November 29, 2009
November 28, 2009
Billie invited me to hunt with her on her lease. She neglected to tell me that I’d be in a lock on stand 75 feet in the air.
First thing: I am TERRIFIED of heights. Here I was thinking I was badass because I've been 12 feet up in the air in a ladder stand. I was mistaken.
Second thing: I am SHORT and CHUNKY! Climbing sticks are not made for me.
Pride can be a fairly strong motivator. We crept through the darkness to arrive at the stand. It was beautifully placed between two green fields. She assured me I would definitely see deer. I stood at the base of the tallest tree in the WORLD and tried not to poop my pants. There was no way I was wussing out. And so, I climbed.
About half way up I began to have second thoughts. Pride goeth before the fall. I was pretty sure I was about to be a literal example of that. I was sucking wind, sweat POURING down my neck, CERTAIN I was about to die when I spotted the platform. Oh beautiful safety. But wait, what’s that I see? A LIMB!
A mother trucking LIMB! That I was going to have to somehow throw my short legs OVER to get into the stand.
Billie was below me, quietly encouraging me. I began to seriously question our friendship. Had I somehow angered her? Did she secretly hate me?
Somehow, I can’t tell you how but I managed to get into the stand and immediately CLUNG to the tree for dear life. I finally secured my harness and turned around and sat. Once my heartbeat had quieted in my ears, I heard Billie below.
“Yep. Just great!”
“Ok, I’ll be back for ya in a bit. Good luck.”
I was pretty sure I’d emptied my luck bucket on the climb up.
I had a wonderful hunt. Turns out I was only 14 feet up. I saw three does and a young buck. Unfortunately none were within bow range. Despite that it was a good day.
Around 11, Billie came back to
rescue get me. Holy crap! I’d forgotten about down. What comes up, must come down?
I considered asking her to call the fire department. She gamely climbed up and then climbed down with me. Good friends are hard to come by!
I am certain that neither my climbing up OR down was pretty sight. But I am proud to say, I did it!
Pictures from my first foray into hunting:
These make me smile! I saw LOTS of them!
Billie, Me, Tes, Kathy, Michelle and Linda.
November 27, 2009
My father-in-law, Glenn Dale has about 100 acres that he, Mike and my brother-in-law, Jim hunt. Mike and I put me a ladder stand up! Whooooohooooo!
Glenn Dale had me a gate key made and gave it to me. “You’re gonna need to be able to get in and out when you want to!” It really was a very sweet moment.
My daddy is trying to talk me into “stalking” with him. I’m passing for now. I’m about as quiet as a three year old hopped up on Red Bull in a candy shop. It would probably end badly! I may take him up on the hunting with him offer eventually but for now, put me up a tree!
November 25, 2009
We got up the next morning for Tes to take pics of me and the most handsome fellow I’ve ever met. (Billie, Henri and Trotter got in a few of the pics too!
I spent the next few days in a variety of stands. The weather had warmed up and the deer didn’t seem to be moving as much, but I got some beautiful turkey action.
A chance class at a Becoming an Outdoor Woman event and a new friendship (Thanks Billie!) have created a new woman. The guys at The Shed are beyond wonderful. They took a novice hunter…and by novice I mean COMPLETELY GREEN…and helped me bag my first deer. B.O.W., Billie, The Nomadic Hunting Babes and the guys at The Shed changed my life. I will never be the same. And I will be eternally grateful to them for it!
If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be spending Halloween in a deer stand I would have laughed and called you crazy. I have never felt more alive and more comfortable in my own skin than when my bow is my hand. Life is amazing.
We spent lunch laughing at my less than successful morning hunt. I have come to realize that everyone has a “doh” moment. The NHBs each had a blooper tale. Despite that, it was beginning to look like time was the only thing I was successful at killing.
After lunch, Trotter, Henri and Larry sat in the corner pouring over a map. They were preparing for the evening hunt. I can’t say enough wonderful things about these guys. If we came home empty handed it would not be because they hadn’t worked their tails off trying to put us where the deer were.
That afternoon, we left the lodge headed to the woods. Once again, Henri had informed me I’d need my harness. I decided that if nothing else I was at least facing my fear of heights. I’d spent more time off the ground in the last few days than I had in the last 20 years combined!
Henri dropped everyone off, giving tips and thoughts to each one as he did. We stopped at the edge of a green field and he said “this is you”. He told me that the deer would probably be coming from behind me, “so be careful when you are peeping.” We laughed and I shut the door.
I made my way across the field. I tied my bow to the tow rope attached to the stand, tied my backpack to my own rope, adjusted my harness and up I went.
I was determined to NOT scare anything off. I was going to be a woodland NINJA! It was ON! I’m sure I was anything but.
I banged my bow pulling it up. I sneezed about 3 times. I almost dropped my backpack trying to get it situated. I am very glad that there isn’t video of me anywhere. I’m quite certain it’d be fodder for jokes for a loooooong time.
I’d been sitting for about 45 minutes when I noticed movement to the left of me. In the corner of the green field, three does appeared at the tree line. They began grazing and heading towards the left edge of the field. It was looking like I might get another chance. I watched for what seemed like hours. I remembered to actually range the does. The largest of the two stayed at the edge of the field but the two smaller girls were coming into range. I stood up, quietly positioning myself and readying for the shot. I got into shooting position and waited.
The middle sized doe was facing away from me and when she turned broadside I was ready. I pulled, aimed. Finger to the release. Whoosh. Does ran everywhere.
The minute I’d touched the release I knew what I’d done. I could only watch helplessly as my arrow completely missed the mark. I’d used the wrong pin on my sights.
I could only laugh as she stopped at the far edge of the field and looked back as if to say “what in the world was that?”
Lesson #1- it doesn’t do any good to range the critters if you aren’t going to use correct pin on your sites.
I laughed and texted Billie. “Just missed a doe….apparently it DOES matter which pin you use.” She “Lol’d” me and I settled in for the evening.
I’d been sitting for about 30 minutes when I heard rustling behind me. Out of nowhere to my right a BEAUTIFUL buck appeared. I suppressed the squeal that almost erupted out of me. I couldn’t have told you how many points he had. I couldn’t have told you how big he actually was. At that moment he was HUGE. MONSTER. Aside from my daughter, he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
I stood up. Was I actually going to do this? Was this actually happening? I drew and waited. He grazed oblivious to my presence. He quartered my way and I shot.
THWACK! He shot off like a bullet. I remembered that Billie had told me that in then event I shot and hit something to watch where it went.
At this point I’d LOVE to lie and say I was calm, cool and composed. I wasn’t.
“I SHOT A DEER”. Yep, I yelled it. Very woodland ninja of me to do so. I thunked back down on the seat of the stand. My mind was racing. My heart was hammering in my chest. I had actually done it. I immediately called Mike. Then Henri. He advised me to stay in the stand so that I didn’t spook the deer. I neglected to mention that I’d probably already messed that up.
I sat in the stand amazed. I found my arrow and it looked like there was blood on it. I am extremely nervous about gut shooting an animal. The thought of it horrifies me, I was starting to question whether my aim had been true.
I texted Billie “I shot a buck.”
“A BUCK R U SERIOUS”
“Yeah….I’m worried I gut shot him”
“It’ll be fine…we’ll find him”
“It went THWACK…is that good”
She has since told me that she almost threw the phone at this point.
“Yeah. TWHACK is good”
I called my dad, my mom and my father-in-law whispering the news to them. I spent the rest of the evening texting everyone I knew! ]
One of the highlights was that I saw another bigger buck about 30 minutes after the one I’d shot came out. He was beautiful too!
Larry, Henri and Michelle showed up a little after dark. I was a wee bit scared by the time they arrived. I’d almost talked myself into climbing back up into the stand.
Larry and Henri came crashing through the woods dragging my buck. MY buck. It was a surreal moment. Until they pulled him to me it wasn’t real. I’d convinced myself that I hadn’t actually gotten a good shot.
Prior to hunting I’d thought about this moment. What would I do if a miracle occurred and I actually killed something? How was I going to feel? Would I be elated? Or would I be upset by it?
I was humbled by the experience. It was overwhelming. The reality of taking another living creatures life was a heavy thing. But mixed with that was the realization that I had crossed over into another realm. When he was dressed and prepared, my family would be nourished by meat that I had harvested. There is a definite sense of pride in knowing that.
We made our way back to the lodge. There was a contingent of well wishers waiting my arrival. Pictures were taken. Everyone congratulated me. We sat around the fire and I told the tale. It was a singularly amazing day.
Henri and Trotter put him in the cooler because Tes wanted to take pictures the next morning.
This is Billie and I the next morning. We call this the “OMG KIM KILLED A DEER” shot.
It was a good day.
November 24, 2009
November 1, 2009
Morning Hunt: A lesson in utter humiliation.
4:00am. I am once again awakened to the smell of yummy things being fried in the kitchen. I roll over. Flip my pillow to the cool side and pull the comforter further up under my chin. I am REALLY rethinking this entire hunting thing. Is it really necessary to get up this early? This is inhumane. No one in their right mind gets up at this time of day for FUN!
Pride forces me out from under the weight of the nice cozy comforter. I’ve got something to prove. To myself. To the naysayers back in Louisiana who think I’m dabbling in some passing interest.
Henri informs me I’ll be needing the harness. Oh joy. Billie, Linda and I load up and head out. After a short drive Henri drops the other two ladies off and we head out into the darkness. He’s telling me something about the deer coming in along the ridge from my left. I’m so sleepy I can’t focus. I’m so terrified of the darkness I can’t focus. What I hear is “whah whah whah ridge, whah whah left”. We bounce up the hill and around the corner and end up in a green cul de sac. Henri gives me directions to the stand which is about 10 yards up the path and to the right, reminds me to “follow the Bright Eyes”. As I’m TRYING to quietly exit the truck he says “You’ll do good!”
He was wrong, so very, very wrong.
Lesson #1- FOLLOW THE BRIGHT EYES and NOT EVERY NOISE IS SOMETHING THAT WANTS TO KILL ME
I left the truck and walked through the opening in the trees. Flashlight in hand, I crept through the forest. The darkness was like a blanket, a terrifying cold wet blanket. Each sound I heard was some creature coming to make me their breakfast. I’m extremely afraid of the dark. It’s almost pathological. And yet, here I was in the wilds of Alabama with a Maglite in hand traipsing about in the dark.
I stopped. I realized I’d walked a lot further than 10 yards and didn’t see any Bright Eyes. Shit.
I could feel the panic rising up. My heart rate already elevated jumped into an entire new gear. Sweat began running down my neck. So much for Scentlock.
I gathered myself up. Slowed down my heart and breathing. Reminded myself that the sun would EVENTUALLY come up “see there’s light already peeking through the trees” and that I wasn’t REALLY lost. I walked another 5 yards up the path until I reached a steep drop off. Henri hadn’t mentioned a huge drop, so I was pretty sure I’d overshot the turn for the stand.
I began retracing my steps. After 10 minutes of backtracking I broke down and called Henri-“well, I’m lost. I can’t find the stand”
He was extremely gracious! He told me the directions again and assured me that I’d simply passed the turn. He was right. I had walked right by the flagging and Brighteyes on my way in. If there had been a flashing neon sign, I probably still would have missed it.
Lesson #2- If your stand is in front of a rise of land one must be ever so careful about peeping around the tree.
I think this one is self explanatory, but I’ll elaborate.
Once I’d settled into the stand I was prepared for a long morning of seeing nothing but leaves. I was pretty sure I’d destroyed any hope with my morning walk.
I was shocked to see three beautiful does coming down the ridge around 9am that morning. They were no where near my shooting area so I watched them graze. They walked along my left side within yards of my stand. At one point the middle sized one was within about 5 yards of me. I don’t think I’ve EVER been that still in my life! They made their way behind my stand. I could hear them quietly walking through the leaves, stopping occasionally to graze on the acorns. After 10 minutes of this I was dying! I couldn’t stand it. I could hear them but had no idea where they were.
I decided to peeeeeeeeeeeep around the tree. I took a slow, deep breath and steadied myself for the stealth action that was required. I turned my chin to the left and ever so slowly began leaning to the left. I turned my head and found myself what seemed like eye to eye with one of the does. I don’t know who it startled more, her or me. We both jumped and the last I saw of them was their white tails topping the ridge.
I’d forgotten that the land rose up behind the tree I was in. When I’d peeped behind the tree I was in their direct line of site.
This hunt was quickly becoming a lesson in what not to do. Any anti hunting group would be THRILLED if all hunters were as inept as it was looking like I was.
Henri was gracious as always when he picked me up, even after I told him of my epic failure. The NHB’s were as well. I’d like to think that everyone made mistakes when they were novice hunters.
I was beginning to think I’d never actually harvest a deer. I was glad I was enjoying the company!
November 23, 2009
October 31, 2009
I gamely asked Henry “do I need my safety harness?” I hope my relief wasn’t too obvious when he said no, that I would be in a ground blind on a green field for the afternoon.
Side note: I had NO idea what a ground blind actually looks like from the inside or what to do once I was IN one and further more had NO idea what a “green field” was.
We loaded up in the trucks and headed out.
I have to be honest, at this point I felt like a poser.
After lunch we had went out front to shoot some practice arrows. EASY, right? WRONG!!! Apparently you really shouldn’t shoot broadheads into one of those sack looking targets that are filled with fiberfill. It’s REALLY hard to get them out. That was fun, I stood like a lost goose while Tes and Billie cut them out of the target. They were extremely gracious about it and actually joked with me about it.
Poser cred: It had taken me at least 15 minutes longer than the other hunters to put myself together to leave the lodge. I felt like I would NEVER get the hang of putting the safety harness on. My boots were a major pain in the butt to get on and off. I forgot my BOW in the room!!!!!! I had spent the day listening to everyone talk about hunting and most of the time it was like listening to a foreign language.
I was lost. I kept thinking that at some point these folks are going to realize that I HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE what I’m doing and just tell me to hang out at the lodge and watch Lifetime Movies. BUT they didn’t….I actually asked some pretty stupid questions…usually trying to make a joke out of my lack of knowledge. Each question was patiently and kindly answered.
Buck Jam- is that for toast ha ha?' Oh..it’s a mineral supplement!
Chicory- Ha ha, that’s what Community Coffee has in it! You can plant that? And deer EAT it???? Ah! It’s a perennial that you can plant in your food plots and deer DO eat it!
Mulies- are those some kind of new cute shoe? Because I love shoes. Yuck-yuck. It’s slang for mule deer! Wow!
And so that was my state of mind as I stepped out of the truck repeating Henri’s directions to the blind over and OVER in my head in an effort to keep from getting lost. I turned and started walking feeling like a fool.
There were deer tracks everywhere along the trail to the stand. I was impressed that I even knew what a track looked like. Following Henri’s directions, I reached the field. It was a beautiful rectangle of verdant green carpet that sloped gently downhill and slightly to the right. Stopping at the edge of the expanse I looked for the pop-up blind. I finally spotted it and per Henri’s advice, began walking down the center of the field. I stopped almost directly in front of the blind and cut across and began getting into the blind.
After opening the windows facing the left side of the field I began getting situated. I’d brought a book, but I was so paranoid about moving too much I just left it in the pack. I tried to get my arrow on my bow. It wouldn’t fit….I tried pushing it harder but to no effect. Then I took the time to actually look at what I was doing.
First lesson of the afternoon: Part A: check knock for dirt and debris.
First lesson: Part B: Clear floor of blind of aforementioned debris and this will help eliminate debris in knock problem AND have the added bonus of decreasing the noise level! (I thought about this when I went to sleep that night!)
I ranged the field like Billie had told me to do. That ant hill is 17 yards away. That clod of dirt is 26. That one is 21. I was ready.
About 4:40pm suddenly without warning a doe stepped out of the tree line like a ghost from the mist. She was followed by a spike. I have never been so shocked by anything in my life.
I TRULY didn’t believe that I would see a deer. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t going to happen. Two deer at one time was just overwhelming.
I kept thinking to myself “there is NO way I’m even going to see a deer much less actually shoot at one! It’s just not going to happen so you better just enjoy the trip and getting to know some new people.” I had a looong list of reasons it wasn’t going to happen.
I have ADD. I can’t sit without fidgeting unless I’ve taken my meds and even then it’s sometimes a struggle. I’m clumsy. I make too much noise. For Pete’s sake, I hum to myself when no one is around!
And yet…there they were! I quit breathing. I lost peripheral vision. I could hear my heartbeat in my hair. I thought I was going to throw up.
OH WAIT! I’M HUNTING! I’m supposed be getting ready to shoot one of these deer. I took a deep breath. The pair were grazing at the tree line about 47 yards away. FAR beyond where I am comfortable shooting. Bow in hand, ready to draw I waited. They were coming my direction so I leaned towards the back of the blind (NINJA style) and drew my bow.
I WAS GOING TO SHOOT AT A DEER! I couldn’t believe it.
I leaned back to the front of the blind to take aim and found that they had turned back towards the tree line and the doe was heading back into the trees. I quietly let down the bow.
I silently willed them to turn back my direction. The doe casually walked back into the trees and disappeared as magically as she had appeared. The spike stood for a second as if trying to decide what his next move would be. He cocked his head and began grazing at the edge of the trees. I sat and watched him as he made his way up the field. I watched until he was directly in front of me. His outline illuminated by the sun was dimly visible through the fabric of the closed front windows. He began walking directly towards me, grazing as he went. I watched as he turned and began to walk back towards the back of the field. I watched his nose come into view on a direct path to the ant hill I had ranged at 17 yards. I WAS GOING TO GET A CHANCE AT A SHOT!
I quietly positioned myself and readied to draw. I pulled and nothing. It wouldn’t budge. I took a deep breath and pulled. Nothing! Not an inch. What. The. Hell. I could SEE his head dropped nibbling on the grass. Was THIS what a friend of mine had told me about? Was I seizing up?????? I once again took a deep breath and PULLED! SUCCESS!
I’m not sure what exactly spooked him. It could have been the movement of my elbow. It could have been the sound of my stool. Billie said it was likely the expletive that I probably spewed. I don’t REMEMBER cursing, but I also don’t remember NOT cursing.
As I watched him go I laughed. What else is there to do?
I saw four more deer that afternoon. Two spotted fawns played and grazed for almost 30 or 40 minutes often within two or three feet of my blind. They were so close at one point that I could hear them pulling the grass out of the dirt. A doe walked about halfway down the field and then disappeared into the thicket. At dusk, I heard rustling to my right and was watching to see what had made the noise when I noticed movement out of the corner of my left eye. I turned to was a beautiful one horned buck lope across the field.
When I saw my guide Henri’s light coming down the hill I couldn’t wait to tell him and the others about my day! As we sat around the campfire that evening, we compared the days events. As I retold my tale of woe, other’s offered up similar stories of their own. There were tales of past successes and past failures. It was a great evening. The perfect end to my perfect day. No deer were harvested that day, but I no longer felt like a fraud and a poser. I had passed into some new country and was a part the great circle of hunters. If I never hunted another day, I was at that moment a fellow countryman. Or woman as the case may be.
November 17, 2009
October 31, 2009
Halloween. I LOVE Halloween. I love it almost as much as Christmas. I think it's the decorations and the chocolate. It's the one day of the year when you have permission to be someone else. It's the day that we have permission to try on a new persona. I can't think of a better day to start hunting.
It's also a time to be scared. Or in my case SCARED!
4:00 am I awake to the smell of bacon. You'd think this would make me happy as I am a true fan of the other white meat, you'd be mistaken. It's 4 in the blessed morning. I decide I truly have lost my mind. I'm wondering if it would be bad form to forgo the morning hunt. I decide that it would probably not look great and force myself out of my warm, comfortable bed. Why, oh why is your bed most comfortable as you are swinging your legs out of it???? It's truly one of the crueler jokes the universe plays on us.
After a breakfast of biscuits, eggs and bacon we start gathering on the front porch. I feel like an impostor. The other ladies confidently gather their gear and joke with the guides. They discuss angles and where the deer are going to be coming in. They gather their climbing stands. I'm trying to figure out which is the front of my damned safety harness. It isn't pretty. I hope that my fear didn't show. The NHB's had the grace to overlook it if it did.
The Nomadic Hunting Babes (NHBs) are what this group of ladies call themselves. They've been hunting together for about 6 years. They are an amorphous group with different ladies coming to hunts according to their schedules. Tes is the one that calls them for the gathering. She'd probably disagree with my evaluation, but she's a beacon. I feel like I've been drawn here by her and this group. I've heard Billie speak of Tes and the NHBs so often that they'd almost become mythical creatures. I will find over this trip that they are amazing women. Funny, smart, self deprecating and serious hunters from all over. There are members that I've yet to meet and if they are half a wonderful as the five I have met I can't wait!
David Trotter, or Trotter as he prefers to be called tells me "you're with me." Linda, Billie and I load up in his Tahoe and head out. It's still dark. I'm thinking I should be in bed.
We make our way to the stands. We pass through a clear cut, the slick red Alabama clay wet in the rain. The sky is "spitting" as a friend of mine would call the uneven drizzle. I mentally note that I have a slicker suit in my backpack. It smells like the cheap PVC that it's made of. It was a last minute, afterthought purchase.
Lesson One: If this hunting thing is something I decide to take up, I'm probably going to need something waterproof to wear that didn't cost $4.99.
Billie and Linda are the first to be dropped off. Trotter gives Billie directions to her stand and last minute advise about where the deer have been moving. She quietly shuts the door and disappears into the dark woods. We repeat the same routine with Linda 5 minutes down the road. My stomach is doing flip flops. I'm beginning to regret breakfast. It's uncertain whether it's going to stay down.
Trotter and I continue down the road. He takes a right and we start down a slick, hilly trail. Once I'm certain that we are going to get stuck in the mud. Trotter simply backs up, guns it and we slide up the hill. My stomach is on spin cycle at this point. If Trotter notices, he doesn't mention it bless him.
We come to a stop. I wait for directions, but notice that he says "we're going to go down here about 25 yards and take a right"
We? He said we. He's going with me.
I don't know whether to shout for joy or cry because there will be witness to my humiliation. I'm thinking about the 12 foot stand that awaits me at the end of this trail. Do I REALLY want to go up it? If he's there I have to. If he doesn't walk me in, chances of me finding it at all are slim and then I can postpone getting airborne a little while longer. Fear is pretty much all I'm feeling at this point.
We start walking. The narrow road cuts through a pine thicket. I can't see over the next hill and am terrified that I'm about to bust my ass and slide down the one that we're trekking down. The rain has finally stopped, but the result is that everything is wet and slick. I'm clumsy on a good day. Loading myself down with a backpack and a bow, encasing myself in layers of camo and hunting boots hasn't changed that. Frankly, it's made it worse. I try to keep a smile on my face. Does it look like I'm about to cry? I hope not.
We arrive at the stand. It looks about 40 feet in the air. A metal behemoth taunting me from the trees. Trotter makes his way to the stand and I gamely follow him. He tells me where I can expect the deer to come from. I don't really hear him. All I can hear is my heart pounding in my ears. I'm concentrating on not throwing up and not crying.
Trotter takes my bow and ties it to the haul rope. I stand in front of the stand. One foot at a time. One rung at a time. This will become a mantra for me over the next few days.
I find myself hugging a tree and securing my safety harness. I haven't looked down. It will be the breaking point. If I do, I'll never stay up. Harness secure I take a deep breath and duck under it and sit. I open my eyes and see the tops of the pine trees in the thicket we've come through. I'm situated in the middle of a group of hardwoods at the edge of the thicket. I can hear a creek gurgling behind me. Beyond the far edge of the thicket I can see the hardwood forest begin. The golden and rust colored leaves are beautiful. Fall colors as far as I can see. Gods palette is awe inspiring.
I remember that Trotter is still waiting on me below. I look down and he's patiently looking up at me.
"You ok?" he asks concerned.
"I'm good" I reply and it's not a lie. I'm up a tree. And it's pretty fantastic.
He comes up and helps me get my gear situated. I'd probably still be figuring out what to do with my backpack. I've never been so grateful for someone's help. Trotter leaves me and I attempt to get situated.
Mishaps and lessons learned:
I drop the hook I'd brought to hang my backpack from. I remember that I forgot to pee before we left. I remember that I forgot to take my zyrtec, so now I'm worried that I'll start sneezing. I remember that I didn't bring toilet paper with me if I DO need to pee and furthermore I forgot to ask how far away from my stand do I need to go if I need to go. I remember to put an arrow in my bow about an hour into hunting.
The learning curve is starting to look more like a summit climb.
I don't see anything except squirrels. I will hear rustling on the other side of the creek at various times but nothing comes my way. I'm sure that I made enormous amounts of noise. I'm sure that I moved around entirely too much. I'm sure that I made pretty much every mistake a new hunter can make. It didn't matter. I had a squirrel on a limb by me going about his business at one point. I watched the forest awake. It was amazing.
About 20 minutes before the pickup time I gather everything up and make my way to the pickup spot. I want to get out of the stand and get there on my own. It's a matter of pride. I'm not a helpless girl after all. I've been in a tree stand. I'm a hunter. I'm waiting when Trotter and the ladies come around the curve. I casually get in the truck. I'm trying to be cool, but inside I'm shouting for joy.
I just hunted. I conquered my fear of heights. Ok, maybe not conquered it but I circumvented it!
I am awesome! And I can't wait until the afternoon hunt.
November 12, 2009
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, ahem....how 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.
November 11, 2009
The pathway to my "new" interest in bow hunting actually began about 4 years ago. I blame my friends Rhonda and Billie.
In the spring of 2005 I attended my second BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman)weekend. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries puts these weekends on each spring and Rhonda had invited me to attend that spring's festivities with her again. Since I'd had such a fantastic time the first go round, I overnighted my registration to secure the classes I was hoping to get into. One of these was archery.
I'm an only child. My Dad tried to get me interested in hunting. He bought me 410 shotgun when I was around 7. At 8 or so he bought me a beautiful 22 caliber rifle. But I just didn't like hunting. You had to be WAY too quiet and you had to get up way too early. And besides, bunnies and squirrels were cute and I didn't want to EAT them. He took me turkey hunting and duck hunting. I actually did shoot at a duck once, but didn't hit it. When I was around 10 or so my Dad decided to undertake bow hunting. In the spirit of the moment he also purchased me a small Browning bow to play with in the back yard. I lost interest fairly quickly.
At age 12 in what I imagine was a last ditch effort to get me interested in hunting for Christmas he got me one of the only two things I'd asked for. A 12 gauge shotgun. Pump action per my request. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! I also got the Cabbage Patch doll I wanted so desperately. It was a good Christmas. Alas, all of Daddy's efforts proved to be fruitless. While I loved shooting, hunting held no appeal.
Fast forward to 2005. The term "helicopter mom" would definitely be an appropriate moniker for yours truly. For 15 years, my schedule had revolved around dance class, dance practice, homework, Beta Club, 4H projects, football games...basically whatever Claire was interested in at any given moment I was there to provide transportation to and from or a hot glue gun or snacks. Need a PTA vice president? I was your girl. Need a volunteer for your booth? Sign me up. I was THAT mom.
It was with a beginning realization that my daughter would be leaving to go to college in 3 short years nipping at my brain that I packed my bags and headed to Camp Grant Walker for a BOW weekend. I had no idea that a seed would be planted that weekend.
We walked over to the archery field and got our equipment. A left handed bow for me please. We shot without sights. I drew back, settled myself,carefully aligned my shot, held my breath and released the string. Thunk. Hitting the target was one of the most amazing things I'd ever done. The instructors offered to take us to the 3D course if we'd like to go. I wanted to yell HELL YES!
After the class the instructors were talking about how women were becoming interested in bow hunting. I left the class intrigued but with no real plan to pursue bow hunting. I had dance line uniforms to add rhinestones to I didn't have time to HUNT!
The path to bow hunting to another turn when I ran through two does and a HUGE buck on my way through Vidalia one morning during Claire's senior year of high school. It was to be one of the most horrifying experiences of my life.
Mike, Claire, Claire's boyfriend and I were on our way to Baton Rouge when the deer appeared seemingly out of nowhere. There was no way to avoid them. I hit all three. I managed to avoid directly hitting the buck. He slid across the hood of my car and was uninjured. The impact broke one of the doe's leg. The sight of her running away injured will always haunt me. The other doe was seizing in the median and died. We were very fortunate. We were uninjured but shaken up. I've never left home at night without my Mom telling me to watch for deer, but this was 9am. Mike doesn't remember it, but he turned to me and said "This is one of the reason's I hunt...without hunting the population would explode, it'd be just like Pud and Diane's"
My Uncle Pud and Aunt Diane lived in upstate New York. When we had went to visit, we were initially amazed by all the deer in their neighborhood. We woke one morning to two does nibbling outside the dining room window. However, we quickly realized that the joy of this sight was a double edged sword. The roads were practically littered with deer carcasses. It was horrible.
It's now 2009. Claire is a college sophomore. I've been working full time for almost 2 years. I'd read books, become obsessed with Sookie Stackhouse, remodeled the house. I still wasn't sure what to do with myself.
I was at work the first week of September when a co-worker and good friend, Billie mentioned that the group of women that she hunts with had a spot available on a bow hunt in Alabama. She was lamenting the fact that she didn't know anyone that would be interested in going. I asked how much the hunt would be and said I might would like to go. Billie was very polite and said to let her know for sure in the next week or so.
"Do you have a bow?" she asked.
I answered honestly, "No, but we can buy me one"
She just looked at me and said "Ooooookaaay".
I bothered her about it over the next week. She kept saying that she'd check with Tes and see if the spot was still available. I'm pretty sure she thought I was crazy. She finally said "ok, if you want the spot it's yours." I came home that night and told Mike that I was going on a bow hunt with Billie. I know he thought I was crazy.
On 09/28/09 I wrote a check to The Shed Hunting Lodge for half the amount and mailed it to Tes. On 10/12/09 I wrote a check to Blade and Barrel and bought my bow. On 11/01/09 I killed my first deer, a beautiful 5 point buck. I'm pretty much hooked now.
I'm planning on blogging about the journey. I've already figured out that there is a bit of a learning curve. A pretty steep one.
Is there a designer backpack that comes in camo? I'm a girlie girl with a bow. There will be glitter involved. :)