Two hours had passed, one very good deed had been done and no names were exchanged.
Nick wiped his bloody hands on a towel and prepared to leave.
She started shaking, hyperventilating.
Perhaps she was overwhelmed by the acts of this good Samaritan, perhaps by the realization that she had taken a trophy in a spot hunted by her family for generations.
When she could speak, she offered Nick money.
He accepted her profuse thank-you's but nothing else.
They drove off, nameless acquaintances brought together by good will and a great Wisconsin tradition. She likely made a stop at a certain tavern.
He went home and shared the story with family. As often happens, word travels.
When it reached Dave Swanson, DNR conservation warden in Minong, he decided to check it out. Not only did he find it credible, he nominated Nick for the Wisconsin Hunter Ethics Award.
The award was originated in 1997 by the La Crosse Tribune and the DNR to recognize exemplary behavior among the state's hunters.
Something about the story resonated with the judges. Nick will be honored as the 2008 recipient of the award at the Natural Resources Board meeting in Hayward in August.
News of the award is spreading. For Nick and a certain female hunter, it helps complete an emotional circle in a most pleasing manner: recognition earned through kindness, happiness that money didn't buy.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.