My journey as a hunter

I recently shared my hunting reactivation story with my close friend Marcia for an Artemis Sportswomen podcast. Have a listen, and while I didn’t have a closing thought at the time, I do want to invite you to take the time to keep our hunting community open to any who wander our way!

On this week’s podcast – Hunter Reactivation with Alex Stokman! Alex came to hunting in her 20s in the Florida woods. Then life happened and her journey as a hunter became a winding road. What takes women out of the field? What brings them back? What’s unique about their experience? Tune in for an awesome conversation about women hunters + field time.

Listen wherever you get your podcasts at https://artemis.nwf.org/podcast/

#R3 #reactivation #womenhunt #masterhunter

Stonecrop, tastes like cucumber.

Montana Wildflower of the Day! Number 81: Lanceleaf Stonecrop
by Erin White

Stonecrop’s great advantage is in its preference for climates that most creatures shun: windblown, sun-parched, and craggy, where the winters are harsh. Unlike most of us, Stonecrop looks at a pile of scree and thinks, “Yeah! That’s where I’m putting my roots!” With succulent-like leaves, the plant can store volumes of water within a pretty small space and, for good measure, it closes its pores during the heat of the day and reopens them again to accept dewy contributions at night. Thanks to its high water content, Stonecrop brims with vitamins A and C and reportedly tastes like cucumbers. Though you can find it around town and in rock gardens, its leaves probably taste best if you scramble up a backcountry slope to join Stonecrop in the hinterlands.

montanawildflowers #stonecrop #wildfloweroftheday #publicland — at Mount Tiny.

Train to Hunt & RevoMT

Train to Hunt

We have under 90 days until general deer/elk season!

How are your quads feeling about hiking in the woods and hauling that deer out? We want to help you have a good hunting season by helping you get ready for it.

Train to succeed. Training for the hunt should reflect the hunt. That’s why Venery is partnering with RevoMT to launch a 6 week Hunt Prep Class and Program.

RevoMT Hunt Prep Course

6 WEEKS of two classes per week
HANDS-ON COACHING and programming
CUSTOMIZED to prepare you to perform in the back country
AEROBIC DEVELOPMENT to be done on the mountain or in the gym to ensure you stay alert and capable no matter the conditions

We have a class/program ready to launch to prepare for hunt season specifically, improving overall fitness and work capacity so that the Montana hunter can go further, maintain high energy levels, and stay resilient and composed in any situation. The design is two strength classes a week, and a written aerobic work program (mostly rucking/hiking with other stuff done in our classes) to do additional days of the week. Because smoke season is approaching, we are going to open up the option to hunt prep attendees to pop into some of our conditioning classes during the week for aerobic work in case the smoke gets bad in the following weeks.

Classes run August 13th-September 24th – Limited space available to ensure quality coaching. Mention Venery when you contact Mike@RevoMT.com to sign up and join us as we Become Stronger and Go Further!

Hike + Social

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Please join Venery for a Hike + Social on Tuesday, July 30.

We will meet at 6pm at the Pattee Canyon Trailhead parking area.

The planned hike will be approximately 2.5 miles, an out/back, returning to the parking area around 7:30pm.

Hope you can make it. As an added bonus, there are huckleberries along the way!

Where to Start . . . permits

Interested in hunting, but don’t know where to start? Join Venery and our friends from Artemis Sportswomen for an introduction to the permit process – we’ll sort through the regulations together and help answer your questions – no experience necessary!

WHAT: Permit Potluck Party
(Bring hot soup, stew, dish to share. Venery will provide sides and dessert)

WHEN: March 12, 5:30pm – 6:30pm

WHERE: Missoula Public Library – Large Meeting Room

Share this event on Facebook

Time

by Alex 

There’s a progression of activities that lead to a successful hunt. Take scouting for example.

I really do want to be out scouting. Hiking the areas I want to hunt before the season opens. Looking for rub marks on the trees. Seeing where the deer are eating and bedding down. It’s definitely an important part of the hunt. Not to mention breaking in my boots and actually getting some exercise to be in shape for hunting season.

What I struggle with is when, not as in the time of year, but when am I, a working mother of 3, supposed to find time (and energy) to actually fit that into my life?

Why do I feel so guilty scheduling a day to be in the woods? Or planning a weekend here or there for hunting? I don’t often put my desires above the needs of my family. Maybe they would buy it if I said I was “doing it for them.”  A successful hunt would put food on the table and in the freezer.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other benefits too: I get exercise, I enjoy nature. These activities recharge me – that’s good for the family, right?

Hunting like any other pursuit takes time, practice and commitment. What I’m realizing is I actually need to prioritize hunting- Hunting is personal. I do it for me. And, there is nothing wrong with that. All too often I do things for the benefit of other people.

So, this year, here is my plan –

  1. Communicate with my family – let them know how important hunting is to me
  2. Set Boundaries – make time for myself.
  3. Prioritize Hunting – set a series of dates for scouting, shooting practice, and hunting
  4. Be Grateful – for any time I am able to spend preparing and actually hunting

It’s the brief moments of time in between carpools, volunteering at school, and managing kids sports that I make count when I can. I am getting better at it as the kids get older and are more self sufficient. I’m passionate about hunting, there’s no doubt about that. It is a heritage that I have brought to my family, in spite of my family and because of my family. I believe in conservation, food from the source, and communing with nature. So I’m choosing to align a piece of my time and energy for what I believe in.

Yes- I’m a busy woman; wife, mother, employee, volunteer and hunter-  and Yes- I need time for myself.

The First Hunt

By Erin White

Safety off. The scope is trained. The crosshairs bisect a patch behind his shoulder blade. Exhale, then squeeze. The report is as crisp and honest as a temple bell.

As easy as breathing out, a life is taken.

The buck struggles back to his feet for a step, then two, then falls. Back to his feet to discover his shoulder is broken and lung punctured. Down again, up, then down again for keeps.

I am grateful for my true aim and hot bullet, because my hands are shaking too hard to do anything but needless damage with a second shot. His life dissolves rapidly into the Big Sky, mingling with pine trees and birdsong and the fresh November air.

By the time we reach him, his soft, glassy eyes stare without seeing. I hand off the rifle and drop to my knees, one hand on the strong, still-hot swoop of his neck. I look him in the eye and give him my thanks.

I am utterly at a loss as to what comes next.

***

When Marcia asked if I wanted to learn to hunt, my answer was a natural yes. As a Montana native, it felt like a fluid extension of the life I’ve crafted and the community I inhabit. Hunting marries power and humility, conservationism and environmentalism, and a contrasting need for both guidance and self-reliance.

I spent four full days in the woods with friends before I ever flicked the safety off. Four long, quiet, invigorating days of hiking, tracking, sitting, whispering, guessing, and second-guessing before I had anything resembling a good look at the broadside of a buck. There was no guarantee that I would come out of the woods with meat for our freezer.

I don’t eat a lot of meat, but my two boys are enthusiastic carnivores. I try to choose animals that have been raised and killed ethically, so it’s become a balance between feeding them what they need and being able to afford good quality meat.

A thoughtful, humane hunt following the principles of sustainability is probably the most ethical way to harvest animals as food. For me, it’s become a realistic solution to the dilemma. And those two boys are proud that their mama killed, field dressed, and butchered a deer.

I know for certain that the deer I killed lived a good life in the land of his ancestors, grazing native grasses, drinking water from the Blackfoot River, and roaming the Montana wilds. I also know that his death was quick, and a damn sight better than being mauled by a bear, hit by a car, or slowly starving to death in an overpopulated valley during the course of a deep winter.

Turns out that shooting is the easy part. After the life ebbs, there’s a body to deal with, and that shit’s messy. Blood, fur, fat, organs, fascia, bone, guts and guts and guts – these are all part of the prize. As I cut into the deer’s soft, warm fur and peeled back layers of fat and skin, I realized that opening the body of a very newly deceased beast will call a person’s bluff. You’ve got the stomach for it or you don’t.

It seems to me that much of that intestinal fortitude is based in a willingness to acknowledge how fragile and fundamentally body-based life is. If the idea of killing and gutting an animal turns your stomach, consider why. If the idea of killing and gutting an animal gives you a thrill, consider why.

In that balance between being squeamish and trigger-happy resides the vulnerable acknowledgement that, no matter who you are or what you eat, something must die so that you may live. There’s no escaping this rule.

In time, we’ll each have our chance to cede way to the next generation. So far, only birthing babies and hunting an animal have brought me so unblinkingly nose-to-nose with the reality of my precious and fleeting mortality.

So be tender with death. Thank the creatures that nourish you. Brim with life until the last breath fades and you cross to the next adventure.

Permit Party – potluck

Join Venery on March 13 for an evening to plan your 2018 hunt.
We’ll guide you through the permit request process and help you apply for the tags you want.


WHO: Anyone interested in hunting – family friendly

WHEN: March 13 from 6-8pm

WHEREImagine Nation Brewery

Please RSVP to venerymt@gmail.com

WHY: We know navigating the regulations can be confusing, so we’ll help each other through and maybe find some new hunting buddies along the way. Our goal is to expose, educate, and inspire women into hunting, where we learn and grow together towards better health and awareness.

WHAT: Winter Potluck Theme – hot soups and spicy stews: Some great dishes that can be prepared for a winter potluck are butternut risotto, vegetable soup with corn dumplings, beef noodle soup, chicken and barley stew and Moroccan chickpea chili.

Venery will provide accoutrements, dessert, and place settings.

 

 

Mother and son

A few weeks before rifle season opened, my son and I went to the gun range to sight in his .243 rifle. The man next to us said “I see more men bringing their daughters than mothers bringing their sons”

He’s right, we are an anomaly.

I’ve been hunting deer for over twenty years. I took a break for the early years of motherhood. Now motherhood brings me back to hunting. My son, now age 11, is eager to hunt. He likes eating venison and knows the only way to fill the freezer is to put in the time and effort to harvest a deer. But this isn’t always easy.

Last year, my son became eligible to hunt as an Apprentice Hunter. This is a relatively new FWP program (created in 2015). Although not required, we (mother and son) completed hunter safety, together.

Now we look forward to the special two-day youth hunt, just prior to opening weekend.

This year, we sat, we walked, we talked, we ate snacks. We scouted, and sat and walked some more. We not only hiked the ups and downs of the terrain but emotions too; excitement, boredom, fatigue, disappointment, frustration.

My son commented, “This is hard work, I just want a deer.” It is difficult, and patience runs short. After 4 days of sneaking, standing motionless and still spooking the deer we were drained.

On a rainy all too early Sunday morning, we were finally able to creep up on a small group of does. We watched them, as we made adjustments; removing gloves, shouldering the rifle, sighting in as the does grazed 75-100 yards away. Waiting.

The rain helps cover your scent and sounds, I was thankful for that but we were also, getting cold and wet.

When he was confident in his aim, a shot rang out. I watched, as did he, that doe run away. Disappointment and tears filled his being. All too often we miss, flinch, get too excited and lose focus. I want him to succeed, but teaching him failure is one of life’s difficult lessons for both mother and son.

Trying to stay calm and comforting we waited and watched. The group of does had not moved too far away.  We walked into the spot we had last seen his doe. There, in a clump of grass lay his deer. A new wave of emotions, disappointment transforming into confidence and joy.

Motherhood and hunting are a lot alike. The ups and downs of emotions, failures, and successes. We keep trying, accepting when we miss and celebrating when we don’t.

Reflecting on this emotional weekend, I asked him if we would go hunting again next year. “Sure,” he said. “Why?” I asked. “I hunt because you do, mom.”

posted by Alex

Teaching yourself to hunt

Learning to hunt as an adult can be difficult. While you need and want mentors, you have to take ownership over your learning in a way that you didn’t need to when you were 10. Oftentimes, it feels like you are teaching yourself how to hunt. In many ways you are because you need to make sense of things with your adult brain and your adult relationships.

Two years ago, my friend Sarah and I decided to teach ourselves how to hunt antelope. We’d both hunted and killed deer before, but we really had no idea how to nab a speed goat. That first year, we engaged in behavior that would have frustrated many people in my life to no end. We sat on the side of the road for 15 minutes strategizing our approach. We hemmed. We hawed. We debriefed for hours. We came home empty handed.

After our second year out, here are some things I’ve learned about teaching myself to hunt:

  1. It’s hard to find the time. Really hard. Work, family, and other things in life get in the way. We put in for area 700 and decided to hunt the Brodaus/Alzeda triangle. It’s 7 hours away, and our hunting trip was seriously shortened by the travel distance. You don’t have to be crazy like us, but, if you’re in Missoula, you’ll need to do some traveling if you want to hunt with a rifle. Take a day if you can, but if you have four hours, take four hours. You don’t have to commit to a week. Commit to what you can.
  2. Experienced hunters can tell you the same thing in a million different ways but it won’t make sense until it does.  As a teacher, one of my favorite sayings is you can’t teach anybody anything, you can only create opportunities for learning.  Opportunities for learning only happen in the field. Be smart and be safe, but get out there because you can’t learn how to hunt from a book.
  3. Experiential learning is best when you have someone to debrief with, strategize with, and laugh with. So, grab a buddy. It doesn’t matter if they know more, less or the same amount. What matters is that they support you the way you need and want to be supported. (It’s a bonus if they still think you’re funny after 3 days in a truck!)
  4. Call a friend. Sometimes, you just need to ask someone who knows. Find an experienced hunter who doesn’t mind if you call them at 7:00am with a question about the difference between BLM land and BMA land. Find someone who won’t laugh or get frustrated when you ask the same question for the tenth time as you struggle to make sense of it. Put that person’s number in your phone. (FYI, Alex and I will volunteer for that position!)

The cooler is still empty this year. We both had antelope in our scopes, which is more than we could say last year. For our own reasons, we decided not to pull the trigger.  I could tell you why, but I’m not going to because hunting is a little bit like sex. If it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. If you don’t want to, you don’t want to. And you never have to offer an explanation.

We learned a lot this year. We had a lot of fun. And are excited to try again next season.

SarahEderer.Antelope2017
Glassing at sunrise.