Finding Her Way in a Space Filled by Men

Let me begin with clearly stating that I was a tomboy growing up, but I loved basking by a pool and shopping too.  There has always been a hardwired desire to push myself and become well versed in lots of things.  I just always thought that science, medicine, and being a typical Southern lady was how I would spend my lifetime.  I took a wild turn and I could not be happier!  If you are a woman, young lady, or if you have a female in your life that you wish to spend time outdoors with; then I hope that this finds you!

A melanoma diagnosis at the age of 32 changed my future forever.  I had never gone hunting or spent time shooting guns before then.  I have the honor of being married to a Georgia boy that has been hunting since he was able to walk.  He shot his first deer with his big brother at the age of 8.  To be honest, I really thought that this was just HIS thing, and I really had no idea that I could ever be a part of the hunting or shooting world.  Never in a million years would I have thought that I would grow into someone who mentors upcoming hunters, trains women how to shoot and learn competition practical shooting, and represents several amazing companies in the shooting and hunting industry.

In order to enter the world of the outdoors, you must start simple.  Always begin with a Hunters Education Course, even if you aren’t sure if you ever wish to hunt on your own.  The training promotes an understanding of gun safety, rules, and ways to make sure that you have an incredible experience.  I do believe that I was the only adult in the Hunters Education class when I took it in 2010, but I am very happy that I finally did it.

After Hunters Education, I urge you to get out and go on a hunt with a trusted friend or family member.  If you do not have one, there are a multitude of people that gladly volunteer to mentor new hunters.  When you have someone with you to help share the learning process and provide you with the support and hard earned knowledge, it makes it so much easier to become more capable and independent with what you learn.

I am lucky to have my husband.  He taught me to watch the animals and learn, so that I make sure to see the big picture.  My first hunt out with him was with his crossbow.  We were in a double stand in the Georgia woods.  Several does and fawns came in, and I wanted to know if I should shoot one of the group.  He began teaching me about how the deer grow and when they no longer rely on the mother for their growth.  As I learned, each of the fawns were too young to survive well without their mother.  I learned that my shot matters.  I want to feed my family and have a successful harvest, but it must be a harvest that does not take the life of a fawn potentially.  I learned that I needed to research more about the animals that I am hunting.  This covers things like being sure of vital areas for shot placement, making sure of the age/sex of the animal before deciding to shoot (very important in states where you have sex specific tags), and even learning signs of age and maturity within the species.

I found that I loved studying these things which led me to becoming an NRA Pistol Instructor in 2014 followed by a certification with the National Range Officer Institute in 2015.  I had the incredible opportunity to teach Advanced Pistol and Sports shooting for the Utah Ladies Hunting Camps in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 calendar years.  There is so much opportunity to share what you learn with others, and in doing so you always learn something as well.

Our family moved from Georgia to Utah in 2014.  Hunting in the West is magnificent, but incredibly different from anything that I had ever experienced back home in Georgia.  The Utah hunts are a draw system, so I had to learn how to apply for tags and select areas that I wished to pursue a hunt.  This is both exciting and scary because it requires a good amount of thought and diligence to make sure that you apply for the correct tags/areas/etc.  

I had the harvest of my lifetime on October 28, 2018.  I woke up the morning of the final day in the rifle season and decided to borrow my husband’s 300 Win Mag and give it a try.  All season long I had only been hunting with my compound bow because I had an archery only tag for an elk as well as the deer tag that was an ANY LEGAL weapon tag.  I hiked into the place that I was hunting that season, and got into my position an hour before sunrise.  Right at legal light there was a deer about 150 yards behind me.  I was sure that it was a doe standing in the trees, so I didn’t get excited.  My rifle tag was only for a buck.

I continued to sit and listen, only occasionally glancing back to see if the deer had moved.  I could not find it in the spot that it had been standing, so I did a quick scan around the woods.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw the RACK on the deer as it walked towards me with his head down sniffing the scrub brush from 75 yards behind me!  I did this massive battle with myself trying to figure out if I should turn and get a shot ready or wait until I could determine where the buck was going.  My choices got really limited when the buck walked almost directly under the tree that I was sitting in from the deer stand.  My husband was sitting on the ground immediately below me, and the buck was just about to come face to face with my husband if he kept walking.  I had to stand up and aim just 15 yards from the base of my tree.  The scope only saw a sight picture of HAIR!  I followed down the neck to the back and went just behind the shoulder blade from there.  One squeeze of the trigger, and BUCK down!  

My husband and I both smile like kids when we speak of this hunt.  It also is a fabulous addition to our living room!  Mr Romeo deer is on my wall now.  I will take this moment to say that when my husband and I married in 2000, I told him that there would never be a dead animal as decoration in my house.  I had to eat crow on that.  It seems that my outlook on a lot of things has changed since my Malignant Melanoma diagnosis.  I can honestly say that my life is more blessed, exciting, and enriching now than it ever was before I learned to have a life in the Outdoor Industry.

Just to wrap up, start simple.  Always begin with Hunters Education and go from there.  Second, never stop learning!  This covers firearms training, ballistics, wind effects, hunting seasons, herd patterns, laws/regulations, and everything involved in your sport.   My third tip is to pass it on and share what you have learned and experienced with others.  You just may inspire someone to try shooting or hunting for the first time.  Better yet, they may have been struggling with something, and you just helped them work it out and push past it.

The biggest thing that I can provide for any female that hopes to be more capable in the outdoors is this:  NEVER STOP TRYING!  You will make mistakes, you will forget things at times, but more importantly is that you do your best and never feel like you have no chance.  

I look forward to seeing where you can go with this.  Be you, respect yourself enough to be real, and do your best to treat the outdoors with kindness and respect.  You will get so much out of it.  Dare to try.  Dare to DO!

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