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Mountain Home Magazine

Mother Knows Best

Nov 30, 2020 02:15PM ● By Don Knaus

“Mother knows best” is an expression that may go as far back as Moses’ mom in ancient Egypt. Old as it is, it’s still good advice. The mother in this tale is Tori Custred. She’s a Tioga County gal, born in Wellsboro, raised in Mainesburg, and graduated from Mansfield High. Tori left her beloved Endless Mountains to pursue higher education in the Pocono Mountains.

She chose a grueling and demanding year-round nursing course and was a registered nurse at age nineteen. That RN degree was nice, but the topping on the cake for her stint in the Poconos was meeting her husband, Bill. Now Tori serves as one of God’s angels on earth as an RN oncology nurse at the Wellsboro Cancer Center.

Tori started hunting as soon as she legally could. She took the Hunter Trapper Education Course and got her first hunting license when she turned twelve years old. She says she hailed from a family of avid hunters, adding, “I guess you could say I grew up around hunting—mostly deer hunting.” The farmers and their families on the Old State Road gathered to put on deer drives. The familiar names of farms and farmers like Tice, Thomas, Morgan, and Baity tripped off her tongue as she remembers hunting in her youth. She smiles.

“One of my most precious memories is standing with my grandfather. I guess you could say I hunted, but my husband showed me what hunting really was besides deer. We bred and trained beagles; we hunted rabbits; he showed me the joys of pheasant hunting, calling turkeys. We trained the beagles year-round and traveled to field trials all over. We still have descendants of our field trial dogs. We have that blood line in their great-granddogs.” So, life was nice but the call to her roots continued. She quips, “It took me thirteen years to get him to move to Mainesburg.”

“I learned to still hunt on our place from my husband, Bill,” she continues. “We own a small forty acres, but we have worked to maintain animal habitat. We have created trails, food plots, and thickets. We even make sure there’s brush for rabbits and grouse. On our place, we see deer all day, every day. It was work, but our efforts are worth it.”

Their land has been a great place for their sons to learn about hunting, dog training, and habitat management. Last year, they hunted deer—but only when mentored by a parent. Tori and Bill have rules for the boys when it comes to deer hunting. Dad has a ground blind stand and Mom has an elevated tripod stand. The boys must be with a parent at the stands. Traditionally, deer activity is better at Dad’s stand. The boys switch off—one day with Dad, the next hunt with Mom. On the Friday before the last Saturday of buck season, both boys were determined to sit with Dad. But, to keep it fair, they enforced the “take turns” rule. Frustrated, the boys began arguing, and then both decided not to go out at all. “The next morning we offered to take them to stands and they both refused to go out,” Tori recalls. “My husband and I decided to sit in our stands, anyway. I left the boys with a teasing, ‘You might be sorry. Are you sure you don’t want to go?’ and headed to the woods.”

It was just before first light. Tori settled herself into her stand. It was chilly. Thick frost covered the grass. She noted the ideal conditions—still with no wind. Her stand overlooked high grass on a well-used deer trail. She watched the trail between an established feed plot and a thicket that served as a bedding area. As she tells it, “The buck presented himself at the edge of the thicket at 7:15 a.m., about one hundred yards away. He was traveling from feeding to his bedding area, moving slowly toward the thick stuff.”

Tori and Bill had always agreed that, if one of the sons was with them and a shootable deer appeared, the kid got the shot. This day would have been son Ben’s turn to sit on stand with her.

“It took me a second or two to move my position for a shot,” she says. “It was obvious that the buck was not going to get any closer, so I took aim. I remembered my husband telling me to take three deep breaths and relax before the shot. I did. I blew out half the air and slowly squeezed the trigger of my .243. The deer disappeared. I was sure he had dropped. I feared that he might not have as big a rack as I thought. With the tall grass and slight hump I couldn’t be sure. I was amazed at how calm I was until the shot. Then adrenaline took over. I started shaking. I was glad I was alone to have time to get back my composure.”

These are the days of omnipresent cell phones. Before she could get down from her stand, Bill called, asking if she’d gotten a deer. Tori replied that she had a buck down, and asked for help. After field dressing, they pulled together on the drag, but couldn’t budge the buck. Bill went to get the tractor and to round up the boys. With the deer loaded in the tractor bucket, Mom simply said, “See boys. Never give up. You have to go in the woods to get a deer.” The sheepish looks on their faces indicated that they had learned the lesson. Mother knows best.