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

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.

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.

Sighting In

Getting to know your gun is the most  important skill for new hunters. Knowing your gun means taking responsibility for your equipment and being familiar with your range as a shooter. Knowing your gun means safe hunting and ethical kill shots.

I recently got a new scope for my 7mm08. It was a birthday present from my dad for my 40th birthday. Taking up hunting changes your gift requests. I spent a couple of hours at the range sighting it in and getting comfortable behind it.

To start, I took out the bolt and looked down the bore. I moved the gun around until I could see the target through the barrel. Then I shot. Then I adjusted the scope for elevation (up/down) and windage (left/right). Then I shot again.

In the picture below, you can see me slowly walk it in to the bulls-eye. My first 2 shots were in the 6 ring.  You can use math to get to the center more quickly, but I’ve always been an experiential learner…

target

Next step, take it to the 200 yard range and zero it in for antelope hunting!

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Opening weekend for rifle season is less than 10 days away . . . Read more about weapons and ammunition.

posted by Shadowhunter