Editor’s Note: When Heidi Kern became Owen Orthmann’s caregiver, she was a vegetarian. But now, her favorite food is bear meat, with venison in second place.
I didn’t like the taste of beef, and I got tired of eating chicken and fish, so I became a vegetarian. Then when Owen introduced me to deer and bear hunting, I fell in love with the flavor of bear meat, and I really enjoyed eating venison. These two game animals have become a major staple in Owen’s and my diet. Owen and I can consume three or four deer per year. Even though we only may take one deer per season, we have friends who bring us venison regularly.
I've been Owen’s caregiver for 26 years. As his caregiver, my responsibility is to help him do the things he wants to do and go to the places he wants to go. You’ve already read his passion for hunting and for Mossy Oak. So, when I started taking Owen hunting, I decided, “This is something I probably could do.” I like to hunt with black powder, but I also like to hunt with a compound bow. I started shooting archery before I got a muzzleloader. I shoot a Mathews Passion bow, but I’ve had several other brands before I got this bow. I've taken both antelope and deer with my bow. On Owen’s second antelope hunt, I went with him. After he took his buck with his crossbow, I bagged a buck with my compound bow.
My best deer was a Pope and Young 11-pointer - the first deer I ever shot. I was hunting near Granite Falls in northwestern Minnesota at the end of the season. The weather was extremely cold. Owen decided to stay in the nice warm house, so I went out and got into a ground blind all by myself. The natural blind was set-up on the edge of a road that went back into the woods to a junkyard. The deer would come out of the woods and walk along the road that went back to the junkyard to get to an alfalfa field to feed. A friend of ours had set-up this ground blind. He already had bagged his deer for the season, so he let me sit in that ground blind. The first deer that came by was a doe. I drew my bow and completely missed her. The second deer to come out of the woods was an 11-point buck. He came to the edge of the woods to follow the path to the alfalfa field. Then he stopped and gave me a broadside shot. I crouched down in the blind and drew my bow. Then I came up, aimed and released the arrow. The buck was only 20-yards away. He wheeled and ran off. When our friends came to pick me up, I told them what had happened, and they started looking for my buck. They only went a short distance before they found him. That buck was big enough to make the Pope and Young Record Book.
Since this was the first deer I ever had taken, I really didn’t know how to judge a buck’s antlers. I had watched a lot of outdoor TV shows, and all the bucks that they take on those shows were huge. So, when one of our friends asked me, “How big are the buck’s antlers?” I said, “I think he's a basket rack.” At that time, I really didn’t know what a basket rack was, but compared to the bucks I had seen on the TV shows and videos, he was a smaller buck.
I was surprised and excited when my 11-pointer made the Pope and Young Record Book. Although I was excited, happy and proud to take that nice buck, I would have been just as excited if I had taken the doe that I had missed. Because of Owen’s limitation challenges, we’re excited about any deer or bear that we can take at any time. We really enjoy hunting together, and we really, really enjoy the meat that our hunting and our friends’ hunting provide for us.