Life is not fair! Or at least that is how it seems to a twelve year old. Add to that wanting to hunt and fish when neither of your parents enjoys either. Add to that being a girl in 1972.
I wanted to hunt so badly, I would check out every magazine and book on hunting I could find at our local library. Outdoor Life and Field and Stream became my educators. I asked so many dumb questions of anyone who even vaguely knew anything about hunting. I spent hours weekly riding the deer trails on our horses, observing the patterns of the deer. I could ride right into a group of deer without them taking too much notice.
It seemed like divine intervention when my friend Cheryl talked her father into taking us for our Hunter Safety Certification. We had about 30 participants in the course; 28 boys, me and Cheryl. We took a lot of ribbing from the boys, and even a few of the fathers. They felt we had no place in a “boys” class. We didn’t mind, or at least didn’t let on to anyone that it bothered us. Cheryl’s dad, having 6 daughters, was very supportive of girls being able to hunt. His support made a huge difference in the tender sensibilities of a teenage girl. By the end of the course, only 2 students rated a 100% on the test; me and Cheryl. Instead of the boys being happy for us, they made sure we knew that hunting was a male sport.
I spent my teenage years fishing, hunting small game, riding horses, and high school sports. I didn’t have the opportunity to do a big game hunt (anything bigger than a turkey) until I married Dale in 1979. Both of us hunted to feed our growing family, and after the kids got big enough they joined with us.
My first BIG game hunt was for Elk of all things. I had always enjoyed shooting my bow, but lacked the courage to try to hunt with it. Finally I gave in to my need to go further with hunting and scheduled a hunt. To say I was scared is an understatement. I had studied shot placement till everyone was sick of listening to me question them. I was shooting my bow hundreds of times a day to build up to a higher poundage. I have the need to over study and research anything I am doing. I guess that is my OCD.
Finally the day arrived and we took off on this next chapter of my life. Dale was and still remains very supportive of me. So I needed to do this not only for me, but to prove to him his support was not wasted.
I remember climbing into the “tree stand”, which was an old pallet nailed into a Y of a tree. I had to watch where I placed my feet, for fear of slipping through the slats. When I think of this now, I have to wonder “What the heck was I thinking!” No harness (no one wore them then), no pull up ropes, you toted everything up on your back, no cell phone, radio or gps (GASP!). My tree stand was on a well-worn trail on the side of a steep embankment. I tried to listen to every little noise, and kept glassing, looking for any sign of movement. I did have a range finder with me, and had ranged several trees and rocks in hopes that I could use them as a range indicator.
Suddenly I hear what sounded like a stampede. There were several cow elk and a 4X4 bull elk coming into range-fast! I drew my bow and waited for the 4X4 to get close enough, and shot! He turned tail and ran back down the hillside. My guide who was a short distance away, heard the commotion, and headed over to me. I still don’t know how I got down that rickety wood ladder; my knees were shaking something terrible.
We waited a short while, all the time my guide was asking was it a good shot. HUH?? I think so, I don’t know, I was so nervous I couldn’t even remember. Finally he gave up trying to get any useful information out of me, and we started after my bull. We found him about 60 yards below my stand. However he was still on his feet, although he was swaying back and forth. The guide said to stick him again when I had a shot. I told him I could shoot now. He said “no you can’t”. I said I could and released the arrow. My shot was perfect! He dropped instantly, of course rolling further down the hill. “I can’t believe you made that shot” to which I replied “I told you I could”.
The bad part of all this was that my elk was now at the very bottom of a very steep incline, and the truck was at the top. By the time we had it loaded onto the truck, I was exhausted, but still exhilarated! Later when we butchered the elk, we found that my first shot clipped the heart. He was dying, just didn’t know it yet. The second shot was right through the heart and 1 lung.
My 4X4 was mounted and hangs on our living room wall. He is not a trophy to a lot of hunters, but he is a trophy in the true sense to me. He was a big part of my confidence in my hunting abilities to be able to go on any hunt that catches my attention.
To this day I feel the pressure to prove myself capable, to prove my abilities, to compete with ghosts of my past. Now I know I am up to the challenge!
Photo Credit: Diane Hassinger
Excerpts from Huntingmotherearth.com in Hunter Safety Course 1972 http://huntingmotherearth.com/2012/03/15/hunter-safety-course-1972/