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Sarah's First Deer

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March 06, 2012
Sarah's First Deer - 20

http://ak.c.ooyala.com/I5aHUwYzrs1Rl3mKm0lD_kTnNwYc5ead/3Gduepif0T1UGY8H4xMDoxOjA4MTsiGN

In May of last year I was packing up my dorm room for the last time, getting ready to graduate college, and wondering how my summer internship would go—and where I was going to find work afterwards. I probably would have called sitting in a treestand, shivering my butt off and training a shotgun at a deer with a camera in my face a very unlikely possibility.

I grew up in suburban Connecticut with no idea what hunting was really like. All I had to go off was Disney and television stereotypes. If you are unaware of the power Disney movies can have to mold young minds, let me inform you—it can be disastrous. I was raised on these movies, like so many other girls. They not only made me believe I would, one day, get a fairy-tale ending , but even worse, that hunters killed animals and that made them all evil.

I started working at Outdoor Life back in August. The atmosphere here is unlike any other. Who else can say that they often hear turkey calls at work, or that their coworker was sharpening his knives at his desk again, in a non-threatening fashion, of course.

The majority of my coworkers are avid outdoorsmen, and coming into this job fresh out of college with no previous knowledge of hunting or fishing (unless you count a stick, string and some gum fishing) definitely made me feel like an outsider. I listened to people’s stories. The joy they got from the outdoors was palpable, and I wanted in.

So, when I informed my friends and family that I would be going on a deer hunt at Craig and Neil Dougherty’s property upstate with some guys from work (Michael Shea, our video editor, and Alex Robinson, our web content editor) this past December, the common responses were:

“You won’t be able to do it.”
“You would kill Bambi! You’ll be a Bambi killer…”
“You are so going to cry.”

One way to get me to do something: tell me I can’t do it. I had no idea how I was going to react when the time came, but come hell or high water, I was going to try.

We walked up to the stand at 2:30 p.m. From far away, the treestand didn’t look too bad, but when I got up close and saw how the wind shook it and that the ladder was pretty rickety, I started having second thoughts. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am really bad with ladders. After a less-than-graceful ascent, Mike set up the video camera and Alex took his tree climber and picked a tree in a location that let him serve as my backup in case I really messed up.

When I was in the stand, I just sat and listened. The wind whipped tears out of my eyes, and my nose ran like crazy. The treestand was swaying with the tree to which it was attached as the sun crept across the sky, the only indicator that time was running out. Usually, my mind runs wild with thoughts and daydreams, but out there—everything fell silent. Like a puzzle, the pieces all fit. That’s when the deer, a doe and her fawn, cautiously slipped into sight.

From afar they were magnificent moving targets that took my breath away, and made me a little bit crazy. The desire to shoot the deer was slightly overwhelming, but not unwelcome. I made my first shot, and thought I’d missed. I took another shot at what I thought was the same deer and it went down with a kick and a flick of its tail about 100 yards away. The sun quickly faded into the hills as we walked toward the place where we thought they’d been hit.

It was dark at this point and we needed flashlights. Neil Dougherty joined Mike, Alex, and I in our search. We walked up on the doe first. On her feet, she had seemed snooty, arrogant even—you could see it in her walk. On the cold, snowy ground all her personality was gone. She was empty.

The other guys, who are unfazed at this point by a dead deer, handled her in such an easy, nonchalant way—or so it seemed to me. I kneeled down next to her and pet her swollen belly. Probably a stupid thing to do because she was dead, but it was the only thing I could think to do to say, “thank you” while in the presence of all these stoic outdoorsmen.

The urge to cry was overpowering, but I wouldn’t let myself—not in front of my coworkers at least.

If that wasn’t hard enough, we soon found the second deer and I realized it was a fawn. When I saw how much smaller it was compared to its mother, I thought I must be an idiot to not be able to tell through the scope that this wasn’t the one to shoot. If I had known it was only a yearling, I wouldn’t have taken the shot. The lump that sometimes creeps up your throat and grips your tongue and tonsils with an iron fist slid up mine, threatening to choke me or force me to cry; but I held back.

When we dragged them in, I tried not to look at them. I watched how easy it was for the guys to haul them and hoist them up. Every stick and rock we swept the doe over added another knot to my stomach on our way to the shed and out of the biting cold.

Apparently, when someone has grown up hunting, they think differently than a non-hunter. They know that Mother Nature can be cruel and has a will of her own. They know that we are just a small part of the big picture, and that it’s natural to do our part. Animals die, and that’s OK. Fawns die, and that’s OK, too.

As a non-hunter who has just started hunting, I’m still grappling with the guilt I feel about the fact that I “killed Bambi” even though I know that the meat is not going to waste, and that I was helping manage a property that was overpopulated with deer.

I feel like I’m finally starting to see things, as they really are. It’s going to take some time before I come to terms with killing a yearling; and I will probably always feel sad when I see a dead animal, but that’s OK. It will take a while before I feel comfortable calling myself a hunter, but one thing I know for sure is that even if I feel sad; I don’t want to go back.

 

 

Comments (20)

Top Rated
All Comments
from campchair wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Sarah, I hunt when I can, and that's not too often these days. However, I never feel as "at home" than when I am in the woods. And only when I go out with a gun or bow in hand do I feel I'm part of the ecosystem, not just a mindless visitor that somehow wandered off the asphalt and concrete into a world they really do not understand. By taking part of that ecosystem and using it as sustenance, you are now a part of that system. The remorse you felt is only your soul paying proper respect to the animal you harvested; an animal that would have eventually had a much more painful and grisly death than the clean and humane one you gave it. Use the meat, give thanks in your way of choosing that it was given you from the bounty Nature provides. I still feel that momentary sense of remorse when I approach a downed animal and I celebrate it, as it tells me I am still a caring and thinking human that respects their kill. Never lose that respect and regard for the animals you persue, and always adhere to the true hunter's code of ethics. Ours is the only sport in which there are no referees. I believe that makes our sport a bit above those where the players must be constantly overseen and punished in case of intentional bad play. And, go again. It only gets better!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Don Baysinger wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Sarah, I can't begin to tell you what a nobel, concientious, grass-roots first time hunter you've become. I mysely have hunted nigh onto 70 years. Istarted hunting squirells when I was 7 on our country place with a single shot winchester .22cal, and then grouse and rabbits. It was the only meat we had to eat many times. I graduated up to Whitetail,(all in Minnesota), and I vividly remember my first dear at 15, the same thoughts and feelings went through me. I've since then harvested: Caribou, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, and Antelope. Your same thoughts and feelings come over me when my quarry falls to the ground. I also like clean shots,and most importantly the meat isn't wasted. We as a family consume the meat. My motto all through these years has been: Don't shoot anything I don't want to clean and eat. I've never hunted nor killed anything just for the fun of it. From your description of your first hunt, I think you have these same instincts instilled in you. Congratulations Sarah on your first hunt and self feelings on it. May you have many more years of hunting and maintaining the same attitude. It's what makes True Hunters proud oftheir activity

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from The Great Onalaskan wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Great job.There's not much to say that somebody hasn't already said.You've proved to your friends and family that you don't have to be a ruthless killer to hunt,but that there's much more to it than that.
Running up to my first deer,I almost cried and I shook so badly that I almost couldn't stand.My dad was so proud.Something I'll never forget.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from esimon4 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Graet Job. I watched the clip and you impressed me by:

!. Not Flinching when you pulled the trigger on an empty chamber.
2. By showing real emotion when you shot the deer, not " doing a touchdown dance" before the camera.

3. Asking to turn the camera off when you approached the deer. This showed respect for the game or animal.

Ed from Hunt Gear.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I think what you are feeling is natural and don't be afraid to confront it. I've hunted all my life but I have never lost sight of the fact that I am taking an animals life and the gravity of that act. I think we, as hunters, should feel something when we make a kill. If we don't then we have no respect for the animals we hunt or the ways of nature. BTW, add a little beef or pork fat to the venison burger and it will stick together better and actually it will even cook better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congrats Sarah! I am very proud of you for doing something that many people from your background wouldn't even be willing to try; I admire someone who can think for themselves, that seems to be a dying trait! There is no shame in feeling some remorse at taking a life, even when it's "just" an animal, I believe that's part of respecting and honoring your quarry, and I believe if you don't consider those things then you're just a killer, not a hunter.
Good luck down the road, and may you always keep your refreshing sense of what hunting truly means.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Scout Patch wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah:

The thing about hunting for most of us is, we never get used to the actual dispatching of wildlife. Or at least that's the case for me. I've been hunting my whole life. I'm 61 years old. I hunt mostly upland birds over pointing dogs, and I hunt whitetail deer.

Hunted with my late father, and late father in-law, and now hunt with my son. None of us enjoyed the actual act of killing. That's why most hunters practice shooting in the off season.

No one wants to wound an animal.

There's no satisfaction in that. We all want the clean kill shot. And it makes no difference what we are hunting. Until they come up with a "catch and release" ammo for hunting, we will all strive for that good clean shot.

So there's no shame in those feelings. We all feel them.

Happy hunting next season.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from turkeybow wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah,
Congratulations on your first TWO deer! Your video and article were absolutely fantastic and, most importantly, honest. Hunting, in and of itself, is an emotional roller coaster and when a kill is included, it just adds to the intensity of the emotions. I've been fortunate enough to kill a few deer over the years and even in the moments of pure elation I always experience a sense of sadness and guilt too. However, in the end, I'm very comfortable with what I do. Every deer that I've shot has contributed to meals of high protein, low fat, natural meat that is completely free of steroids, hormone injections and preservatives. And, the thing that keeps me going back to the woods is the fact that I never, ever feel more alive and connected to my ancestors than when I become part of our Creator's natural world. The sunrises, the sunsets, and every single experience in between will never leave my memory. To be mere feet from wild animals without them knowing you are there is a feeling that can't be described and something I will never get enough of.
I hope you accept your feelings and emotions as a natural aspect of the "circle of life", of which hunters are an essential part of, and that you go to the woods again with gun or bow in hand.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Christopher Fronk wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah, your feelings do you credit. Taking a life should not be done without some feeling or thought on the matter. Your friends are not as new to the experience as you, and they likely went through the same processes initially. As time goes on, the road you are on now becomes more familiar to us, and we follow it more easily. It's new to you, and your progress on its course is not as rote. It's your journey, it may not look like someone else's, and that's ok.
For burger patties, I like to mix venison with beef on a 2x1 ratio, adding seasoning to the mix. It helps them to hold together better for the grill.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from OL Editor wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! 6phunter, I am most definitely eating the venison. It is delicious! I'm currently trying to figure out how to get the burger meat to not fall apart, any ideas?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

SARAH, I NOTICED you mentioned you knew the meat wasn't wasted,and by the descrition and tone I figured you didn't eat any yourself.Thats ok a lot of venison is donated , in the seasons ahead you'll find that's there is more to hunting than just taking game.I'M impressed that a NEW ENGLAND girl would try her hand after so much brain wash.study YOUR QUARRY and the 6p's and your seasons will be sucessful whether you tag or go home empty. PRACTICE,PERSISTENCE,PREPAREDNESS,POSITIVE ATTITUDE,PLYABLE {WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE IN DIFFERENT CONDITIONS] ABOVE ALL be playfull ,never put pressure on yourself that you have to score. TAKE CARE &GOOD LUCK!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Casey Walker wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

This is one of the most honest and real articles I have read in quite a while. All of your emotions and thoughts are what all of us that hunt have went through and hopefully doen't ever forget! Too often the magazines we read and shows we watch don't hit on this side of the emotions that go with hunting. Keep up with the great work!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dalegoodrich wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I have been hunting for almost 50 years and killing the animal is the one aspect of hunting that I have the most trouble with. When I start to forget that it is a living thing and just want to kill it, that is when I will quit hunting. Enjoy the outdoors,the beauty of nature, the thrill of the hunt and being with others that respect the animal, and hunting will be an enjoyable experience.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tylerfreel85 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Great job sarah!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ishi wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah,

I have a lot of respect for your remorse, sadness and love for the life you've taken. Feelings like that do not make you a hunter, they make you a great hunter.

God Bless

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joel Natzke wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

That's OK, Sarah. Last year I shot a smaller 5 pointer off my neice's stand. I thought I had a solid hit, but as I tracked it through 3 miles of northern Wisconsin swamp and riverbottoms, I realized that I had, for the first time, gut-shot a deer. I tracked him down for almost 5 hours and finally killed him as he was laying down under some alders.

It's OK, though. He wasn't going to grow into a dominant buck, and with a wolf pack on our property, he was most likely destined to a far worse fate than a gut shot from a poorly sighted-in .270.

Most hunters have their first kill as children, and we learn that the guilt and remorse you feel for the game is part and parcel with being human. Predators kill knowing no remorse. Humans kill with the full knowledge that we're taking life, even to feed our families. Never lose sight of that. It's what makes you human.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 4everAutumn wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah: You will always remember your first deer. Mine was close to 30 years ago and it still seems like it was just yesterday. Congratulations and welcome to the “Club”.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from alwaysWRIGHT wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah is one hot hunter!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Fowler wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

That is a great video! Sarah, I am proud of you for trying, feeling, and--most of all--understanding that killing the deer is one of the least important parts of "hunting". Being one with nature and feeling our impact on nature is what hunting is all about. I hope you continue to hunt and be part of the cycle.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congrats Sarah. Good luck hunting in the years to come.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from Ishi wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah,

I have a lot of respect for your remorse, sadness and love for the life you've taken. Feelings like that do not make you a hunter, they make you a great hunter.

God Bless

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congrats Sarah. Good luck hunting in the years to come.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from alwaysWRIGHT wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah is one hot hunter!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 4everAutumn wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah: You will always remember your first deer. Mine was close to 30 years ago and it still seems like it was just yesterday. Congratulations and welcome to the “Club”.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joel Natzke wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

That's OK, Sarah. Last year I shot a smaller 5 pointer off my neice's stand. I thought I had a solid hit, but as I tracked it through 3 miles of northern Wisconsin swamp and riverbottoms, I realized that I had, for the first time, gut-shot a deer. I tracked him down for almost 5 hours and finally killed him as he was laying down under some alders.

It's OK, though. He wasn't going to grow into a dominant buck, and with a wolf pack on our property, he was most likely destined to a far worse fate than a gut shot from a poorly sighted-in .270.

Most hunters have their first kill as children, and we learn that the guilt and remorse you feel for the game is part and parcel with being human. Predators kill knowing no remorse. Humans kill with the full knowledge that we're taking life, even to feed our families. Never lose sight of that. It's what makes you human.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Casey Walker wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

This is one of the most honest and real articles I have read in quite a while. All of your emotions and thoughts are what all of us that hunt have went through and hopefully doen't ever forget! Too often the magazines we read and shows we watch don't hit on this side of the emotions that go with hunting. Keep up with the great work!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from turkeybow wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah,
Congratulations on your first TWO deer! Your video and article were absolutely fantastic and, most importantly, honest. Hunting, in and of itself, is an emotional roller coaster and when a kill is included, it just adds to the intensity of the emotions. I've been fortunate enough to kill a few deer over the years and even in the moments of pure elation I always experience a sense of sadness and guilt too. However, in the end, I'm very comfortable with what I do. Every deer that I've shot has contributed to meals of high protein, low fat, natural meat that is completely free of steroids, hormone injections and preservatives. And, the thing that keeps me going back to the woods is the fact that I never, ever feel more alive and connected to my ancestors than when I become part of our Creator's natural world. The sunrises, the sunsets, and every single experience in between will never leave my memory. To be mere feet from wild animals without them knowing you are there is a feeling that can't be described and something I will never get enough of.
I hope you accept your feelings and emotions as a natural aspect of the "circle of life", of which hunters are an essential part of, and that you go to the woods again with gun or bow in hand.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from esimon4 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Graet Job. I watched the clip and you impressed me by:

!. Not Flinching when you pulled the trigger on an empty chamber.
2. By showing real emotion when you shot the deer, not " doing a touchdown dance" before the camera.

3. Asking to turn the camera off when you approached the deer. This showed respect for the game or animal.

Ed from Hunt Gear.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Fowler wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

That is a great video! Sarah, I am proud of you for trying, feeling, and--most of all--understanding that killing the deer is one of the least important parts of "hunting". Being one with nature and feeling our impact on nature is what hunting is all about. I hope you continue to hunt and be part of the cycle.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tylerfreel85 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Great job sarah!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dalegoodrich wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I have been hunting for almost 50 years and killing the animal is the one aspect of hunting that I have the most trouble with. When I start to forget that it is a living thing and just want to kill it, that is when I will quit hunting. Enjoy the outdoors,the beauty of nature, the thrill of the hunt and being with others that respect the animal, and hunting will be an enjoyable experience.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

SARAH, I NOTICED you mentioned you knew the meat wasn't wasted,and by the descrition and tone I figured you didn't eat any yourself.Thats ok a lot of venison is donated , in the seasons ahead you'll find that's there is more to hunting than just taking game.I'M impressed that a NEW ENGLAND girl would try her hand after so much brain wash.study YOUR QUARRY and the 6p's and your seasons will be sucessful whether you tag or go home empty. PRACTICE,PERSISTENCE,PREPAREDNESS,POSITIVE ATTITUDE,PLYABLE {WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE IN DIFFERENT CONDITIONS] ABOVE ALL be playfull ,never put pressure on yourself that you have to score. TAKE CARE &GOOD LUCK!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from OL Editor wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! 6phunter, I am most definitely eating the venison. It is delicious! I'm currently trying to figure out how to get the burger meat to not fall apart, any ideas?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Christopher Fronk wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah, your feelings do you credit. Taking a life should not be done without some feeling or thought on the matter. Your friends are not as new to the experience as you, and they likely went through the same processes initially. As time goes on, the road you are on now becomes more familiar to us, and we follow it more easily. It's new to you, and your progress on its course is not as rote. It's your journey, it may not look like someone else's, and that's ok.
For burger patties, I like to mix venison with beef on a 2x1 ratio, adding seasoning to the mix. It helps them to hold together better for the grill.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Scout Patch wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Sarah:

The thing about hunting for most of us is, we never get used to the actual dispatching of wildlife. Or at least that's the case for me. I've been hunting my whole life. I'm 61 years old. I hunt mostly upland birds over pointing dogs, and I hunt whitetail deer.

Hunted with my late father, and late father in-law, and now hunt with my son. None of us enjoyed the actual act of killing. That's why most hunters practice shooting in the off season.

No one wants to wound an animal.

There's no satisfaction in that. We all want the clean kill shot. And it makes no difference what we are hunting. Until they come up with a "catch and release" ammo for hunting, we will all strive for that good clean shot.

So there's no shame in those feelings. We all feel them.

Happy hunting next season.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congrats Sarah! I am very proud of you for doing something that many people from your background wouldn't even be willing to try; I admire someone who can think for themselves, that seems to be a dying trait! There is no shame in feeling some remorse at taking a life, even when it's "just" an animal, I believe that's part of respecting and honoring your quarry, and I believe if you don't consider those things then you're just a killer, not a hunter.
Good luck down the road, and may you always keep your refreshing sense of what hunting truly means.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I think what you are feeling is natural and don't be afraid to confront it. I've hunted all my life but I have never lost sight of the fact that I am taking an animals life and the gravity of that act. I think we, as hunters, should feel something when we make a kill. If we don't then we have no respect for the animals we hunt or the ways of nature. BTW, add a little beef or pork fat to the venison burger and it will stick together better and actually it will even cook better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from The Great Onalaskan wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Great job.There's not much to say that somebody hasn't already said.You've proved to your friends and family that you don't have to be a ruthless killer to hunt,but that there's much more to it than that.
Running up to my first deer,I almost cried and I shook so badly that I almost couldn't stand.My dad was so proud.Something I'll never forget.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Don Baysinger wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Sarah, I can't begin to tell you what a nobel, concientious, grass-roots first time hunter you've become. I mysely have hunted nigh onto 70 years. Istarted hunting squirells when I was 7 on our country place with a single shot winchester .22cal, and then grouse and rabbits. It was the only meat we had to eat many times. I graduated up to Whitetail,(all in Minnesota), and I vividly remember my first dear at 15, the same thoughts and feelings went through me. I've since then harvested: Caribou, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, and Antelope. Your same thoughts and feelings come over me when my quarry falls to the ground. I also like clean shots,and most importantly the meat isn't wasted. We as a family consume the meat. My motto all through these years has been: Don't shoot anything I don't want to clean and eat. I've never hunted nor killed anything just for the fun of it. From your description of your first hunt, I think you have these same instincts instilled in you. Congratulations Sarah on your first hunt and self feelings on it. May you have many more years of hunting and maintaining the same attitude. It's what makes True Hunters proud oftheir activity

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from campchair wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Sarah, I hunt when I can, and that's not too often these days. However, I never feel as "at home" than when I am in the woods. And only when I go out with a gun or bow in hand do I feel I'm part of the ecosystem, not just a mindless visitor that somehow wandered off the asphalt and concrete into a world they really do not understand. By taking part of that ecosystem and using it as sustenance, you are now a part of that system. The remorse you felt is only your soul paying proper respect to the animal you harvested; an animal that would have eventually had a much more painful and grisly death than the clean and humane one you gave it. Use the meat, give thanks in your way of choosing that it was given you from the bounty Nature provides. I still feel that momentary sense of remorse when I approach a downed animal and I celebrate it, as it tells me I am still a caring and thinking human that respects their kill. Never lose that respect and regard for the animals you persue, and always adhere to the true hunter's code of ethics. Ours is the only sport in which there are no referees. I believe that makes our sport a bit above those where the players must be constantly overseen and punished in case of intentional bad play. And, go again. It only gets better!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)