“It will be something we can do together,” he replied. It occurred to me that we did pretty much everything together already. In fact, hunting was the only thing he did without me. Hunting season was a time when I could have a weekend alone. I looked forward to it. I watched the Lifetime Channel, soaked in the tub, didn’t cook. What possessed me to want to give that up?
But anyway, I got my husband’s old compound bow and some arrows from the cellar and began practicing. Each night after work, I shot at least 50 arrows into a little square target. Soon, one of my nephews set up a 3D target on the lawn. Although he had a fancy bow and new carbon arrows, I was as good as he was despite my old equipment.
Encouraged, I signed up for a local bowhunting course. Although I was nervous about being the only female in the class, my husband assured me that plenty of other women would be there. Wrong! I arrived to find that I was the only woman among 45 men and boys. The instructor kept forgetting my name. I was the only woman taking the course! How could he forget my name? At any rate, I breezed through the written test, and then came the time for the practical. About a dozen men had finished shooting when the instructor said, “Now I’m going to give you boys some competition; let’s get the girl up here.”
As I walked to the front of the room, I kept telling myself over and over, “Don’t do anything stupid.” I laid my arrows on the floor because I didn’t have a fancy quiver like most of my classmates. As I drew back the first arrow, the instructor leaned over my shoulder and said, “Higher.” Funny; he hadn’t given the others any advice. I was so nervous that when I released the arrow, it hit the paper deer between the eyes. I reached down for another arrow, and not realizing the instructor was so close to me, I hit him in the groin with my bow. Laughter erupted in the classroom. With my second arrow, I shot the deer about one inch above the vital section. From a safer distance this time, the instructor said, “Although not a vital shot, it’s still a very good one.” One of the men in the back yelled, “Yeah, but the shot she gave you certainly was!”
I completed the course and was ready to go hunting, so I went to get my license. However, I didn’t know that I also needed a hunter training certificate. Crestfallen, I went to find the necessary course. I breezed through that one too and did so without injuring any of the training staff. Someone probably warned them about my deadly aim.
On opening day of gun season, my husband, his brother and I are at a rustic camp in Forestport. It’s 3 AM. What am I doing up at this hour? They say you must be in the woods early. They also give me countless other tidbits of advice. Do this, don’t do that. Make sure you take this. I finally get dressed for hunting; an ordeal in itself.
Finally, out the door we go. I’m trying to be quiet, but it’s impossible. I’m carrying so much, I’m making a racket like one of those peddlers selling pots and pans from a wagon. But it’s not my fault; the guys made me bring all this stuff I’m surprised that I didn’t have to carry the gas grill on my back too.
My husband eventually tells me to sit down in an area that he says has heavy deer sign. I wouldn’t know–it’s pitch black out here. Even if I saw a deer, I probably couldn’t bring the gun up because I’m so weighed down with clothing and equipment.
The guys decide to spread out, leaving me alone–in the woods–on the ground. I know there are bears in this area, and though I can’t see much, I can hear. Please don’t let that noise I’m hearing be a bear. It comes closer, but then the noise stops. Now I hear heavy breathing. It frightens me until I realize that the heavy breathing is mine.
The noise gets closer. If I wasn’t wearing so many layers, my hair would be standing on end. At last, I see some daylight. Let the hunting begin!
What seems like six hours drag by. I am freezing. How can I be so cold when I’m wearing everything I own?
Suddenly, the noise is behind me again. It could be a buck. Then again, it could be a bear. The sound is directly in back of me now. I don’t dare turn around but strain to see from the corner of my eye. The “stalker” suddenly appears at my side! It’s nothing but a squirrel–a species not generally known for its viciousness, but sneaky just the same.
My husband calls me on the walkie-talkie. I can’t respond because I can’t find my radio. It’s buried somewhere among the long underwear, sweatshirts, vest, and coveralls. Finally, I dig it out and ask what time it is. Though it feels like we’ve been out here for days, it’s only 8:30 AM! The guys pick me up on the return trip to camp. I’m cold and miserable. All this time (only part of a morning really) spent hunting, and I didn’t even see a deer.
What made me think hunting would be fun? I can’t use soap, shampoo or deodorant. I have deer urine on my boots. My hair’s a mess. I’m smelly, cold, frustrated and cooped up with two other smelly people. But I can see the excitement in their eyes when they say we should go out again in the afternoon. I’m thinking maybe some other afternoon. I’m afraid they mean this afternoon. I groan inwardly and can’t imagine ever going hunting again.
That was two years ago. In the meantime, I’ve learned to dress appropriately and to pack only what I really need. I’ve also learned how to read deer sign. I have my own routine, and I hunt from a tree stand. Do I like to hunt now? No, I love it!
I’ll shoot a deer any year now, too, as long as it meets certain requirements. So if you happen to see a 40-year-old, 40-point buck that’s bald, has a glass eye and uses a cane, let me know. It’s the one I’m looking for, and make no mistake … when I find it, I will shoot it.