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Teaching (Mentoring)

Do it yourself hunts

Do it yourself Hunts:
Are They for YOU?

by Kathleen Russell, Staff Writer,
Regional Director for Missouri


Read more: Do it yourself hunts

How to Renovate a Tractor Into a Deer Drag

Solve Your Deer
Dragging Problem


by Kathleen Kalina
President of Womenhunters

Last year I had to drag a deer 600 yards in the dark by myself. Well--no more of that! My friend was delighted to give me an old lawn tractor that had not worked in years. I was sure that by studying some manuals and taking it apart, I could make it into a good deer dragger.

Read more: How to Renovate a Tractor Into a Deer Drag

Amanda's first deer

There was a time not too long ago when local teen Amanda Snedden would not even think about killing a deer. She told me, “Last year my dad said, “Come out and just see what we do during deer season.”“

Homework in her lap, she sat on the sofa and talked about her first experience in the woods, what she likes about school and her dream of a future working with animals.

“I want to be a veterinarian, so I never really wanted to kill an animal.”

“Thinking about it, I realized, you kill a cow to eat. It is not too cruel to eat the meat, so I toughened up and decided to go deer hunting.” Amanda shared that she really likes deer sausage, too.

Amanda likes Greek plays and reading. She is enjoying the challenge of her high school studies and she likes sharing about what she has learned from her classes. We talked about friends and the popularity of hunting.

“I share with them that I hunt but I don’t try to force my ideas on others. It’s not popular to go deer hunting. I even have two friends that are vegetarians. They tell me, “We respect what you do but we wouldn’t do that.”“

One day last season, she joined her dad in the stand. For five hours she just sat and watched for deer. Even seasoned hunters take their turn at the end of a long wait just to see a deer. Youth hunters that can find quiet times in the woods learn early the reality of deer hunting.

Amanda Snedden with her first deer harvest, a four-point buck that weighed 175-pounds. Amanda is the daughter of Tim and Holly Snedden of rural Windsor, Missouri.
This year Amanda took a hunter safety course in September. When opening day of the youth portion of firearm season opened, in October, she was ready with her deer tag in hand. Saturday morning, October 10, 2007, she was in the stand at 7:00 a.m. She took the time to put on her eyeliner and mascara before she went out hunting. She had the opportunity to use a Marlin 30-30 lever action for the hunt. She had taken a few practice rounds with the rifle the evening before.

The first deer Amanda saw came right in to her from the creek bottom. She and her dad had been in the stand an hour and a half when the hunt unfolded. “I was looking the opposite way. When I looked I saw antlers. My dad said  “Take your time.” The buck was 50 to 75 yards out. I was nice and steady and pretty calm. There was no heart pounding. I pulled the gun up and looked for him. When I thought I had a shot, I focused and took the shot.”

“The deer stood there, then walked in a circle. My second shot I took when he was in a clearing. The deer went about thirty feet before he fell. After I shot it, I cried. I was so happy. My dad said, “I knew you could do it.”“

“My (older) brothers and sister-in- law were dogging on me about not being able to kill a deer. So now they can’t say anything about it. I got my first deer before they got theirs.”

Amanda and another youth, both hunted opening day with their respective guardians.

Sign youth up for hunter education classes, take the time to teach the youth about firearm safety and how to hunt ethically. These help to ensure our young hunters to choose good hunting practices, know firearm safety, and it creates a love for our hunting heritage.

According to a portion of a recent report sent out by Jim Low in the October MDC outdoor news:

“A poor acorn crop contributed to this year’s strong youth deerharvest, according to Conservation Department Resource Scientist LonnieHansen. He said the scarcity of acorns tends to concentrate deer whereacorns or other food are available, making their behavior morepredictable.Hansen also noted that pleasantly cool, clear weather worked in younghunters’ favor.This year’s youth deer harvest included 6,194 (50 percent) antlereddeer, 1,567 (13 percent) button bucks and 4,506 (37 percent) does.The youth deer harvest makes up approximately 4 percent of Missouri’sannual deer harvest. More than 71 percent of deer taken in Missouri eachyear are killed during the 11-day November portion of firearms deerseason. The remaining harvest comes from archery deer season and themuzzleloader, antlerless and urban portions of the firearms deerseason.”


Gender Specific Hunter Education

Humans are hardwired to the expression of their nature and their personalities by age 3.  Parents who really observe their children can see what type of adult that child will bloom into by understanding  who they are at age 3.  My brother played with little cars and blocks by age three.  I was outside playing in the woods, going hunting with relatives and bringing home animals by age 3.  The nature of these two children was fixed.  My brother now owns a machine shop that rebuilds car engines and he also rebuilds antique cars.  He doesn’t care about hunting or fishing.   I was obsessed about outdoors and nature from the start.

Author, Age 1 riding her Irish Setter.
Ripon, Wisconsin
Author, Age 3. Ripon, Wisconsin
Author , Age 5. Author , Age 5.
Gender specific education can be a form of trying to teach a left-handed person to use their right hand.  Just because you are girl, doesn’t mean you should want to have dolls and bake cakes.  Just because you are a boy, doesn’t mean that you are naturally able to fix cars or do other repairs.   Thank God, that Madam Curie studied Chemistry despite male discrimination.

Luckily, in the the last fifty years, society has broken through gender-specific education. Yes, women can become doctors and men can become nurses.  People can become whatever their genetic markers of personality and talents drive them into.

What about households who don’t hunt and have a child who shows that tendency? You can bet that genetic predisposition has skipped some generations and is being expressed by that child.  A loving family should find a hunting mentor for the child who can bring them to shoots and gatherings.  Youth groups and scouts are built around the idea to help children who want to learn archery or gun shooting.

We can no longer expect that a child will be born to have the nature of nineteenth century ideas of men vs. women’s work. By the way, Europeans have had quite narrow expectation of their genders, compared to other tropical societies or even North American Indians.  Many Pacific islands explored by Capt. Cook had him writing journals about the “abnormal” talents of women fishing and hunting, and men cooking.  He was outraged that they did not follow the European standard that he thought was absolute.  Europeans tried later to alter these behaviors.   When the French trappers first met the Ojibwe of Minnesota and Wisconsin, they were shocked that the women did the fishing and trading of goods, while men often did big game hunting in groups.  Fishing was considered women’s work by Ojibwe men, but as a result of intimidation and ridicule by the French, then men started to fish and women cooked.  The trading of goods became very confused since the French refused to negotiate through women.  But since Indian men had no experience in these matters, but were forced to speak to the French for goods, the society gradually changed.    Sure, the Aristocracy in Europe allowed women to go on fox hunts, but not the peasant women. But the Aristocracy wasn’t allowed to choose their spouse, since land and position was the priority of mate choosing by parents.  Imagine how the gene pool became convoluted when people couldn’t even choose mates who have similar interests!

European society rooted in the Roman Empire laws attempted to spread the notion of gender- specific duties worldwide.  It wasn’t until the last 100 years that women began to demand social change to break these walls.  Certainly, the last 50 years have found tremendous change for women’s access to all careers.

How does it feel to be a huntress inside your nature as a young child?  A toddler who loves nature feels safe in the woods and is happy watching wild animals.  They are at peace looking at trees, watching a worm or rabbit. They will often memorize the names of animals from books or TV and look into the eyes of Zoo animals.  Children, who don’t have this gene, find all these things boring.  You can’t force a boy who loves cars to sit in the woods and watch animals.  You can’t force a girl who loves sitting in the forest to come home and play with dolls.  To force a different nature on someone is the same as forcing a left-hander to write with the right hand. It’s abusive to tell a child they must play with dolls and do girl things, or tell a boy to help you gut a deer like all men must do.   This hurts children and confuses them through humiliation to discount their inner interest because they feel society has rules in store for them.

You can bet that there were plenty of unhappy people in the rigid European gender strict roles.  Early explorers who read Capt. Cooks’ journals of the Pacific islanders were aghast that gender roles did not follow European standards, but yet the people seemed happy.  “Mutiny on the Bounty” is a true story where English sailors found so much love and harmony on an island that they mutinied rather than return to England.

God made us each with talents and skills by allowing certain genes to be expressed into our natures.  Realizing this specific expression is observable very early in life asks only that parents be open to understanding who their child is.  It’s certain that adults who are lost about who they are, could trace this confusion back to when some adult told them that they had to be someone they weren’t.  When self discovery comes later in life, a person is often depressed that they lost so much time.  “If only I could have studied music early in my life, but my parents wanted me to be a Lawyer and thought music was frivolous” is often said by a 30yr old ready to a make a painful career change.  Healthy adults are supported in their skills and talents from early age.  A loving parent might be disappointed that their child won’t take over the family business, but true love is recognizing what is best for the child - no matter what ‘society’ says is appropriate for their gender.


All My Dads

Harold, Tom and Gordy. Jerry, Wayne and Jake. Sherby, Ken, Dave & Kurt. Bob, Harry, Lee, Dale, Matt and Dick. The list goes on. Old flames from my youth? Not hardly. This is a partial list of the men who have knowingly or unknowingly been my hunting Dads over the years. Oh, I have a biological Dad, but he has been largely absent from my life and in fact, several of the aforementioned gentlemen have been more of a Dad to me than my own father ever was. With some of these men, the spoken and unspoken father/daughter dynamic is quite clear. But most of these guys have no idea that I regard and appreciate them in a paternal sense. In fact, All My Dads range from 18 to 80 years old, so it isn't about age.

I used to watch my Dad come home after hunting trips with a deer strapped to his trunk or with strings of birds, and I would long to go hunting with him. But most men did not take their daughters hunting back then. I used to sneak into the hall closet when no one was around, take out his guns, and savor how good they felt in my hands. Their heaviness, the cold metal, the etched wood, the kachink of their precision metal actions, the smell of residual gunpowder. I knew then that guys had their own world of hunting and hunting toys, and I knew these toys gave me a special feeling about nature and being a predator. I wanted to be a part of that more than anything. I knew then I would hunt some day even if I had to do it alone. Even if I had to teach myself. I used to watch Dad leave to hunt, or to do his many volunteer activities. I watched Dad drive away forever at age 11 when my folks divorced. His guns and his hunting hobbies gone with him, I had only memories of him and them to carry my hunting dream into adulthood. At 21, I made a wish list for my life. On it, was to have a gun collection and to hunt. Today, I have the start of that collection, together with archery tackle and I am as avid as hunters come. Of all my Dads, I do have several favorites.

My first hunting Dad was Harold, a mild mannered accountant who took my son and I varmint hunting in the Sierra Mountains in California. He patiently taugh me how to read the features of topo maps and how to select hunting spots. He was kind and didn't laugh when I showed up with a bright noisy ski parka and no day pack. A scheduled pig hunt with Harold was foiled by a job transfer to Minnesota where we met our second Dads, Tom and Gordy. These two men took my son and I under their wings and taught us whitetail deer hunting, both rifle and bow, from start to finish. Last year Tom chuckled at what a hunting fanatic I had become. I was quick to point out that he'd created a monster and he was equally quick to respond that I had been a monster all along and that he had simply unlocked the cage. Very True. We initially hunted public land and gained the respect of all the guys at Tillies Corner, the public access parking lot where we all camped. This group saw us take our first deer, and helped us drag them out. They were always ethical and offered encouragement and camaraderie. Now that I have purchased my own hunting land, I have acquired another group of Dads, my neighboring landowners. Three of these gentlemen are my favorites... Sherby, Ken and Dave. They are all about my Dads age. Dave has a collection of tractors and pulled us out of the mud with one of them on our first tree clearing trip at our property. Sherby grooms the road with his tractor and is a caricature of tattered Carharts, grizzled beard, with a wry smile and a cigarette hanging off his lip. Ken is my guardian angel and keeps an eye on our property. He stops by periodically on his six wheeler with his grandson to make sure I'm safe and to catch me up on the latest local news and wildlife sightings. I trade homemade goodies with all these fellas in an effort to repay their kindness, but they all seem to stay a step ahead of me. They act rough and gruff, but they all have hearts of gold. I am grateful for good neighbors. Part of the reason I even have this land, is because of another of my Dads, my friend Kurt. He helped me negotiate the purchase of my land, and gave hundreds of tidbits of advice over the year I spent improving it, as well as being a fountain of knowledge with hunting. He has my Dads blue-gray eyes, stature, personality, and even laughs like my Dad. They could be brothers.

But I have two favorite Dads. The first one has been my #1 hunting buddy and friend for a long time. He is teacher, peer and student. We share many attributes in the woods. We are both tough , have the constitution of a horse and have intuition about things unseen. We can push ourselves to the max and go further still. We hunt together, laugh together and cry together. We both shot our first deer together and half killed ourselves dragging them back to camp. We get angry and bark at each other, but we always make up fast. We laugh till we cry sometimes and we read each others minds. We act like goofy kids together. He is very much like my Dad and very much like me... with an inborn instinct for the woods and hunting. Who is my favorite Dad? He is my teenage son, Matt. Since age 14, he has been my equal in the woods. He touched my heart recently by writing an essay paper telling how when I was old and feeble, he would take me hunting even if it meant dressing me, carrying me up into the tree stand and holding my gun for me. I turned away, not wishing him to see the tear that trickled down my cheek upon reading those words.

My second favorite Dad has all the attributes of the first, except with a keener instinct concerning whitetails and hunting in general. We laugh, but we are serious. We can be on top of our game, or we can act silly. When we are together, we stop people in their tracks. We are both passionate, dynamic, driven and physically strong individuals and have at our core a love for hunting and the outdoors. This person is fifteen years younger than I, and can outshoot me and outhunt me. Someday I hope to be half the hunter they are. Who is my other favorite Dad? Its not a man at all, but a woman - my friend and fellow wild woman, Deb the Doe Slayer.

All My Dads. I love these guys. Each year, I am befriended by others who play both peer and, unknowingly, a paternal role. The adult in me is one tough, confident, and articulate woman who has graduated with honors from the school of hard knocks. The child in me will always crave a Dad, and the generous mentoring of fellow hunters fills that void. I am thankful for them and that they have made my life happier for their imprint upon me.


Teach Your Children

"Is there venison in this?"

My daughter Liz's question gave me that immediate hot faced flush we all dread when the moment of truth is upon us, the curtains suddenly part, and we are naked on the stage. I had not meant to deceive her, but simply wanted her to know the facts. For three months I had slipped venison into everything from spaghetti, to burritos to Swiss steak while she staunchly maintained that she hated venison or any other wild game for that matter. I was trying to win her over by proving her wrong, which is flawed psychology at best. Now on the hot seat, I was poised for the catharsis, knowing full well I was about to create in her a complete rejection on sheer principal.

"yes", I squeaked, almost inaudibly. "WHAT ?" she bleated incredulously while at the same time spitting a half chewed mouthful of manicotti back onto her plate. I will never forget the look of complete look of betrayal on her face, and I will never forget that sinking feeling of despair I had... knowing I had probably turned her off to hunting or eating wild game for life. I wanted to crawl under a rock.

As hunters mature into true sportsman, their desire to bring others into the fold begins to grow stronger. This is especially true concerning our children, other youngsters or even other non-hunters. Many a hunter laments that their children or others they have mentored, wind up rejecting our sport. In part, this may well be the fault of the hunter/teacher but often, it is the lack of passion on the part of the student.

I crouched down on one knee with my gun poised and eyes focused on the scrub brush 30 yards down the steep slope of the mountain. My nine year old son was stanced like Dirty Hairy, parallel and 10 yards from me. He properly clenched the .22 rifle his grandpa had given him as a reward for passing the Hunter Safety course. We heard the rustling in the brush from one hundred yards away, and like two cougars, had quietly stalked toward the sound in the bushes. This was our first outing to squirrel hunt after many times practicing at the gun club. Here in the Sierra Mountains of California, the sun was high, the air was dry and the shared adrenalin between the two of us was electric. He wasn't my kid anymore. He was a predator, and my equal and he sensed that for the first time. We slowly inched closer to the brush, hoping for the opportunity to bag a bushytail. Or to turn tail and run if if was a wild boar. The mystery critter suddenly burst away from us and down the mountain slope unseen, leaving only the sound of birds and fluttering leaves in it's wake. We both lowered our guns, grinning broadly at each other. "Was that cool or what", I said.. "Yaaaaaaa", responded my son "My knees are shaking". He let out a pregnant sigh. . I knew he was hooked. This would begin our journey of hunting together and the link that would join us for life.

Dick , a friend of mine who is a Baptist minister, recently shared his regret that his two grown sons had mostly chosen not to hunt. "In part, I blame myself", he lamented. "I think I may have pushed hunting too soon for one of my sons. When he was quite young, I had him walk in the woods with me bird hunting but he wasn't ready. He was grossed out by the whole thing". His other son admitted he could never shoot a deer but would accompany his father occasionally to bird hunt and spend time with Dad. Dick had envisioned his boys being his hunting buddies later in life, but they just did not have the passion that their father had. Wayne, another hunting buddy and friend, had mentored his son at the same camp and same time that I started hunting with my own son. He hunted the 2001 deer season alone for the first time in years, because his 19 year old son had chosen to stay home. "Jake and I aren't getting along right now so he decided not hunt with me this year" the usually positive and talkative Wayne shared sadly. Wayne and I both agreed that this was a temporary setback because Jake loved to hunt. "He'll be back", Wayne smiled.

Prior to the venison incident and much to my chagrin, my daughter had been doing a steady retreat from any involvement with hunting. She began humanizing animals after being influenced in gradeschool, and evolved later into rejecting not only wild game, but many kinds of meat. She had instruction in archery and she helped select her own bow at age 10. She took Firearm Safety, had her own .22 and went to the gun club shooting with me at age 11 and 12. I took her to the deer woods to snow shoe, scout and hike, and to the Duck Property to explore and go canoeing. But for her, the switch never flipped. and she never has embraced the passion for hunting and the outdoors. She still startles at seeing deer mounts and recoils at seeing the hooves of deer sticking out of my truck after hunting trips. She looks at my bow kill photos with a combination of sympathy and disgust, never understanding the art behind the achievement.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is that there is a right way and a wrong way to groom people for hunting, yes. But even if you do everything right, you may still have a non-hunter on your hands in the end. A person has to have the passion for hunting. If you push someone who does not have the passion, you will simply end up with the square peg/round hole paradigm and a lot of hard feelings. A person with the passion does not need to be led by the nose. Their switch is immediately tripped . They learn fast and pursue with gusto. A person without the passion will never truly understand the hunting addiction or the tie that silently links the brotherhood of hunters together.

"Is there venison in this?".

Two years later I heard these words again and smiled to myself from the next room. This time my hungry daughter had arrived home from work and was unknowingly devouring a venison casserole, declaring it to be delicious. My son was quick to point out that she was eating Bambi. "You have to admit... it's really good, isn't it?" I said. My daughter grinned back her affirmation and simply said "Oh Mom........!".

I might just make a hunter out of that girl yet.


"Teach Your Children - Part 2" Liz Hears the Call of the Wild"

I'm a tough old broad. But as I watched my purse getting ransacked, and my cherished mini pocket knife getting confiscated, the lump in my throat rose and I cried inside. The inscribed knife was awarded after I successfully completed my NRA Certification as a firearms instructor over twelve years ago. It had been a permanent resident in my handbag ever since. I had not flown since the 9/11 tragedy and had no idea that this wee fixture was a no-no, and had quite forgotten it was there as we rushed late to the airport at 5am. After being searched, frisked and deemed harmless, my daughter consoled me and we proceeded to our plane. We were on the way to an all womens archery hog hunt at the Palmer Ranch in Florida.

This hunt in itself was unbelievable. In my article "Teach Your Children",I shared how my now sixteen year old daughter Liz had categorically rejected hunting, or anything related to it, since she was in grade school. I had been invited on this all womens hog hunt by North American Archery Group (NAAG) and was asked if I knew any young ladies who had never hunted before and who would like to give hog hunting a try. Expecting to be soundly rejected, I approached my daughter about it. To my astonishment, she agreed to go. I am sure the Florida part had a lot to do with her decision, but if thats what it took to get her in a tree stand with a bow, that was okay by me. NAAG sent Liz a crossbow due to the short time frame, and we went to Bwana Archery in the Twin Cities to get her set up. The owner, John Larson, took considerable time to build, adjust, and tune her archery equipment, and to provide personal instruction until she was nailing the bulls eye every time. Arriving in Fort Lauderdale, we were met by shuttle for the two hour drive to the ranch. NAAG provided camo bug suits and hats, and since Liz and I wear the same size, we shared all my camo clothing. Liz had just finished attending her first High School Prom the week before, and now she going to wear camo. I could hardly believe it.

Once at the ranch, we were introduced to the other nine lady hunters, and proceeded to gear up for the evening hunt. Our group included Chris Kinsey, Kathy Butt, Carolee Boyles, Brenda Potts, Deb Vanderbeek, Barb White, Julie Schuster, Ashley Palmer, Liz and me. We all had varying degrees of expertise, but both Deb and my daughter had never hunted before. The hunt was being filmed, and the hunt organizers had Ted Jaycox with "Inside the World of Hunting" accompany me on my first two hunts. My daughter had elected to hunt with NAAGs Marketing guru, Joe White. The afternoon temps were in the stifling high 90s, and besides having a great laugh watching Ted chase a herd of cows away from the hog feeder, the evening was uneventful. We were all excited for the next mornings hunt. With the weather so hot, the hogs again were not moving. We did see many turkeys, quail, squirrels, deer, sand cranes and other wildlife. Deb arrowed her first hog that morning and the rest of us were elated with her success. She was immediately and hopelessly addicted to archery hunting, but then we were pretty sure she would be.

Liz and Joe were the last to arrive back at the compound before lunch. As Liz walked up, she beamed and proudly held up a raccoon by the tail. "We didnt see any pigs in range, but Joe said I should take a shot and I got this raccoon with my first arrow!". Our hosts Charlie and Laura Palmer, had earlier announced a "Grand Slam" prize of $1000 for whoever took a raccoon, an armadillo and a squirrel. Being in competitive sports at the Junior Olympic level, Liz always likes a challenge, and I could see she was pretty pleased with herself. I could also see she was vacillating between being excited and proud, but still clinging to her paradigm of being grossed out by dead critters. However, she was quick to want photos with the coon and her archery equipment.

Inside my heart, I want to dance, whoop and holler like a banshee, and do cartwheels. I wanted to drop to my knees and kiss the ground and thank God that she was enjoying this hunt. But you know, we Moms absolutely NEVER want to commit the faux pas of embarrassing our teenage daughters by acting silly, at least not publicly. So, I just stood there being cool as my innards turned inside out with excitement. Just MAYBE.... Liz was going to like hunting.

The hunt organizers decided to send four of us ladies to another ranch for the Saturday evening hunt, with hopes that more hogs would be moving there. The camera crew left me and went with Brenda, and I took a box stand in a cluster of trees, surrounded by endless miles of fields latticed with dry water ditches. Grazing cows dotted the landscape in every direction. It was hot, dry and windy for the first three hours, but as the huge veiled yellow sun lazily sank and skimmed the horizon, the wind died and I could just smell that the magic hour had set in. Glassing the fields around me, I saw pigs about a quarter mile away, making their way in my direction. I figured they would get to me about 20 minutes before dark. Perfect. I was ready. Everything was going right.

Just as that thought escaped, I heard the swamp buggy engine in the distance. "Nooooo", I whined to myself. "They cant be coming now!". Alas, they were, and Carolee was already on board and looking as contemplative as I felt. I assembled my gear and climbed aboard. Apparently there was an event planned, and since the ranch was a half hour away, we needed to head out.

"I saw hogs coming my way, in the field ahead, and the wind is perfect", I said softly. The driver slowed the swamp buggy and glassed the field. Sure enough. Two herds of about 15 pigs each looked to be ten minutes out. He looked backed at us, and then at Joe White who was riding shotgun. "Girls get your bows ready, Joe lets grab our guns... were gonna do a spot and stalk.

A "Spot and Stalk"? I had never done that before.

Carolee and I looked at each other in disbelief and glee for a split second... and then we were on it like cats. A hedgerow atop a mile long berm stood between us and the pigs, as the four of us half walked/half ran about 500 yards. The pigs changed direction several times, which kept us skittering back and forth to get in position. My heart was going to beat 90 now, and between that and the heat, I was sweating wet from head to toe. I shinnied up the berm on a white sand hog trail, and crouched on my knees going to full draw for the shot. The lead hog was in range, but branches obscured a clear shot. When one of the guys said "shoot", in my excitement, I did so without thinking. The arrow glanced off a twig, and just took a little tallow and hair off the first pig. They sprayed in all directions. Dang, I blew that one. We all regrouped for Plan B as the second wave of pigs approached.

Plan B was to crawl up the berm, sneak over the top between the scrub brush, slither down the other side into a ditch, belly crawl up the ditch and wait for the hogs to get right on top of us. Carolee was shooting a crossbow and hit her shooting position like a soldier. "This is how we do it elk hunting", she grinned. Ohhhh boy... this is how I had never done anything in my life before, and I was excited out of my mind ! My heart was pounding in my ears like a bass drum. I crawled up the ditch, slowly poked my head up and saw the hogs about two minutes out. Ducking back down, we agreed that Carolee would shoot the lead hog, and I would shoot the second hog. We had to shoot together if we were going to both get a pig, so we had to give each other a signal to shoot simultaneously. Poking my head up again, I saw it was time to draw. I had never drawn my bow back kneeling and hunkered over, but adrenalin overcame that problem. Now at full draw, I oozed slowly upward, with that familiar predator in me replacing the adrenalin with a steel eyed focus on my target. At 20 yards, my hog went from broadside to suddenly coming straight toward me and the hair on Carolees hog was now standing straight on end. The pigs knew something was up. "I cant shoot, I cant shoot", I whispered to my hunting partner. "The minute hes broadside, give me a signal", she shot back. Bingo... Pig #2 turned for me. "I AM SHOOTING NOW. Right NOW!"...... I whisper growled the words, as both of our arrows leaped through the hot evening air and connected with our targets. Now I was soaking wet, weak kneed and shaking. I crumpled for a second, then leaped up to watch the hogs escape path. It was a double lung shot, with my bright yellow & orange fletching a stark contrast against the hogs black hide. All four of us tracked the hogs. I had to put another arrow into my animal. Carolees pig bolted into the thick brush and we lost him as night fell. The guys brought the swamp buggy around and we headed out in the dark.

I have been a tree stand hunter, duck blind hunter, and ground blind hunter, but this was my first "spot and stalk". And, oh yes, I think I like spot and stalk hunting a lot. I also think I have a lot yet to learn about spot and stalk hunting.

Carolee and Chris got hogs the next morning. While my daughter never had a shot at a pig, she was fearlessly hunting alone on stand by the end of the three days. She was very excited with the anticipation of harvesting an animal herself. She claimed that sitting on stand was boring, and that she did not get adrenalin from her bow shot. However, she has not ruled out hunting in the future. As for me, her very patient mother, mentor and friend, I have no expectations beyond my daughters ultimate happiness, and if its hunting or not hunting, that is up to her. I am grateful that she at least tried hunting and I hope that we can someday share the bond of the outdoors as hunting buddies.

In summary, and from my heart, I want thank Bwana Archery and owner John Larson for getting Liz excited and setting up her equipment. I want to thank the all the ladies on the hunt, both new and tenured hunters, for showing Liz how much excitement and camaraderie there is with our sport. And I especially want to thank Palmer Ranch and North American Archery Group/Jennings for providing both venue and equipment to bring new hunters into the fold, and for helping my formerly anti-hunting daughter to "see the light". I Just hope that I will be writing Part 3 of this saga some day, where Liz takes her first big game animal with a bow and where I am by her side to share the thrill of that experience.


Florida Lady Hunters at Palmer Ranch

The World's Greatest Archers

I am not much of an archer, but I recognize greatness when I see it. We all know about the father of modern bow hunting, the late, great Fred Bear and thank him for his contributions to the sport. Most of us have seen the trick shots Byron Ferguson makes with his traditional bows, and some of us have seen Ted Nugent hit a pheasant in mid-flight. Legends of great archers such as Robin Hood and his Merry Men still stir the hearts of those who read their stories. But how many take notice of the greatness of the average sportsmen and women to be found in their local bow hunters' club? I met some great archers this winter, and I would like to honor them with a little well-earned recognition and many heartfelt thanks.

Last fall, my parents gave me some money and told me to buy Lisa, my daughter, something special. Since she had been talking about wanting to take up bow hunting, I bought her an adjustable youth bow, a dozen arrows, and a quick release. Now what? Although I was pretty good with a longbow in college and had shot a recurve for a short period of time many years ago, I had no clue how to even begin to use a compound bow. My husband put it together for us, and we set up a dense hay bale in our rifle range.

I used what I could remember and what I could guess to at least send an arrow to the target. My daughter just got frustrated, and I knew that if I did not get good help fast, this interest of hers would die quickly. As a mother and a hunter who wants her to be the best she can be, I was not willing to let that happen. I went right in the house while she was still trying to find her lost arrows and called our local archery club.

I had seen the sign for Perry County Archers for the last eight years along one of the routes we often drove. I had never actually seen the club as it is a few miles down a side road. I had most recently heard about them through my local sporting goods dealer. He told me that they give lessons in the winter, but he did not know any details. A couple of months prior, I had tried calling the club to ask about lessons, but there was never an answer, and there was no answering machine. I was afraid that this would once more be the case, but to my surprise, the club president himself picked up the phone.

Dale Bates and his wife happened to be at the club, using the indoor range. I asked him if there were any lessons available, and when they started. It just so happened that they started the next morning and would be held for ten Saturdays. Club membership was only $35/family/year, with a $5 sign-up fee the first year. For this fee you have 24/7 use of indoor and outdoor ranges. Youth members get free lessons, and all equipment is provided for those who do not have their own bows and arrows. Lessons for non-member youth are only $15 for ten three-hour lessons.

Lisa and I were there the next morning, and I purchased a family membership just in case I wanted to use the facilities if I also got back into archery. The local archery store owner, also a club member, instructed the young people about safety, club privileges, expected behavior, and the importance of devoting the next ten weeks to the sport. He said he knew that there are so many school sports in which they might be involved, so they would have to make a choice. They had to prioritize these lessons, or they would not benefit from them. No problem for Lisa. I, her homeschool teacher, scheduled this as phys-ed class. She wouldn't have it any other way.

The instructors were so wonderful. Nineteen-year-old Justin Haas, who has been shooting since he was eleven, took time out of his busy life to help other youth fall in love with the sport as he had. He proudly showed me a picture of his first archery class at the club. There were twice as many students then as there were in Lisa's class, he sadly noted, and there had been two classes that year! It upset me to see the decline of youth involvement in our rural county. Clearly something was wrong! I was glad that Lisa and I had made the decision to come.

The other instructor, Donald Schaeffer, brought his own son and daughter to the classes. Don's face would light up as he related Lisa's progress every week. He loves archery with a passion, and he told me that Lisa was a "natural". He worked with her to fine-tune her skills, suggesting equipment for me to purchase that would make the arrow fly better.

I was not able to watch my daughter's lessons, unfortunately. My mortal enemy, black indoor mold, is a big problem in the club building. The week I took the pictures seen here, I was wearing a huge mask. Even with precautions, it got to me. My eyes itched and watered, and I was ill for some time afterward. If I ever shoot at the club, it will have to be outdoors! No problem. They have 110 acres of beautiful wooded land with more targets than I could count during all the walks I took those Saturdays while I was waiting for Lisa. What a treasure I had found!

Lisa had so much fun with the other young members after lessons each week. They would put up special targets and have shooting contests. Nobody was envious of each other's skills, or if he or she was, nothing was said. They all simply enjoyed being together and shooting their bows. The instructors are to be credited for that. They managed to strike a good balance between doing one's best and simply shooting for the fun of it.

The club also has grocery shoots in winter and 3-D shoots from spring to Labor Day. In August, they have weekly shoots to help members to prepare for deer season. So far, we have not been able to attend any such events but plan to go to the next 3-D shoot to be held on Fathers' Day. I look forward to seeing these wonderful people again. This is such a wonderful club, filled with nice people. The nicest of all are the selfless instructors who sacrificed their Saturdays to help my daughter to fulfill a dream. In my book, these are truly the World's Greatest Archers.


Friends and Mentors

This year was to be the year my daughter and I were to put a serious effort into figuring out how to hunt spring gobblers. We had half-heartedly tried for an hour or so last spring, but to no avail. For some reason, turkeys were just never on my priority list, so I never quite got around to learning how to call them into shotgun range. By the time I decided that turkey hunting would be fun, I no longer had the health or stamina to be in the woods during warmer months. I do manage to muster up the strength for a good deal of deer hunting once a killing frost hits, much to the delight of my daughter, who has come to surpass me in the pursuit of whitetails. She may no longer need my mentoring, but by law in Pennsylvania, she still needs my presence beside her until she is sixteen.

This spring was particularly wet and rainy, and the high mold counts outside made it risky for me to be out very much. In addition, I have had some bad cases of sinusitis, which make even everyday activities a challenge. I was watching yet another spring turkey season disappear. Since my husband barely gets out hunting anymore, and he knows even less about turkeys than I do, it looked as if Lisa would not get a chance to get out at all this year. She has no hunting relatives to teach her what I cannot teach or take her where I cannot go. Fortunately, there was one trusted friend who came through for us.

I have known Dr. Jack Armstrong for about three years. During my first office visit, I had told him how my sudden and severe allergies had made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy hunting. I would have expected an allergist to tell me to give up my outdoor pursuits for the sake of my health, but as it turned out, he was quite supportive. * He never once suggested that I should abandon my rural lifestyle or my hunting. He understands that my connection to the land is so integral to my well being, for he shares the same feelings. I believe that he grew to love the land because he was raised on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, and came from a family of hunters. His farm boy upbringing also shows forth in his common sense doctoring, his conservative values, and his love for God. I knew I had found not only an excellent doctor, but also a friend and brother. Over the next two years, I brought my husband and two of my four children to see him for diagnosis and treatment of their allergies. It felt good to have someone I could trust with their health.

Whenever Lisa and I would go for allergy shots during hunting season, Dr. Armstrong would ask us if we had seen any deer, or gotten any yet. When Lisa shot her first deer two years ago, he was almost as thrilled as we were. When she shot her first buck, he made sure he saw us after our next allergy shot appointment. He sat down with us and asked Lisa to tell him every detail of her exciting and successful hunt. We told him that he should come out to the farm and hunt sometime, and he said that he would take us up on the offer during Spring turkey season, and that he would show Lisa how to hunt gobblers.

The season was almost literally a washout. Lisa's hunt was to be the second Saturday of the month long season, but the rain that never seem to quit for weeks was accompanied by lightning. Dr. Armstrong felt that guns make very good lightning rods, so he postponed his trip to the farm until Memorial Day weekend. His brother, an avid hunter and quite adept with a turkey call, would come along to give Lisa the best possible opportunity to harvest a Tom.

As it turned out, neither the weather nor the turkeys would cooperate that day. The trio took off early that last Saturday of the season, and attempted to locate a gobbler, but apparently, the birds had better things to do, such as keep under shelter in the soggy mess. Lisa had fun anyway, showing her mentors the farm, our new orchard and food plot, and the multitude of deer trails on the ridge behind us. Then the brothers came in to dry off a bit and see our family's small collection of antlers, along with Lisa's "Robin Hood", the contest-winning arrows she glued in place and hung in the family room. My husband joined us as we chatted for a while, enjoying the pleasant visit with two outstanding and selfless men who gave up their Saturday to help pass on a great Pennsylvania tradition.

As is true with any hunt shared with friends, the success of that day is measured more in the fellowship enjoyed than in the game animals taken. Mark Armstrong, we learned, is every bit as nice as his brother. There must be good roots in the soil of that family farm. When he and the good doctor left, I told them they are welcome to come to our farm and hunt any time. I hope they will take me up on the offer to come during archery deer season, for my seven acre clover field is looking mighty good now, and from the looks of my beleaguered apple trees, the deer have found my young orchard to be a popular place to hang the feedbag. I know a certain young lady hunter who will be picking out some prime spots where her special guests can place their treestands.


The Measure of our Worth

Those of us who face severe physical limitations in our lives often make the mistake of equating our accomplishments with our worth as human beings. I admit to being guilty of this myself. How many times have I watched a hunting show on television and compared my hunting success with that of the celebrities? There were more times than I care to admit! No matter how many times I hear or repeat the saying that it is not the game that I take, but rather the companionship of friends that counts, deep down inside there is still a part of me that is driven to succeed. OK. Maybe that part of me isn't so deeply hidden.

I have been a high achiever since college. I can remember getting very anxious about upcoming exams, especially in Anatomy and Physiology, my favorite courses. I loved to get high grades, which I consistently did, and I suppose I surprised everyone when I announced that I would not continue to pursue a degree in nursing. I dropped out, got married, and began to raise my family. I channeled my drive for success in a slightly different direction- trying to be the best wife and mother I could be. After twenty-three years I am still married to the same man, and we have four wonderful children. You would think I would see that as a great success in a time when many relationships fail, but old habits die hard, and I still tend to set my sights on achieving my idea of success.

I have come to enjoy a variety of physical and intellectual pursuits. Hunting, of course, is number one on the list. I was not raised in a hunting family, and neither was my husband, so we pretty much had to start learning from scratch. I devoured books and articles on the subject of deer hunting, and was quite proud of the fact that it only took until my second year for me to tag my first buck. Nobody had taught me; it was my own accomplishment. I did not score every year, but I hunted my heart out, not quitting until the season was over or my tag was filled. One evening on the last day of a deer season, I came out of the woods and found a note on my windshield from our game warden. She told me that of all the hunters she knew, I was the one whose truck was there from the earliest light until darkness fell. The one day I left early, she knew that I must have gotten a deer! I had more determination that most hunters she met, and they should learn a thing or two from me. That letter was as great to me as winning a big buck contest.

Five years ago, I lost the vibrant health and stamina I once possessed, and my hunting has suffered terribly. Gone are the days when I would strap on a pack and disappear with my gun for the day. After a five year string of success in my new hunting grounds here in Central PA, I have had five years of what I have often perceived as near total failure in the deer woods. Hunting has not been the only casualty as I watched my life become increasingly limited. This past year has seen an overall improvement in my asthma, but my sinus infections have been getting more frequent and more severe. This was my first summer without a garden, and I took no produce, jelly, or baked goods to the County Fair...... there would be no blue ribbons this year. My self-worth as a mother hit an all-time low when I had to tell my daughter I did not have the strength to take her and her goats to the fair either. A thoughtless friend tried to tell me I had an obligation to take her, that I am really not that sick, and that I was depriving my daughter. The words cut like a knife to my very heart. My daughter saw my predicament and came to my defense.

Lisa wrote to my friend to tell her that my illnesses have been very real, but even with all of my suffering, I have never failed to give her the happiest days of her life. She would give up the County Fair a thousand times over for those times we shared. What days were they? Those were the days I mustered all the strength I could, and took her out deer hunting, being there for her first doe, then again for her first buck. As I read the letter my heart swelled with pride for the fine young lady my daughter had become. My eyes filled with tears, but these were tears of joy! My daughter did not see my diminished abilities. She saw a mother who did her very best to introduce her to the wonderful world of hunting! I think my old game warden would be very proud of me still, don't you?


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