Sitting in my tree stand bathed in the setting sun, I realized that one of the best parts about hunting just about any quarry can be summed up in one word: Contrast. There is the contrast of sitting still for hours compared to the adrenalin surge when wildlife is heard or seen. There is the contrast of silence, broken by the sudden 'thwack' or 'bang' of your weapon as you place a shot to kill. There is the contrast of late summer hunting compared to late season hunting in freezing weather. Also there is the stark contrast of everyday life, work, stress, and throngs of people and traffic jams, compared to the experience of being one small hunter alone in a forest cathedral where thunder and bird calls echo for miles.
Contrast, yes. I saw my first bear tonight; so close I could sense the glint in his eye and the smell of his breath. After hours on my tree stand, I was about to call it a day when I heard the swamp grasses and heavy brush rustling eerily all around me. Suddenly a black apparition glided into view to circle and sniff my bait offerings fifteen yards away. Whew. I got an adrenalin surge such as I have never known, not of fear, but of being excited out of my mind. A fireball was bouncing around inside my entire body, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I could literally hear it. Somehow I kept my bow, with its arrow nocked, completely still, mind over matter. With my matter quickly dissolving at the thrill of seeing this 200-pound carnivore so close, this was no small feat. When He suddenly nosed the trail to my stand, approached to within 15 feet of me, and looked directly at me for about 10 seconds, I froze. It was the longest 10 seconds of my life. He then did a speedy about face, went back to the bait pit, plopped on it and began licking the honey off the logs as I broke into a sweat of relief. I think being female has some distinct advantages when it comes to making a bait pit alluring, and I rather fancy myself as the Martha Stewart of bait pit cuisine. However, this contented reclining bruin did not present me with good shot placement, and I could not even see the open sights on my .357 revolver, so I just watched until the woods was so dark I could no longer see the fiber optic sites on my bow. I lamented the dozen kill shots I could have had were I hunting with my .308 rifle and it's light gathering scope, but felt satisfaction at not having wounded the animal with a marginal bowshot. Hearing other bears in the surrounding brush, I did a birdcall to make this elusive beast uneasy. He slowly left, as expected. I crept out of my stand, so excited that I fairly flew the three quarters of a mile back to camp, on legs still wobbly from this incredible thrill.
Contrast. It also beautifully describes us lady hunters. As women, we are not locked into the hunting stereotypes and paradigms that afflict men. We are unique. As women, we can be nurturer to family, femme fetale, or business executive, church volunteer, artist, gourmet cook, seamstress, gardener or musician. We can then transform to huntress and mistress of the wild, stalking forest trails in our boots, packs and camo, mastering our weapons of choice and even teaching these arts to others. For this woman, hunting is singularly the most exhilarating liberation in life. Nothing else compares to it. As a woman, I also believe this to be the most satisfying contrast of all, being able to do it all, live it all, and savor it all.
Wanting to call friends and share the bear sighting, but not getting cell phone reception at camp, I hurriedly packed up my gear and sped off. Twenty miles out, I realized that I had left my bow with quiver lying on the ground at the center of camp. As I was drifting off to sleep that night, it occurred to me that I might have run over the bow with my truck in my haste to leave. The next morning when I went back to camp, my worst fears were realized. There lay my pathetic road killed bow, with arrows and quiver snapped and arrow rest askew. This was a Jennings Air Master, and new only three months ago. I was just sick. I took it to the archery shop a few days later, and found that the extent of the damage was not so bad. After replacing a limb, the rest, and some fine-tuning, it was almost as good as new.
© September 2000