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Women in Hunting

Sometimes life gets in the way.  While I enjoy posting, sometimes it’s hard to get myself to just sit down and type.  Since the last time there was a post on here, my archery league team took second place, my boyfriend bagged a turkey, I secured a new job for myself, and have spent many days on the water fishing, in addition to teaching numerous hunter/trapper ed classes.

Recently, a new rifle was brought to my attention.  The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla.  It’s a gorgeous women-specific model named after Weatherby founder, Roy Weatherby’s wife.  While looking for this gun to shoulder I was thwarted.  My local dealer was called and I asked if they had one in stock.  Not only did they not have one in stock, but they had no idea what I was talking about.  This led to a call directly to Weatherby.  There, they said that it would probably be difficult to find one, as the Camilla is flying out the door as quickly as they can make them.  They are to put me in contact with their local rep, who will be going to my local gun shop dealer to give them a demo.

My search for the Camilla led me to question what other equipment is available in women-specific models.  In hunter safety, we also say that the best gun or bow is the one that fits you.  With women being the quickest growing demographic in hunting it only makes sense that times would keep up with this need.  The companies that support women hunters are clearly seeing benefits.  When I became reintroduced to shooting, as an adult, I was using my boyfriend’s gear.  He’s over six feet tall, while I’m a mere 5’2″.  The guns I used were enough to get me started.  I shot sporting clays with his Ruger Red Label and a deer with his .30-06.  It wasn’t until I bought my own firearms that actually fit that I got markedly better at shooting.  My boyfriend was quickly outpaced and I’d frequently beat his score at sporting clays.

My sporting clays gun of choice is a Browning Citori that I purchased used.  In the summer, without extra gear the length of pull is just fine.  The stock has a higher comb than the Red Label that I learned on and fits just about perfectly.  At gun shows, I would shoulder numerous shotguns and rifles.  After an opening day pheasant hunt where I could’ve used a third shot, I decided to add a semi-automatic shotgun to my collection.  That’s where the Browning Maxus came in.

In terms of rifles, I’ve really lucked out.  My first deer was taken with my boyfriend’s .30-06 during my first year of deer hunting, a buck.  The following year, a doe was taken with the same gun.  It was becoming time to get my own deer rifle.  I’d been given a .308 from my father, but when sighting it in realized that my scope mounts were stripped out.  Luckily, a friend hooked us up with someone who was thinning their collection of rifles, and I was able to pick up the same model rifle as I’d shot my first 2 deer with.  It was strange, though.  The butt plate had been replaced.  We found a Ruger M77 red butt plate and attached it, only to find that it didn’t fit quite right.  After taking it to a gunsmith to have it worked down, we were told that the stock had been shortened.  This made sense, as the rifle shoulders better than his.

After taking a deer with my crossbow, I’d decided that it was time to be a big girl and get a compound bow.  It wasn’t hard for me to decide that I wanted a women specific bow.  This led me to the BowTech, Eva Shockey Signature Series.  It’s something I will never regret.  My boyfriend is amazed every time I let him shoot it.

Fast forward to today.  After looking for that rifle, I wondered what other companies made a women-specific model.  A websearch led me to a site that has Airguns for women.  Pennsylvania just opened up the ability to use air rifles for game, so I figured that I would take a look.  Of the 10 items on the page, 7 of them were pink.  Really?!?!  Searches for women-specific rifles and shotguns came back with very few products, but mostly articles about finding a gun that fits.

The hunt is on for more women-specific gear.  It’s time to embrace the largest growing demographic.

 

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Checking In

It’s been a busy month for sure.  Nearly every morning on my drive to work I think about what I could post on this page.  There’s a rabbit post in my plans for sure.  One would think with trapping season ending toward the end of February things would’ve eased up, but then there was the Hunter-Trapper Education Instructor’s dinner and teaching my first class.  February also brought in the Great American Outdoors Show in Harrisburg.  Things sure have been crazy, and I feel like I’ve neglected my duty to post something.  Before that happens again I thought I’d check in.  Within the next week I’m hoping to have a rabbit post up and perhaps a product review.

Archery leagues have kept me busy every Thursday night (plus practice time) for the past two months.  We had managed to pull ahead, but then last week we lost our 1/2 game lead because a member of a different team had missed his second week giving the team we were neck and neck with a win instead of a loss.  We have two weeks left.  One in the regular season and then a knockdown week.  More on the archery leagues when that all ends.

Stand Up For Something

Last night, hey sportsman told me that they don’t care if federal lands are sold off because those lands are in the West and he’s in the East and will probably never visit those lands. Why is this apathy so rampant in our society?

He is a trapper. It wasn’t long ago that Montana had proposed to end trapping on public land. The local trappers association got together to make phone calls and donate money in an effort to keep the right to trap on public land even though it did not affect us here in Pennsylvania.  Because of the efforts of many, the rights of a few where upheld and trappers in Montana are still able to trap public land.  Trappers are an extremely small percentage of the population and they keep to themselves for the most part, so when they speak out and get involved you really know that you’ve hit a nerve.

Precedent setting can be a dangerous thing. We had a discussion about how people lose their rights. If we want support for a cause it is important that we support others. 

I ask you to keep up to date on changes that I proposed on the federal, state, and local levels.  Speak out and stand up for what you believe in. Share both your support for changes or your dissent. A single letter can make a huge difference. If you don’t want to write a letter, you can call, fax, or even email your representatives.

Federally, there is a bill in Congress that would sell off your public lands, mostly in the West. They claim that these lands are not useful for anything.  There are people who hunt on these lands and hike on these lands and take their dogs for a walk on these lands. How is that not useful?  Personally, I don’t care if I ever set foot in the public land out west, but I will stand up for the people who do use those lands because it is the right thing to do. 

#publiclandsproud #keepitpublic

Try Something New Every Day

There have been studies that show that trying new things can lead to greater happiness. Trying new things forces us to be courageous and overcome our fears. 

A month ago, I was asked to join my sportsman’s club’s archery league. In September of 2015, I was blessed to take an archery deer with my crossbow and immediately went out and bought a compound bow. I played around with my compound a little. It went to the range a few times. Over the summer I went to shoot and after adding a wrist sling I kept shooting to the left. I became frustrated and put the bow away for a while. 

I welcomed the opportunity with a little trepidation. Once I agreed, the learning curve was steep. How does the scoring work?  What do I need to do?  Will I be able to shoot with other people around?

Practice makes perfect. My bow saw quite a bit of action at the range. The scores slowly rose point by point. And by the time I had to shoot my average I probably shot too well.

Along came my first week of the league, I was nervous. Just hit the target. That’s what I was told. I knew that the average I needed to shoot was attainable but it was going to be tough with my nerves and shooting with people in the lanes directly adjacent to me. 

I hit the target with each shot. That was a good start. I even managed an x and 2 10s. But I realized that I need to work on my mental game. It was hard for me to get in the zone and have fun. The new shooter next to me could not keep his gear in his lane. He was even hitting my bow arm while I was at full draw.  Controlling my angst about uncouth people will be tough for sure. 

Overall, I need to remember to have fun and I’ll do fine. I shot just below my average but I kept them all on the target. Now that I know what to expect it should get better every week. 

New Years Resolutions: AKA Goal Setting

As the new year approaches it is time to gather thoughts and set goals for the following year while reflecting on the achievements of the past.  Some goals are small and of no interest to the masses while others can be large accomplishments.  Goals can be short term and relegated to the year or long term without a deadline within the year.

2016 allowed me to attain a few goals while others will have to remain for 2017.  Goals reached in 2016 include:

  • Catching a muskie (even if I wasn’t fishing specifically for it)
  • Catching striped bass
  • Take a buck bigger than my first (1st=8 pointer, 2016’s=10 pointer)
  • Take a buck with my crossbow
  • Become a Hunter Trapper Education Instructor with the Game Commission
  • Pass the test for my Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator permit
  • Give back with a position on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Trapping and Conservation
  • Figure out how to bowfish
  • Add fish to my catch list: Quillback Carpsucker, Carp, Muskellunge
  • Earn PFBC Fishing Citation (Catch & Release-Channel Catfish, and Senior Angler Award-Carp)
  • Successfully shoot a fox when calling (Rifle)

Goals I’d like to achieve in the future:

  • Elk tag drawing
  • Catch or shoot a coyote
  • Finish my groundhog possibles bag
  • Shoot more flintlock
  • Shoot more trap/sporting clays
  • More bowfishing
  • Catch a fish with a topwater lure
  • Spend more time trapping
  • Get certified for the National Archery in our Schools Program
  • Get an article published

What are your goals?  Share them in the comments!

A Measure Of Success

As the end of 2016 draws near it becomes time to look back both literally and figuratively. Scrolling through pictures on the iPhone there are many landscapes, animal signs, harvests, plants, and animals.  How do we measure a year; a hunt; success?  Is it the food we bring to the table?  Or the picture of a taken animal?  Is it the tranquility and excitement of being outdoors?

My favorite hunts share a common thread–getting lost in the moment.  The moment can occur at any time, but rarely involves pulling a trigger.  Hunting has afforded some truly memorable moments that would have otherwise been lost to the winds of time.  I measure success in experiences and memories.  The memories of a harvest will remain but it’s the small memories that evoke the most joy in reminiscing. 

A rustle in the leaves during a spring gobbler hunt; the chipmunk I’d been searching for turned out to be a blue fence lizard (uncommon in Pennsylvania) who decided that I was warm as he began courting me.  His sapphire blue throat flashing with each chirp. 

An archery season deer approaching, only to see that it was a protected buck. I rested my head back against the tree and just enjoyed his company. 

The excitement of my first deer hunt, opening day of antlered firearms a few seasons ago, the thud of deer hooves through the leaves. Standing ten yards away locked into a staring contest was a beautiful doe who sported a coat unlike any I’d seen before, the black tones shining through. 

An orange salamander on a bed of leaves after a rain.  A mushroom growing in the hollow of a tree. The sharp-shinned hawk diving for a meal and coming up empty-handed.  Ringing in my ears and the sweet aromatherapy of firing a shotgun in a cornfield for the first time.  The first pair of eyes you spy on a predator hunt.  Watching a pheasant take wing over a grass field with tail feathers trailing.  The beauty and power of a released fish swimming away. 

I rarely tire of taking my gun for a walk.  When I am old and no longer capable of hunting I will look back on my successes; the beauty of the dawn, the world awakening, the sound of a leaf liberating itself from a tree, and know that I have been blessed. 

  
 

#WildGameWednesday Deer Heart

  
There are many rituals associated with the heart. It just happens to have become my favorite meal in addition to appeasing my need to use as much of the animal as possible. 

My first deer I wanted to try the heart.  My boyfriend pressure cooked and pickled it. At first I was unsure. Is it really edible?  It was edible and while it was enjoyable it wasn’t amazing. 

Fast forward to a few deer later.  I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts. Long commutes to work pass by much quicker with a good podcast. One of my favorites is the MeatEater podcast with Steven Rinella. I came across his recipe for deer heart. 

The next heart was fried. That’s when I fell in love. All of my hunting friends know that I will drive quite the distance to come collect a deer heart that isn’t being used. 

The recipe:

After soaking your deer heart in water, rinse it and then core out the top like an apple. 

Slice the heart horizontally to make rings. 

Dredge the heart in flour (with salt and pepper mixed in). 

Fry in a hot pan of your fav oil, browning the piece on both sides. 

Place on paper towel to cool before eating.