I never thought of myself as a hardcore hunter until I started to write this story for Prois and took time to think about how much of my life, outside of work and family obligations, revolves around hunting.
Beginning in January, I attend the Sportsmen’s Expo where if I get a “deep down” and the price is right, I’ll book a pig hunt or an elk drop camp. Then it’s to the Internet, applying for licenses/tags for Nevada deer, Wyoming antelope, Colorado elk, and deer in California X Zones. After the paperwork, I’m off to the alfalfa fields with my Cooper .17 HMR to help the farmers in California control their ground squirrels. In March I take to the foothills with my Benelli Sport and slate to call in gobblers. In summer, I satisfy my craving for the woods by fishing and do some practicing at the range. On September 1st, it’s time to fill the freezer; doves in California foothills and Arizona desert, blue grouse in the Sierras, local blacktail deer, Idaho whitetail, Thanksgiving turkey, and if lucky, an out of state draw . I chase after valley and mountain quail until December band-tailed pigeon season and then it starts over.
I admire the woman who takes to hunting on her own initiative. I have been blessed. I owe my start in the sport to the man I married 34 years ago. He taught me how to shoot and is my lifetime hunting partner.
My affection and passion for the hunt first emerged after I put the crosshairs on a blacktail buck in the Sierra Nevadas in 1981 and made the decision to squeeze the trigger. There were tears of joy and sadness, words of gratefulness to the deer gods for allowing my shot to ring true, and thanks for a life quickly given. These emotions I had not felt before and would feel many more times throughout my life. The complete satisfaction and gratitude that I feel when a hunt is terminated in a successful kill after seasons of physical work cannot be associated with anything else that I have accomplished in my life.
Hunting is my inspiration to stay fit. It gives me the opportunity to keep my senses and women’s intuition honed. It has taught me many valuable lessons, especially how to learn from my mistakes. In Idaho after many days of hunting in the rain and snow, I came across a fresh scrape and tracks Next morning, I crept to my vantage point to grunt and watch. A whitetail buck appeared. As I raised my rifle to put him in the crosshairs the sun, which had been scarce for days, peeked out from the clouds. I was looking directly East. All I saw was a bright light. I watched with my naked eyes as he walked into the forest unaware and untouched. Those difficult times have humbled me, given me a greater appreciation for the prowess of my quarry and the ethical importance of the fair chase.
Hunting is my meditation. I can sit for hours, my mind focused on one goal, blocking out all other worries and troubling thoughts. I am at peace. There are times when that peace is broken, a split second decision must be made, or on occasion when I have time for conscious thought, a chance passes without any action…and it is fine.
I have gained a great respect for wildlife. I am an intruder in their home. I have been charged by a bull moose, buzzed by a rattler, stalked by a mountain lion, approached by a bear, and bitten by no see’ums. I have endured the whims of Mother Nature, her below zero temperatures, bone chilling winds, knee deep snow, throat parching heat and have gone more than 10 days without a toilet or a shower. I have had many reflectful encounters. Standing still, deer have approached and sniffed me, I have felt the wind off the wings of snow geese and an owl has replied to my turkey locator call. I have seen wolf tracks in the snow, listened to coyote’s evening serenade and watched a herd of elk mingle within 50 yards of me.
Once successful in a hunt out west, only hard work can be associated with getting game back to camp or the truck. Sometimes that requires hiking miles of rugged terrain to retrieve the deer carrier. Sometimes quartering the animal and packing the meat out on my back is the only way. The reward, fresh backstrap for dinner.
The horns and mounts on my wall tell their own stories; the 25” blacktail that my hunting partner pushed out of the manzanita at 50 yards, the 4×4 muley that I shot across a ravine in Nevada at 330, the antelope whose blood trail I tracked across the Wyoming plains, and the 5×6 Colorado bull that took me three hunting seasons and much sweat and angst to get.
For 13 years I have organized and taught an introductory women’s shooting clinic. Nearly 400 women have overcome their apprehensions and taken their first steps into the world of sport shooting. My daughter, who has hunted since she was 10, inspired me to teach kids how to shoot. Since 2002 I have devoted six months of the year to helping coach the A&A Shooters, a team of over ninety 6th through 12th grade kids in the California Youth Shooting Sports Association trap program. The personal satisfaction that I get from these endeavors, much like hunting, keeps me coming back..
Am I a hardcore hunter… if my most cherished possession is a Winchester Model 70 or there is a ziplock in the glove compartment with permission slips and keys, or if for a laugh I read Bill Heavey, or if in my nightstand there are seven hunting journals, or if I have read Theodore Roosevelt’s “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman & The Wilderness Hunter” or in my wallet are NRA and NWTF membership cards, or if instead of a trip to the spa for my 50th birthday, I bought myself my first guided hunt and my best birthday present ended up being a Deer Triple Crown, a Nevada muley, California blacktail and Idaho whitetail?
As my life passes at an ever increasing rate, I feel a sense of urgency to spend even more time in the field before I can no longer physically do it. Thoreau said it best, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…” let’s go hunting!