December/January 2014 EHJ (Issue 140) - March 20, 2012 is day that will be forever engrained in my memory. Most of you are trying to figure out what state posted their draw results on March 20th. Well, I wish I could say that I drew an amazing tag on this day but I can’t. This was the day my wife Nicole was diagnosed with stomach cancer. At 32 years of age this is something you never, ever expect to have to deal with.
The months to follow were nothing but a whirlwind of chemotherapy treatments followed by a complete stomach removal on June 25th. After she spent 14 days in the hospital, my wife and I were finally on the way home. The recovery was brutal. Trying to figure out what she could and could not eat was very difficult. The worst part was she was scheduled to begin her second regimen of chemotherapy in two weeks.
After an unexpected trip to the emergency room my wife looked at me and told me she needed something to look forward to. She needed to be able to focus on something other than the treatments to come.
Nicole and I typically spend the fall months chasing deer and elk together in our home state of Arizona. That year we had not drawn any tags so we had nothing planned. With Nicole’s mobility being limited and with her in the process of recovering, I was struggling to come up with an excursion that I could take her on.
I asked Nicole if she had anything in mind. Without hesitation she turned to me and said, "What about an antelope hunt?”
An antelope hunt was perfect! I knew I could obtain a landowner tag in New Mexico and I knew we could get her on a buck without pushing her physical limitations. I made a phone call to a good family friend who owns a great ranch in New Mexico and Nicole had her tag. The hunt was set to begin on September 11, 2012. Nicole was ecstatic to have a tag and she was very excited to have something positive to look forward to.
The weeks leading up to the hunt were filled with doctor visits and a couple of unexpected emergency room visits. There were numerous times when it looked as if the antelope hunt was never going to happen. Fortunately, the week before the hunt, Nicole’s health began to improve. September 11 found Nicole, my dad and I headed to Santa Rosa, New Mexico.
We arrived at the 7-UP ranch early in the morning. The ranch was looking spectacular with the early season rains. The ranch manager, Ty, greeted us and told us where he had seen a couple great bucks and we were off.
For a full account of Nicole's adventure, go to page 54 in the December/January 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.