Sunday, June 29, 2008

Being Present

I must admit that whenever I leave home to go hunting I do have expectations. I don't expect to get my daily limits when hunting birds, or filling my deer or elk tags. Nope, my expectations are about just being there and being present. A witness for whatever takes place during my brief time in the field.

When Larry and I were deer hunting last year, we had the pleasure of witnessing the migration of Greater White Fronted Geese. We were in the woods, and I remember hearing that distinctively high pitched "laugh" of Specs. I looked up and saw a flock in formation heading right for Thompson Reservoir. When I first heard them it seemed out of place, I knew what the sound was although my reference was from a different geography. I was thrilled to be able to hunt deer and be serenaded by Specs at the same time. They continued coming to the reservoir throughout the night too. It was wonderful listening to them as we drifted off to sleep. Very special.

When I was goose hunting last year I had a cool experience with Western Meadowlarks. I was heading back to the cabin with 1 Canada Goose in hand, through about a foot of snow with drifts being 2 to 3 feet deep. I saw a coyote trail following along the edge of the dike in the field. Ah, the path of least resistance I thought to myself. So I am walking slowly, pacing myself and enjoying just being there. Noticing the Northern Harrier's hunting the fields and dikes for voles and Red Tailed Hawks looking for like opportunities. The sun is breaking through the ground fog and it is starting to get warm. I shuffle my load and take a layer off, then continue.

Up ahead in the snow I see where the coyote tracks circled around several holes in the snow. I wonder to myself what they found if anything. As I get closer W. Meadowlarks start coming out of the holes in the snow. About a dozen of them, What? I have never seen such a sight in my life. Maybe I'm not seeing what I think I'm seeing. . . I stop in my tracks to see for sure. Yea, I am seeing what I think I'm seeing. I get to within about 10 feet of the holes, and watch several more fly out of the snow. I can hear them scurrying about under the snow pack. Then silence as they realize I (a predator) am near. It has been cold for several days, in the teens and single digits. They have figured a way to stay warm by using the insulating qualities of the snow. Not to mention I bet there is an enormous abundance of insects for them to forage on in the grasses and weeds. I apologize for rousting them out unintentionally and go on my way. I couldn't help but notice their striking lemon yellow throat and belly, bordered by a black breast band. I enjoyed their song on that cold December morning. What a pleasant surprise that I will cherish for many years to come.

The next day I put out my G and H goose shells, plus my silhouettes and hunkered in my ground blind. Tossed a white vinyl mattress cover over my blind to try to blend in to the snow a bit better. I am hunting a large snow covered field with the tops of Triticale ( a cross between Rye and Wheat) visible above the snow. The weather was light overcast and warming into the mid twenties by noon. Pretty comfortable actually. After laying there for about 3 hours and listening to geese off in the distance, I was just about to get up and stretch my legs when I had a visitor drop in. To give you a brief outline of how I lay in a ground blind, just imagine a statue. I do my best to not move unless I absolutely have to. So, this visitor drops in unannounced and lands at my feet on my blind. It's a W. Meadowlark. Wow I say to myself, and become statue woman again. I heard his toenails on the vinyl as he landed. I keep my eyes on him and he starts hopping his way up towards my head. Just as lemon yellow as you can imagine. Wow, Wow, he stops on the mesh camo covering my face. I have to close one eye to be able to focus on him. O.K. now I am holding my breath and watching him up close and personal. Seeing his little toenails on the mesh as he checks out his surroundings. He does have a bit of a serious bill and I hope he doesn't start probing below the mesh. After about a minute he flies off, neither probing nor pooping just perching for a moment. I take a deep breath and say thank you for the visit. Then I was so thrilled I could hardly stand it. I had to give my friend John a call and tell him what just happened. He is one of those rare men that notices the small things and has an appreciation for such. Phew, alright now I can go relieve myself!

You know, I never fired a shot all day and this was one of my most memorable hunts ever!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, June 27, 2008


Ugh, it's getting hotter by the day. Been splitting firewood for the winter and sweating buckets. Right now I'd give anything to be laying in the snow hunting waterfowl. So I might as well take a break and share a story with you all.

The year was 1988 and the month, December. My friend Willy and I headed out to the Klamath River with his 10' jonboat in the back of his truck. The weather was real nasty, a rainy dark morning with strong winds out of the North. We get to the river dike and unloaded our gear from his truck. Decoys, oars, life jacket, dogs and our chairs. The wind was blowing so hard it was tough to see anything. The river was white capping and had waves about a foot and a half tall or better. Yep, a real ducky day for sure. So Willy drives his truck back towards the fields and parks, and walks back.

As he went to hide his truck it was just getting to be legal light, not that I was able to see very much mind you. Although I did catch a glimpse of a ball of divers flying just above the tops of the waves on the far side of the river, and going with the wind at about 9 - 0 mph. I tossed our gear in the tulle's and hunkered in and tried to find the ducks again against the far bank. I called Teak (my Yellow lab) and got her down off the top of the dike. Then I frantically tossed 2 shells in my gun, all the while trying to keep track of this ball of divers. They crossed the river and were heading back up river on my side. They were closing in fast, hugging the contours of the bank to give them some relief from the headwinds. As they came into range they moved out from the point of land I was on and I had to shoot quickly. I fired once and they all dropped. WHAT?(expletives) I am in total dis belief. I shot once and 6 ducks fell. How can that happen I wondered. Teak was equally baffled and looking at me for direction. I had 2 cripples which I took care of then put Teak to work. Willy is not back yet from parking his rig, and we haven't even got our decoys out yet. I forget about the horizontal rain for a few moments as my focus is on Teak making sure she is safe. The conditions are dangerous for sure.

Willy finally arrives and says "I heard you shoot, did you get anything"? I am still trying to formulate words. I said "Yeah I fired once and 6 dropped" wish you'd seen his expression. Priceless. I said "yep", and then replayed it for him. It actually took him a few minutes to believe me. As Teak retrieved the 6 pack he was starting to believe the evidence. Not only that, but I was actually over my daily limit by 1 duck. They were all Bluebills, and just as plump and round as they could be.

We never did set out decoys, just didn't need them on this particular day. I was shooting back up for Willy til he got his limit, then we headed to the cabin. We were soaked through and through and I had an incredible story to tell my brother. It was the "shot string" which I never knew anything about until that morning. Those divers just flew right into it and I've yet to have it happen again. Those were the days of lead shot, yet I still think my little 20 gauge o/u does just fine. Wouldn't trade it for nothing.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mule Deer 2007

My friend Larry and I were hunting the Silver Lake unit in Central Oregon. Finally, we had drawn tags. The plan was to let most of the insanity of opening weekend, settle down a bit before we began our hunt. So we set up camp on Monday and started hunting on Tuesday. Larry had a great camping spot all picked out next to Thompson Reservoir. A beautiful little bay with our own assortment of waterfowl as well as hawks and owls.

Our first day was spent checking out the general lay of the land and deer tracks. There were lots of deer tracks and it seemed just about as many people tracks too. I wasn't thrilled with how many people and rigs there were driving around. We spent Wednesday trying to find the greatest distance between roads, then get out and hunt on foot for the rest of the day. By that night we knew, we had to get away from the roads and people if we were to have a chance in hell of seeing a buck. For me, I was becoming a bit disillusioned with the prospects of filling my tag. Seemed like a needle in a haystack. Larry reassured me and said we're doing the right thing. Being relatively new to big game hunting, I trusted him and did my best to stay positive. I know they can be right around the next bend, or draw or right in front of you when you least expect it. And with those thoughts the butterfly's in my belly returned every time.

We spent some time studying our maps and making a plan for Thursday. We had slept in on Thursday morning, and it was just what we both needed. Had a good breakfast, a quick "camp shower" and got our day packs ready for the afternoon and evening hunt. We got to a good looking draw and the road ended there. Perfect we said, so this is where our hunt began.

We dropped into this dry creek bed with rim rock and we each took a side and headed up. Eventually we came back together because it was to brushy to walk through. We got to some open ground with Mtn. Mahogany thickets and some fresh deer and elk tracks. Ummm, we say to one another. This is looking better, not to mention we haven't seen another person or rig since we started today. We are paralleling each other about 150 yards apart, when we both caught sight of movement ahead of us. We look to one another and Larry signals me to meet him. I move his way and he waves me to pick up my pace, so I do. He tells me he saw 5 deer, 2 bucks and a couple does. We split up and have our eyes peeled. We are dropping into the upper end of the creek that we started out in earlier in the day. I lose sight of Larry then I hear one loud 30-6 BOOM! I think to myself alright he got his Buck, and then I wonder which direction the rest of the deer are headed. I move faster to get into some cover and I see movement to my left. I drop to my right knee and hope it's a buck. It is, he stops at the edge of the trees before entering a small clearing to make sure it's safe. My heart is pounding in my ears, pupils fully dilated and then he steps out and begins to trot. A big 4 x 4 Muley Buck at 65 yards. Oh my god I can't believe this. I begin telling myself to be calm, don't miss, don't blow it, etc. etc. As I shouldered my gun he caught my movement, stops and looks right at me not knowing what to make of me.I think to myself for a split second "my camo is working". I steadied myself as best I could and squeezed off a round. He dropped to his chest and stumbled downhill and across the creek and piled up. Just as I heard a Jeep come round the corner below me. The fellow driving asked if it was a spike and I said "nope, a 4 point".
I told him the spike was with the does and he grunted something and drove off. Wow, Larry and I had our bucks, and within a minute of each other too. He passed on the 4 point, as it was leading and he wanted to do his best to keep them moving in my direction. So he anchored the 3 point and his plan worked flawlessly.

Well the work begins and it's getting dark fast. We get the
bucks gutted and we drag Larry's buck down to mine. He asks if I have fire starter materials and am o.k. staying with the Deer? Yep on both counts. He checks his GPS and makes a b-line for the truck. It's a little after 6:00p.m. and I have a quick snack and make sure I put my knife away. Then I find my headlamp and gather some material for building a small warming fire. It's about 8:00 now and I can see frost beginning to settle so I get a fire going. Ahh, the comforts of a fire. Especially when you have 2 dead deer and 2 fresh gut piles. This is Cougar country. Needless to say I didn't lay my rifle down for anything. Finally I hear some static on my radio and then I see headlights bouncing off the trees. Alright he found me. Not until we saw the fellow in the jeep did we realize there was a road here. It took Larry a bit to backtrack and play Let's Make A Deal . . . is it road #1 or 2 or 3?

We got the bucks back to camp around 10 p.m. and then spent several hours skinning and wiping them down. We were wired and tired and stayed up til 3 a.m. talking about our hunt. That is my first Mule Deer Buck and I owe Larry a big steak dinner for passing on him and taking the 3 point. What a great hunting partner and friend, thanks again Larry!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Learning To Squeeze

Here is a way to improve your rifle accuracy. Being a relative newcomer to big game hunting and shooting a rifle there is much to learn. I think one of the greatest challenges is learning to squeeze the trigger and not jerk it. Having been a shot gunner for most of my life I have learned that the two are very, very different.

With a shotgun one can get away with not squeezing the trigger in a smooth fashion. After all you are swinging the shotgun and tracking your target at the same time that you shoot. Not the case with a rifle. You need to be still and squeeze the trigger smoothly, while not anticipating the outcome. There are those experienced rifle hunters who are capable of shooting at a moving animal, although I am not one of them. One of the best tools I have used to teach myself to squeeze the trigger is using a compound bow with a release. Initially I purchased the bow as a back up in case I didn't draw rifle tags, and then the ODFW put an end to that. So I began learning to shoot a bow and it has been an excellent tool for me. With a bow looking through your peep sight at your target, you will know right away what you are doing right and wrong. A thing known as "target anticipation" is when one jerks or in essence flinches just before releasing the arrow. Using a release you will begin to learn the difference between squeezing, pulling or jerking the trigger. I understand you want to see how you have done, although you will not do well unless you stay focused on the task at hand. The first step is learning to stay focused on your target through your shot. . . following through after releasing your arrow. This will give you the optimal results. If you anticipate your shot you will lose your aim point through your peep. Do not move once you have your sight on your target. Let your breath out and slowly squeeze the trigger on your release. It will only take a few successful attempts to understand this and then it will be very clear as to what you will need to focus on. If you manage to stay focused and learn to squeeze the trigger, then the results will take care of themselves. When you are successful learning to squeeze the trigger and follow through, it is really exciting and definitely one of those "Ah Ha" moments.

Every summer now I practice shooting my bow and continue to mentally train myself to squeeze the trigger release. I really enjoy shooting my bow and find it quite meditative and an excellent confidence builder for rifle hunting. Make sure to get in plenty of target practice with your rifle too, before you go hunting. The more you practice the better you will become. Eventually one of these years I hope to actually go archery hunting. Til then, I will dream of stalking the wild ones with bow in hand.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Benefits Of Change

Let's see now, so your physiology seems to be changing a bit you say. You are nearing the age when your body doesn't seem to do anything on a regular basis as it has for the past 25 to 40 years. Your energy levels, sleep patterns, exercise regimen and concentration all seem a bit more challenging. You feel somewhat like a stranger in your own body.

Well there is some good news about "the change". At least when it comes to winter, hunting season and bears. Granted it will take a bit of adjusting initially, but lets look at the positive side of this life changing event. The benefits are numerous. To begin with think of the monthly savings, we can now put that towards fuel costs. Less time spent worrying about where the next bathroom stop is, and if you remembered to bring your travelling pocket arsenal with you. You will be as warm as a bug in a rug on a more regular basis. No longer will you have those cold feet in bed at night. Nope, instead you will become a mini Niagara Falls showering your partner with sweat. Oh so romantic. On the bright side, you will be toasty warm laying in your ground blind on the frozen tundra with the ambient air temp of minus 10 degrees F. You might even feel the need to shed a layer or two . . . or three after you've been there awhile. When you get back to camp your male comrades will comment on the sub zero temps and how cold they were, while you give them a shy smile and think to yourself "it is just right ". You become a master at layering your hunting apparel for those uncontrollable internal boiler room flare ups.

You are the first one up in the mornings (cause you no longer sleep) and have the fire stoked, coffee made and are ready to go. Your male comrades are baffled by this "new you". You once enjoyed coffee in bed and was the last to get up. They scratch their. . . well you know. So they need some time to adjust to not having to do the typical early morning chores. Trust me, they adapt very quickly. As for going on trips in bear country just think, you're no longer the BAIT. You are much safer and the playing field has definitely levelled a bit. Now is the time to go on that wild Alaskan adventure you've always dreamed about, where you're out numbered by Ursus middendorffi. Just as long as you are not the slowest one in camp, you have nothing to worry about.

In conclusion, you will enjoy a whole new perspective on everything. Your new found ability to adapt to your own internal global warming by proper layering of your clothes. Saving on your homes heating bills in the winter. Not being bungied to restrooms sporadically. Having more awake time to get done what you weren't able to the night before. More cash for gas and groceries (yea right). And finally, being able to go on that trip of a lifetime to Alaska.

Hell, life's never been better!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Help Along The Way

None of us get to where we are by ourselves. We had our parents, classmates, peers and friends all help us along the way. As I go about my merry way plodding my next hunt, I reflect on where I've come from and how much I've learned. Some stuff I've learned the old fashioned way by freezing my butt off, poor planning, stubbornness or just plain ignorance. Other things I have learned through reading or having others teach me.

Kinda like starting this blog. When my friend Cristina Acosta suggested I start a blog about women's hunting, I got a bit squirmish in my chair. Then after we finished lunch I avoided her for a few weeks until finally I met up with her and said "sure lets start my blog". She told me that if I didn't like doing it I can just "delete it". Oh great that sounds even better, now I had an out. She convinced me I had plenty to talk about, and that I don't seem to tire of sharing my hunting adventures. This is true. So she knows me pretty well, I have trusted her and again she has taught me much. I just learned where the "spellcheck" key was 2 months ago. I thought that was pretty cool! She is an amazing artist in her own right and incredibly insightful. The colors of her life are bold, vivid, bright primary colors reflective of her roots. Her passion she displays on canvas, wood and other substrates. Mixed mediums layering rich textures of life's expressions and experiences. If you haven't checked out her site yet I highly recommend it. In the end we are all connected in one way or another and in ways we are far from understanding. I just wanted to say thank you to Cristina for your help along the way. Also thank you to NorCal Cazadora for your help and feedback, much appreciated.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, June 16, 2008

Joe's Drake

I've been wanting to share this story with all of you. This is the story of my friend Joe, who is John's son. Anyhow it was several years ago now.

We were hunting in the Klamath Basin of S.W. Oregon early Nov. and the weather was unseasonably warm and mild. We had walked several miles jump shooting ducks and there just weren't many around. There were ditches with fairly tall dikes on both sides and so we decided to split up. Plus John had his dog Jenny (German Shorthair) and I had Jet and it was easier on all of us to walk separate, parallel dikes in hopes of jumping some ducks. So off we go and I can hear John talking to Joe and occasionally catch a glimpse of them through the tall cover. John is trying to keep Jenny in line and use the few "smart cells" she does have. I chuckle to myself listening to the running commentary and then it becomes quiet and I lose sight of them. Ah maybe there's some ducks in the ditch they're sneakin' on. I wait several minutes and then, BOOM BOOM and then I hear Joe exclaiming "I got it, I got it dad, did you see that? I got it". I can see Jenny bounding around like only a Pointer can and I hear John in the background saying "good job Joe"! I radio John and ask for the details and he says . . . "Well I could see some ducks up ahead in the ditch so I told Joe to get down and we'd make a sneak on them. As we got closer I asked Joe if he wanted to shoot, and he said yes. So I handed this little short guy with me my Winchester 20 Ga. O/U and told him what to do, and I'll be damned if he didn't shoot a duck". All the while I can hear Joe in the background all excited and amazed that he actually connected. I ask John what kind of duck and he says a "big buff Drake Mallard".

WOW, I am so happy for Joe and what a way to start your waterfowl career. I am anxious to see Joe's Drake and hear the story firsthand from him. I hurry my pace to get to the end of the dike a bit sooner and meet up with them. As I make the turn and get within eyesight I can see Joe beaming and grinning from ear to ear still in disbelief of his success. I see the drake and it is truly a beautiful mature Drake Mallard with curly tail feathers and all. The green iridescent head shimmering in the sunlight and Joe just as proud as he can be. We recounted the story over and over for the rest of the weekend and told Joe how proud we were and what a special day this is.

I will never forget that day, nor will John. Oh, by the way Joe's nickname is "Mud Dauber," although that was still yet to come.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dog Rules

1. The dog is not allowed in the house.
2. Okay, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain rooms.
3. The dog is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.
4. The dog can get on the old furniture only.
5. Fine, the dog is allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with humans on the bed.
6. Okay, the dog is allowed on the bed, but by invitation only.
7. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he/she wants, but not under the covers.
8. The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.
9. The dog can sleep under the covers every night.
10. Humans by invitation only can sleep with the dog under the covers.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Do You Hunt?

Have you asked yourself lately, why do you hunt? Other than the fact that we get to see and experience a lot of cool things, deep down . . . what are your reasons for hunting? For the past week I have been in my shop completing drawer orders for the upcoming week. That gives me plenty of time to think about these thoughts that ramble through my head at any given time for whatever reason. Most ramblings revolve around hunting, and the philosophical aspects of such a passion.

Specifically my passion and personal evolution as a woman huntress during the period of time I chose to step away from hunting for 9 years. Talk about gaining clarity, as to ones' motives for hunting. Ultimately I chose to re-enter the hunting world, with a renewed sense of respect for myself and my quarry. After 9 years away from hunting I knew very well that on that first day I returned to the field and fired my first shot, that it might also be my last. No longer was hunting a numbers game, and about having to get my daily bag limit of ducks. I was open to whatever resonated within me. I was ready to accept the responsibility for taking of a life.

Throughout my hunting experiences I have remained steadfast in my beliefs about not wasting any part of the prey that can feed, warm and sustain me. There remains a part of me that is emotionally moved by the taking of a life. Before I took my 9 year hunting sabbatical I repressed the painful emotions including remorse that I felt the moment I realized the animal I shot was dead. This is a hard thing to explain, because it encompasses so many emotions. I was pleased that I'd honed my shooting abilities to make clean kills, yet my motives for pursuing my prey were ill defined. My reasons for being in the field needed clarification.

After 22 years of hunting I realized that my motives for hunting were questionable, because my main motivation was killing and numbers. Intuitively I knew I was missing something. Only by stepping away and laying down my firearms was I able to gain clarity as to my motives for hunting and to identify what had been missing from my previous 22 years of hunting.

Now when I make the decision to leave home for a hunt, I know that the hunt has begun before I get to the field. I realize after 9 years that I had been missing 98% of what hunting is really about. Hunting is about being present in wild places and taking in all that those places have to offer.

I have great respect and admiration for the wild creatures which I pursue. I am in awe of their abilities and beauty. Yet hunting remains part of our ancestral heritage for as long as humans have been in existence. It is as much a part of us just as the "fight or flight" response is.

I will continue to hunt with respect and bow my head in honor of my quarry. I can smell the seasons change as Fall closes in. My stomach feels the whirl of anticipation as hunting season draws closer. My pulse quickens with the memories of seasons past and the adventures which lie before me. Hunting is not just about getting "limits" or filling your tag. It goes well beyond and I will leave those stories for another day.

One of my favorite books is titled, Meditations On Hunting by Jose Ortega y Gasset. His book explores all the transitions that a hunter/huntress experiences over a lifetime, and much more. It is a meaty book and I highly recommend it to anyone who picks up a gun and goes afield.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Recipe: Apple Oatmeal Crunch

Women hunters can not live on meat alone.... So eat dessert first.

4 c. Granny Smith apples (peeled & sliced)
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbs. flour
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. oats
1 tbs. cinnamon

Place apples, sugar and 2 tbs. flour in buttered 12" Dutch Oven.
In a separate bowl mix brown sugar, cut in butter, add oats, cinnamon
and then place over apples in Dutch Oven.
Bake 1 hour at 300 F. ( 7 coals on bottom and 14 on top)
Serve warm with cream.

This recipe comes from a good friend Mark C. (thanks Mark). It has been field tested by women hunters, naturalists, mountain climbers and by the loyal order of the Redneck Review. Bet you can't eat just one bowl!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Review: LaCrosse AlpahaBurly Sport Insulated Boots

I recently spoke with a representative at LaCrosse Footwear, to find out what they'll be offering women hunters this Fall. I was surprised to learn that they are discontinuing a few styles. The good news is that the model I have they are going to continue providing. Specifically the AlphaBurly Sport Insulated 18" Realtree Hardwood HD 800 Gr. boot, style #200037 (soon to be style # 200044) as of July 2008. I bought mine last Fall and used them a lot throughout the waterfowl season. Firstly, they are offered in whole sizes only, so go up to the next whole size if you wear a half size. With that said, mine are awesome and show no signs of abuse after their first season afield. I replaced the factory foot bed with my own custom orthotics and the fit is wonderful. I found the Alpha Burly boots to be nimble, lightweight and not cumbersome. The sole has sufficient traction and support, so as not to be flimsy in any way what so ever. The fleece lining has held up to my abuse and shows no sign of wear. There is an adjustable gusset at top back with a cam buckle if you want them snugged up, for real nasty mud. They weigh in at 5.5 lbs. per pair. I used mine for late season goose hunting and my feet were toasty warm. Even late season goose hunting in my layout blind, & on snow for 4-5 hours at a time. My backside got a bit frosty, but not my feet. In conclusion for women hunters, I highly recommend the AlphaBurly boots. Especially if you're wanting something other than hip waders or your leather field boots for hunting.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Disclaimer: No financial gains were made for this review.
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