When Women Hunt
A tribute to my amazing wife and other outdoorswomen, their skill and passion for hunting.
Sophisticates call them the fairer sex. In so many ways this is truer than most of us guys care to admit. Pride aside, I must concede. Historically dominated by men, hunting is an activity now seeing more women entering the ranks than ever before. Few men will say it, but I've witnessed it firsthand. Many women are more patient, less excitable, and yes, sometimes they even shoot better!
Many women are great shots. Heather is no exception.
Making a perfect shot, she took this pronghorn at 400 yards.
Nothing turns me on more than a chick in camouflage, especially if she's my wife! Like most women who hunt, Heather was baptized by immersion when she met me. Never passing the opportunity to tell the story, she frequently reminds me that on our first date, 18 years ago, I had to move my bow from the front seat of my truck to make room for her. Although she's always been the outdoors type, as far as hunting is concerned I think she figured if she couldn't beat me, she may as well join me. Fast forward and we've been married for 15 years. During that time she's become an accomplished bow hunter, rifle hunter, muzzleloader hunter, wing shooter, and professional big game hunting guide. A diverse repertoire of hunting accomplishments aside, her true passion is bow hunting whitetails. To call it a passion is a misnomer; it's more of an obsession.
More and more women are taking up hunting and shooting sports.
Over the years, she listened to the lingo and picked up on the enthusiastic chatter between me and my buddies. Finally she decided to see what all the fuss is about. She's now graduated from a neophyte to a veteran hunter. For several years I tried my best to introduce her to rifle hunting, but my early efforts fell on deaf ears. Set on launching her hunting career with a bow in hand, she did the opposite of what most of us do. Intrigued with the challenge and opportunity associated with bow hunting, she practiced hard and became a skilled archer.
Today Heather has taken more big game animals, not to mention bird game, than most avid hunters in my peer group. She's one of the only gals I know who doesn't think twice about a 20-minute solo hike in the pre-dawn darkness. She's no stranger to long and lonely walks into the tree stand. She's competitive and, to some extent, I think to be a successful bow hunter, that's requisite.
Heather is an avid bowhunter, professing a passion for whitetails.
Over the last decade, my wife has taken several really good whitetails with archery tackle, two of which scored well into the Pope and Young record book. But despite the roster of exceptional animals to her credit, one November hunt stands out as especially memorable.
Just seven weeks after delivering our second daughter, Heather tagged a whitetail buck with her bow. If you're a parent, then you know that taking care of infants is an overtime ordeal. Between feeding schedules and sleepless nights, babies demand an overwhelming amount of care and attention. During the first few months of life, infants simply can't be without their mothers for more than a few hours at a time. This meant that Heather's time to hunt would be limited.
Fortunately one of our favorite bow hunting properties is only a half hour drive from home. With grandma lined up to watch the kids for a few days, Heather would be allowed to slip out into the stand for a few hours each day. Given the circumstances and her limited time afield, she decided to take the first decent buck that presented a good shot opportunity. A fresh scrape had been opened 12 yards from the base of the tree she would sit and it was mid-November, peak of the whitetail rut. Knowing the stand well, that particular ambush site had produced consistently over the years.
That morning, she and I parted ways as we headed to separate stands. Using radios we would check in with each other mid-morning. I remember seeing a few does early on that day, but no shooter bucks. As 10:00 am rolled around, I attempted to reach Heather, but to no avail. Our rule is that if the other person doesn't check in at the predetermined time, wait 10 minutes and try again. Sure enough, moments later I heard her voice whispering on the radio. Excited but cautiously optimistic, she told me that she'd just arrowed a buck.
Just before our check in time she'd rattled and called with a doe estrus bleat. Like clockwork, a solid 4x4 buck snuck in to inspect the commotion. Before climbing into her stand Heather had anointed the nearby scrape with doe estrus urine and the buck was most interested as he stood smack dab in the middle of it licking the branches overhead. A textbook opportunity, Heather drew back, settled her sight pin on his chest and let go. Penetration was good and her buck raced through the cover of the old-growth spruce trees and disappeared.
At that point Heather didn't know if her deer was down, but she felt confident that her shot was good. Getting more excited by the minute, I told her to gather her gear, sit tight and that I'd be there in about 20 minutes.
As I arrived we met at the base of her tree and made our way to the point of impact at the scrape. Inside 10 yards we discovered blood in the snow making the tracking job easy. As we broke from the shadowy cover of the spruce forest Heather caught a glimpse of the antlers standing above the grass. Her arrow had penetrated both lungs and the buck collapsed after running only 30 yards!
My Best Hunting Partner
We all know that finding a good hunting partner can be a tall order. Many of us look for years until we find the ideal partner. Your hunting buddy has to be more than just someone you get along with. You've also got to think alike, have the same motivation, and share the same ethics. Hunting isn't always about high fives and hero shots. It's about sharing experiences, both the good and the bad, perseverance, and working together toward a common goal.
My wife is my best hunting partner.
In my lifetime I've only come across a handful of guys whom I consider first-rate hunting partners. These guys I deem very dear friends and I anticipate those friendships will last a lifetime. There's just something about hunting that builds a bond between buddies. Now that my wife has entered the 'fraternity,' I have to say (sorry guys) she tops them all. I still value my time out with the guys each fall, but Heather does indeed make the ideal partner.
Blessing or Burden
If I had a dollar for every time guys said how lucky I am to have a wife that hunts, I'd be a wealthy man. Conversely, I know several who have flat out said they could never hunt with their spouse. Truth is it's both a blessing with a burden.
On one hand, I thoroughly enjoy hunting with Heather. Experiencing the outdoors with my life partner is a privilege. Having a spouse that not only shares my appreciation for wildlife and wild places, but also my passion for hunting itself is a unique thing. For this I'm grateful. I think back to the girls I dated in college and I count my blessings that I dodged a few proverbial bullets back then.
On the other hand, I'd be remiss if I didn't say it like it is. Having a spouse that hunts does involve sacrifice and, let's face it most of us are selfish when it comes to our hunting. Time in the woods is precious. Likewise, particularly in the early years, I sacrificed several great opportunities to take magnificent trophy-class animals myself, all for the sake of introducing her to the shooting sports. And, yes, there are times when childcare is a problem and only one of us can go hunting. I'll never forget the first time Heather woke me up to go hunting. It was 4:00 a.m., the middle of November, peak of the whitetail rut when our alarm went off and she woke me up.
"You get to take care of Chelsea today... I'm going to sit in the tree stand... see you around noon," she whispered.
I was speechless! Who did she think she was, snatching one of my peak rut days right out from underneath me? I was choked! Then, a somber reality set in. Recalling countless days she'd patiently let me go out, there really wasn't much I could say. A hunting widow extraordinaire in our early years of marriage Heather gave me free reign to hunt whenever I wanted. It wasn't uncommon to get out at least every second evening to sit in my stand from September through November, taking several extended trips throughout the fall. Times were good back then but along with age comes wisdom, and I knew fair was fair.
That first eye-opener happened many years ago and Heather now has more critters to her credit than most guys who have been hunting for decades. The biggest drawback is financial. Now for every bow or gun I own, it seems she has to have the same or better - and that can be an expensive proposition. This year alone she arrowed a 150-class whitetail and a nice Quebec Labrador caribou, with her rifle she shot another caribou and a pronghorn antelope, and with her muzzleloader she took a mule deer. Most recently she's fallen in love with duck and goose hunting. Still relatively new to wing shooting you'd never know it if you joined her in the field or on the water. Her skill as a wingshooter matches most experienced duck hunters I know.
No Longer Just for the Boys
We live in an interesting time. Even though overall hunter numbers are down, women appear to be taking up hunting and other outdoor pursuits at an unprecedented rate. In keeping with contemporary liberal attitudes, no longer is hunting just for the boys. Historically gender roles have been clearly defined and some might suggest errantly imposed. Now, with more opportunity, many women are capitalizing on the chance to learn and become active hunters. As both a guy and an avid hunter, I have to tip my hat to them.
Introducing Women to Hunting
If you're like a lot of guys, you may prefer to keep your hunting to yourself. If, on the other hand, you're intrigued with the idea of getting your spouse or girlfriend involved, remember it's all about the introduction. Recognize that safety and enjoyment should be first priorities. I've watched hunters attempt to introduce newbies to the sport and fail dismally. Why? Because they went about it all wrong. If you haven't done so already, invite your spouse or girlfriend to watch a few hunting videos with you. Women like to talk ? yeah, I know this is a stretch, but talk to them; go out on a limb and invite them to the range. Teach them safe handling of firearms and/or a bow. Gently show them the correct and safe way to shoot. Give them plenty of opportunities to become familiar with guns or bows. If you're not in a position to do this, check with your local Hunter Education programs. Many have courses designed specifically for women. These courses often give women a hands on opportunity to try and learn about archery, firearms safety, shooting skill development, bow hunting, and a lot more. Last, but not least, when you finally do take them out, invest the time and energy to set them up for success. Give them the proper clothing to make their experience as comfortable and positive as possible. Give them good equipment to use, and accompany them. Gently coach them on when and how to take an ethical shot. You'll probably be surprised by both their skill and aptitude. Hunting isn't for everyone, so don't force it, but if your significant other is anything like mine, you may just discover a new hunting partner for life!
The author and his wife stalked this big bruin to
50 yards before knocking him down with her 7mm Rem Mag.
Kevin Wilson is a freelance outdoors writer and professional big game & waterfowl
guide/outfitter from Alberta, Canada. Confessing an obsession for big whitetails
and bighorn sheep, he has hunted most North American big game species with either
bow, muzzleloader, rifle or shotgun. Specializing in archery, freshwater fishing,
waterfowl and big game hunting, his articles can be found in several well known
outdoor publications across the U.S. and Canada. For more information on his
outfitting services, visit www.venturenorthoutfitting.com.
Member of OWAA & OWC.