brief hello, Bill, his father and their dog made a hasty retreat for a quail hunt. Just exactly what a quail hunt entailed was foreign to me at the time. His mother soon left to fulfill her duties as gatekeeper for the evening's basketball game ∧ after asking me to cook dinner!

That story is 37 years old, and those who know me now can't believe that I was ever a novice when dealing with hunting or firearms. I did survive the weekend and ultimately the wedding, but I still had not completely grasped the whole idea of spending time (in fact a lot of time) in search of quail. I thought I would see my new spouse during our first years of marriage, but it seemed as if the 'call of the wild' surpassed all other needs in this man's world.

Hunting As A Way Of Life
Bill finally invited me to go dove hunting with him. Little did I know that the real invitation was to sit quietly in a ditch and retrieve the doves once the 'great hunter' had sent them into a freefall. Needless to say, it didn't take long to discover that I had a lot to learn about the world of hunting.

Well, time marched on. We had children, settled down and started life on somewhat of a normal pace. We did have one constant in our lives: the annual family hunting trip the day after Christmas.

I explained to my spouse that I was not going on these hunting trips to wait on everyone else. We established the rule that if you cooked the meal, you didn't have to do the dishes. You can bet that the level of cooperation certainly picked up, and it seemed as if maybe there was an equitable place for a female on the hunting outings.

At this point, hunting, to me, was taking one whitetail a year. Two of our three children began deer hunting at an early age. Our lives seemed to be just like everyone else's, until my husband decided to run for public office. Still, there was time for an occasional hunting trip and the long-awaited Christmas hunt.

The Ultimate Hunt
I'm sure some of you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, "Hunt with your kids, not for them." On January 31, 1990, that statement came to mean something entirely different to me.

Our family began the day in Marietta, Okla., where we announced Bill's candidacy for Congress. We flew around the state in three planes making the announcement. Bill and I headed to Oklahoma City to take care of some business, while our children flew back to Marietta in the other two planes. The plane carrying our 16-year-old daughter, Kecia, and our 13-year-old son did not return to the airport on schedule.

The "hunt" began at daybreak on Wednesday and lasted until Sunday afternoon, when the plane was finally found. Our worst fear was indeed fact, and everything in my world as I had known it was at a standstill. Time does help heal the pain, but nothing erases parents' memory of their precious children.

Hunting Again
I began to realize that if Bill was ever going to be able to enjoy hunting again, the activity that was such a major part of his life before, I would have to become more involved in hunting myself. Every man needs a hunting buddy, and I was determined to become my husband's best partner.

I committed to a variety of hunting activities. I began really learning shotgun skills, and that's when I discovered turkey hunting. I can still vividly remember my first turkey hunt. I remember my heart pounding while watching the approaching bird. I can also recall how the bird soared into the air on his departure, as I continued to sit still just as I had been told to do. "Why didn't you shoot?" my guide asked. And I replied, "You told me not to move!"

Suzie Brewster owns her own consultant company in Washington, D.C., and is chairman of the Washington Women's Shooting Club, which she helped found in 1994. She is an avid hunter and firearms instructor.

[story and photo courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation]