The large, female black bear ambled into the clearing and into Tami Ely's gun sights right at dusk. At that moment, in the fall of 1997, there were no thoughts of crop prices. No thoughts of irrigation tow lines. No thoughts about farming at all. The moment had Ely so excited she couldn't steady her gun enough to get a bead on the bear.
But the bear stopped, sat and inexplicably turned its chest toward the hut where Ely had waited for five hours for an opportunity to fill her black bear tag.
A white V on the bear's chest provided the target Ely needed in the dim light. She placed her gun's crosshair on the white patch, squeezed the trigger and claimed a near trophy-size bear from the woods of northern Michigan.
Today the bear poses in Mike and Tami Ely's Grafton, NE, farmhouse. It's one of the many hunting trophies that inhabit their living room. “Hunting has been part of both of our lives, even before we were married,” says Tami.
Over the years the farm couple has developed a preference for bow hunting. “I've been bow hunting for 25 years. I shot my first buck when I was 7 months pregnant with our first child,” she says. “It's a passion. You're out there with just God and nature. No phones. No people.
“Hunting is an opportunity to just get away from the stress of farming and be in your own element,” Tami says. “Sometimes I take a book and just read. You wait to hear the crackle of a step and then you're on point. But really, if you shoot an animal it's a bonus, not the only goal.”