Growing up, the thought of sitting in the woods for countless hours and freezing my butt off just waiting for something to walk by while having to sit still and be quiet was not my idea of fun. So, I was happy when my brothers and dad would go hunting and actually leave me behind. All that changed for me one weekend when I accompanied my husband and dad to our hunting camp in south Georgia. I went, not even caring if I sat in the stand to be honest, but I did anyway. I shot my first buck that morning and since then hunting has been a major part of my life. I started out not knowing anything about it or even what it was to be an ethical hunter, but after years of hunting I have found that I have grown and evolved in many ways.
There is more to it
I admit in the beginning filling a tag was what it was all about. I was young and a woman in a male dominated hobby. I wanted to prove myself to everyone and show them I could get the job done. So yeah, I pounded my chest a few times and gloated about the animals I took. But after a while I began to understand that killing an animal was just one part of the whole big picture. I started allowing more deer to cross without so much as lifting my rifle. I got more satisfaction by watching them just go about their everyday lives without them knowing I was there to share that brief moment.
I remember one morning I was sitting in my stand and a doe appeared to my right. I watched her come within fifty yards of me and she stopped and stood there. It would have been the perfect shot if I had chosen to take it. While she was standing there, she kept looking back over her shoulder, which usually means that there is something else coming. I start hearing a rustling and twigs breaking from the area she was looking at. After a few moments, these twins pop out. It was early in the season so they still had a few spots on them. They were obviously feeling good that morning because they were running and jumping around having a great time. For about ten minutes I sat there and watched them never moving, never raising my gun, just enjoying that moment. I can’t remember a time I dreaded getting up and heading into the woods for this very reason. I know now there is so much enjoyment to be had from just observing what goes on around you.
Giving thanks and value to the animal is just one part of becoming an ethical hunter. When I first started, you couldn't catch me with my hands in an animal's gut if my life depended on it. I would gag, whine, or just throw the knife down and say “It ain't happening.” But now I have come to realize it's my responsibility to that animal to finish what I started. It lived its life free, no suffering occurred, and it didn’t die in vain, and now it's on me to make sure that it is used in an ethical manner. Even though I took that animal’s life I still value it. Some people will ask, “How can you do that when you chose to kill it?” It’s not a simple thing to understand, and unless you have done it, it’s something that you will never get. Millions of people can go to the grocery store and purchase a pack of meat, go home and throw it on the stove or grill and never give a second thought of what exactly they are eating and how it got there. It’s a disconnect that modern day living has given us. Back in the day if you wanted to eat, you killed, cleaned, quartered, and cooked it. Sadly, in today's world people are happy to have the convenience of someone else to do the killing for them.
One of the greatest hurdles any woman will face in her life is that people doubting her abilities in doing things. Starting out, I was reluctant to help with things like hanging stands, dragging an animal, or anything that required physical labor really. The reason being, I didn’t want to struggle with the task and it confirm to people that I couldn’t do it because of my gender. I would offer to help, of course, and when they said no I would sit back and let the men take over. After a while I started getting more involved in the physical part of hunting. When someone would say they were going to hang a stand or they needed help dragging something out I would jump at the opportunity to help. Nowadays I try to do as much as I can on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I still need help in certain parts, but I have become comfortable in knowing what my capabilities are and where my limits lie.
These are just a few of the ways in which I have grown and evolved as a hunter. Every hunter will go through their own evolution in time. It doesn’t matter if you are new to hunting or a seasoned professional, you will never have the same thing happen more than once when in the field. Sometimes you will have to think on your feet. Other times you will have to use a strategy you have heard before to get it done.