November 12, 2009

First day, first hunt...

October 30, 2009 4:00am- The alarm goes off and I roll over and push snooze. 15 minutes later, it's waking me up again. I'm beginning to wonder what I was thinking. I have rarely gotten up voluntarily at this god forsaken time of the day. This sort of early arising is usually reserved for Canton trips or Black Friday sales, not for some hunting trip to Godknowswhere, Alabama! Since I know Billie will be here at 5, I force myself out of the warm cozy spot irritating the cat in the process. She looks at me like I'm insane. I'm beginning to think she's right.

To verify my Babe in the Woods cred, here are some facts to be aware of:
The last time I was actually taken hunting I was 10.
I had never actually killed anything other than time and spiders.
I talked Billie into taking me with her on this trip in late September.
I mailed my check for the deposit 9/28/09.
My bow came in fresh and new and shiny from the factory 10/09/09
I wrote a check to Blade & Barrel for the bow and all the "stuff" that went with it, including three arrows with field tips on 10/12/09. I shot it off of my father in law's back porch that afternoon. It wasn't sighted in.
The next Thursday, I went out to Billie Ann's and we sighted my bow in. I had a 20, a 30 and a 40 yard pin. There was little chance I'd be brave or stupid enough to shoot at a deer at 40 yards, but I had a pin just in case!

The next week at work and at one more visit to her house we had a few more lessons. How do you use a range finder? How do you get into a safety harness? What else would I need for the trip? Facemask, thermacel, flashlight, gloves, about some actual camo clothes?

I spent every available moment practicing. I even brought my target and bow to work.
On my evening breaks, I'd take the target out back behind the hospital's helipad to practice. It's a great area. There's a pine forest that butts up to the hospital property that makes the perfect backdrop for practicing. I lost one arrow out in the pines and am still pissed about it.

I was as ready as I was ever going to be in the short time we had. The list of things we hadn't covered is loooooong. But I was excited and surely enthusiasm counts for something, right?

We left my house around 5:30am headed to Butler, Alabama. I'm certain that there were moments Billie Ann was ready to smack me in the back of the head. I talk. Alot. I talked ALL the way to Butler. I had warned her prior to us leaving so she was duly warned. I also warned her that I snore and have been known to flirt. I don't think she believed me. She does now.

We spent the majority of the ride in the rain. We covered the basics that we hadn't went over on the back porch. Where do you want to hit the deer? What will probably happen at the lodge? Do the guides stay with you or do they just drop you off? Do they walk you to the stands? Will it be ladder stands or ground blinds? Who all was going on the trip? Was I the only new hunter? When I'm in a stand or blind where do I put all this sh.., I mean hunting gear?

We arrived in Butler around 11ish. Billie called Tes to let her know we were in town and to check where we could get a hunting license. Tes directed us to Village Sporting Goods. I'd just like to say that this place is AMAZING! It's a sporting goods store and MORE! Pawn shop, gift shop and JEWELRY store! Brilliant! They had a fantastic archery section. I purchased a facemask and call. I figured I'd use the mask, wasn't so sure about the call. The clerks directed us to the Choctaw County courthouse to purchase our licenses.

The ink still wet on my license we made our way to The Shed Hunting Lodge. We were met by Larry Norton, owner of The Shed and Michelle and Kathy two of the ladies who were participating in the hunt.

I will always wonder, did I look as green as I felt? Both literally and figuratively. I was NERVOUS. The ladies on this hunt are REAL hunters, I'm just a girl with a cute Coach handbag and a new Browning Bow. What was I thinking? My camo still had tags on it for Pete's sake. My boots were an old pair of Lacrosses I'd bought in college to keep my feet dry.

We got unpacked and the other ladies began trickling in. The ladies include: two professional outdoor photographers, one of these is also an outdoor writer the other runs elk hunts with her husband, one of the ladies works with the NRA and is a huge turkey and deer hunter, one of the ladies was once a ranked competitive 3D archer and my friend Billie has been hunting since she was young and runs a trophy hog hunting operation. And then there was me. I've shot at a duck once and thought about shooting a squirrel. Babe in the woods, indeed.

Another quick fact: I am TERRIFIED of heights.

You can imagine my relief when we had to postpone our evening hunt due to weather alerts.I had another day safe and secure ON THE GROUND! Yay for tornado watches!!!! My relief was short lived. Henri came in the lodge and asked me to step outside with my safety harness. He'd put a ladder stand up on the light pole in the yard. Oh joy.

Now, not only was I going to have to go up this damn thing but I was going to do so in the yard with an have an audience as well. AND apparently shoot from the thing. I was wishing for the blessed woods with only the squirrels and birds to bear witness to my humiliation.

Another quick fact: safety harnesses make your ass look big. For those of us who are, ahem, blessed in the backfield this is NOT a great thing.

I stood at the base of the stand and looked up. It was at least 25 feet in the air. Or at least it seemed to be.

A life metaphor learned in the Alabama breeze:
One foot at a time.
One rung at a time.
I swallowed and grabbed a rail. I hoisted myself up and climbed. I kept my eyes on the prize...that square of metal was beautiful. I reached the top and stopped. I somehow managed to attach my safety harness, I can't remember doing it. The sounds of the people below cheering me on should have encouraged me, instead all I could think was "don't throw up, don't pee, don't poot, don't fall". What deep thoughts I have in times of distress.

I ducked under my harness and got into a seated position and rearranged my self. I was about 10 feet up, but the sheer will it took to make myself go up the ladder made me feel 20 feet tall. Larry climbed up and handed me my bow.

Crunch time was here. I stalled by taking my time adjusting my release, adjusting myself. Could they tell I wanted to cry?

I have a life philosophy: you should do things that are unpleasant like a band aid...just rip em off. In other words, just do it!

So I did.

Draw back. Inhale. Find the target. Hold my breath. Light tap on the release. THWACK! Damned near center!!!!!!!!!

Billie's hands went up.
She yelled, laughing "my work here is DONE!"

It was a good day.

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