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

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

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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.

 

 

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