As Iowa's first shotgun deer season approached earlier this month, a Davenport woman faced a seemingly difficult decision: to hunt or not to hunt while 30-plus weeks pregnant.
"You ask yourself, 'Is this OK? Can I go hunting? Johnnie Jindrich recalled during a recent interview.
Without consulting her doctor first, the 26-year-old news anchor for WQAD-TV in Moline pulled the trigger, literally, and harvested a doe on Dec. 2, opening day.
"I didn't really hesitate at all," she said, referring to her choice to accompany her dad, John, on the hunt. "It's something I look forward to every year."
The father-daughter duo drove about two hours to private land in Tama County, the same farm the Jindrich family has hunted for more than 40 years.
John, who lives in Muscatine, grew up in Gladbrook, Iowa, also in Tama County, where he learned to hunt and trap with his brother under their father's guidance.
"It was a small town in rural Iowa," John, 60, said. "Everybody seemed to do some kind of hunting."
As a father, he made it a priority to pass on the tradition to his three children, Johnnie, Elizabeth and Paul.
"I just think it's a mother's and father's responsibility to expose their kids to a variety of experiences," said John, whose wife, Julie, does not hunt but supports the practice. "I tried to make sure the kids all got out and learned about hunting, fishing and camping."
Johnnie said her dad taught her how to safely handle a 20-gauge shotgun, which she used to kill her first deer at the age of 11, and a majority of her deer since then. Mounted on the wall of her studio apartment in downtown Davenport is the head of an 8-point buck she harvested in 2009. It sometimes surprises visitors when Johnnie tells them that she, not her boyfriend, Adam, shot the deer.
"It's funny because Adam has shot a gun, like, twice," she said. "It's one thing to say you go hunting, but it's another thing to show them a pretty nice 8-pointer on the wall."
Although Elizabeth, 30, has not participated in the family's annual deer hunt in recent years, John feels fortunate to have shared his passion with both of his daughters.
"It's not as common for dads and daughters to enjoy those experiences together," he said.
Meanwhile, his son, Paul, who is stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, is visiting this weekend. During his stay, which coincides with Iowa's late muzzleloader season, Paul, 25, may try and harvest a deer.
John believes hunting builds character as well as relationships. His family eats every animal they kill, and he processes the meat himself, producing a variety of products, including steaks, burgers, summer sausage and jerky. For 26 years, John taught special education and coached girls basketball at Muscatine High School. The retiree, who served as an assistant football coach for the Muskies, too, now drives part-time for MuscaBus.
Teamwork in the timber
At her childhood home over this holiday weekend, Johnnie expects to taste the deer she shot earlier this month.
Sitting together in an elevated box blind, John spotted his daughter's deer first. Johnnie was dozing off when she felt her dad tap her on the shoulder.
He alerted her of the doe in sight, about 30 yards out by the time she quietly stood up and grabbed her gun. Awoken with a rush of adrenaline, she lined up her aim and fired.
"I knew I made a good shot right away because she went right down," Johnnie said, describing in detail how the bullet pierced the animal's heart and lungs. "I've shot more than 10 deer now in my life and every time it seems like it happens so quick."
Waiting for deer, however, requires patience, she said. "You gain an appreciation for the outdoors and Mother Nature."
Spending that day in the woods with his pregnant daughter allowed John time to cherish the moment and reminisce about the past.
"Here I am, sitting with my 26-year-old daughter, who's going to have my first grandchild," he said. "It wasn't that long ago she was this 11-year-old girl I was moving around through the woods, trying to get a shot at these deer that were coming through."
Johnnie later posted a photo of herself and her deer, along with a future made-up quote from her daughter, on social media: "I've been hunting with my mom and grandpa John since before I was born," she wrote.
The baby, who does not yet have a name, is due in February.