"The Gummy Barrel" Women Conquering the Impossible

I will never outgrow the childlike thrill of suddenly accomplishing something that had before seemed impossible. In 9th grade I was the only girl in woodworking class and I built a corner shelf and shadow box for my mom. The many machines in woodworking class were very intimidating at first. It was back then that I grew to appreciate power tools as gender equalizers. I was pretty proud. I stood there with my "A" grade amongst all the boys - grinning like a Cheshire cat. 38 years later, mom still has the shadow box and I still remember that feeling like it was yesterday.

As a woman, I am particularly pleased when I accomplish something that is stereotypically male and beyond my physical strength as well. Many things, including hunting, have both physical and mental challenges. Due to our genetic lack of brute muscular force, we women are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to big physical projects. We are often held back by "genderizing" as well. Many women have not been raised or taught to problem solve by ingenuity or to tackle more formidable "guy" type projects. Many of us were instead taught to be demure and/or to rely on others to do things. Fortunately, there are a number of "equalizers", or things that put women on an equal playing field with anyone else. Three primary areas challenge women when it comes to non-traditional tasks or endeavors. These challenges are Attitude, Knowledge and Strength. For each of these there are solutions and equalizers.

Attitude

Attitude is listed first, because it is the mother of all obstacles. Without the proper solution oriented attitude (as opposed to a problem focused attitude), many people give up before they ever start. Unfortunately, complaining and negativity seem to be national pastimes these days and excuses for failure abound. The right Attitude is envisioning that something is complete by imagining ways to get it done and planning the process to get there. Attitude is not giving up when if you initially fail. Instead, it is regarding failure as a step to success. Last year, a fellow bear hunter got me a 55 gallon barrel of gummy bears for my bear baits. The barrel seemed to weigh as much as my Harley and was virtually impossible to move. I did manage to roll the bugger into the crooked shed at my hunting shack where I even tipped it right-side up without popping a vein. Once the barrel was half empty, the remainder of the gummy bears consisted of one huge fruity smelling gelatinous blob from which I could not pry gummies loose, even with a crow bar. The same friend said to tip the barrel upside down in the hot summer sun, with hopes that the blob would drop loose in several days. Frankly, I was by now imagining having the barrel dropped on his house from a helicopter. The problem was, the barrel was so bottom heavy that I did not have the strength to tip it upside down. I am pretty strong for a female, but not strong enough. I tried ropes, leverage, primal screaming and a tantrum – to no avail. I left the covered barrel in the center of camp to remind me to keep thinking of ways, short of dynamite, to loosen up the gummy monster within. I do not like being conquered by inanimate objects. I figured, if I can change the chain on a chain saw, surely I can tip up a barrel of gummy bears.

Hunting itself requires a hefty dose of attitude as well, especially if a woman is pursuing the sport on her own. Women hunters are a decided minority, but there are many opportunities to get one’s attitude positively charged. Education is one of the best ways. (see side bar for women’s hunting organizations). Statistically, women hunter numbers have increased from 2% in 1991 to up to 12% in 2001* of the overall hunting population. However, women still have the challenge of finding hunting clothes that fit, places to hunt, and suitable equipment. There are many places on the Internet that can help your attitude with hunting (see side bar for hunting web sites).

Attitude Equalizers: Hang around with positive people. Re-align your thinking from focusing upon obstacles, to focusing upon solutions. If there are naysayers in your life, replace them with can-do people. If you believe in a Higher Power, go there for help. Understand yourself and your limitations and plan ways to work around them. Do not procrastinate. Just do it. Find other lady hunters or male hunters as mentors to help motivate you. Do not give up. And know, that you can be feminine and still be a hunter. All it takes is the right attitude.

Knowledge

Hunting Knowledge Colleges

Okay, so your attitude is dangerous and now it’s time to get smart. We can get smart(er) by reading, watching, learning and doing. There are many excellent magazines available for women today, including the NRA’s Women’s Outlook, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s WITO Magazine, American Hunter, and Bowhunter Magazine for example. There are many good books available too, like Berdette Zastrow’s book "Women’s Guide to Hunting". The sports section of your local newspaper will have regular articles about hunting in your particular area. Watching quality hunting videos or programs on television can help educate you. Watching and copying what other ethical and successful hunters do, is probably the best way to learn. For example, I learned the absolute best way to field dress a deer from Brenda Valentine at her Women’s Bowhunting school, and have used her method ever since then. Knowledge is also about learning how to find places to hunt. The good news is, the initial finding of places to hunt might be a challenge, but it gets easier as time goes on. Your state’s DNR will have advanced hunter education classes that can teach you about plat books, prim maps, public land and how to go about finding private land on which to hunt. The final part of knowledge is just doing it. Once you are armed with the basic information on hunting, simply plan a scouting trip, and GO. Sometimes it is easier to get hung up in the planning process because it is comfortable there and we feel apprehensive to take action. However, it is important to know that getting out into the woods is the best teacher there is. You will take your learned information, and use it as a basis to make your own decisions in the field. You will choose your own equipment and choose your own hunting sites and set ups. Knowledge will allow your instinct to work for you, and instinct cannot be taught. You have to get in the woods for it to be awakened.

Knowledge Equalizers

TOOL BOX

Equalizer #1
Forget the diamonds ladies, a toolbox is girl’s best friend. Once you have one, you will feel empowered and will never know how you got along without it. It will help you fix your hunting gear, tune your bow and a lot more. You will end up customizing yours, but here are the basic "must have" contents. The toolbox itself can be plastic or metal (mine is metal) with a removable handled top tray. Buy one a bit larger than you think you need. You will fill it up sooner than you think.
Basic Tools:

  • Hammer
  • Screw Driver Sets, minimum 3 regular and 3 Philips in small, medium and large
  • Regular Pliers
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Cutter
  • Crescent wrench
  • Metal retractable tape measure (15 ft. minimum)
  • Stanley knife
  • Allan wrench set (attached on fan) one regular and one metric
  • Socket wrench set, 6 various common sizes regular, and metric
  • Small container with various sizes of nails, and one with various sizes of screws
  • Putty knife
  • Black electrical tape
  • Tire pressure gauge

Optional:

  • Ratchet set
  • Letherman type tool
  • Bungie cords
  • Duct Tape
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you don’t know or cannot do something. Someday, people will be asking you for help. Hunters may be secretive about their best hunting spots, but they nearly always like to share their knowledge. Find a mentor. In fact, find several. Start a library of hunting books and magazines and go back to them regularly for refreshers. Even seasoned hunters continue their learning throughout their lifetimes. Subscribe to hunting magazines. Join organizations that promote the hunting sports and women hunters.

Strength

Strength is both physical, and mental. I personally feel that hunting is one of the best ways to get and stay physically fit. Most of us women will never have the physical strength of our male counterparts, but there are many ways we can compensate for that. It is a given that in order to hunt, you should be physically fit, even if you are disabled. In order to tote and shoulder a gun steadily, or pull back a bow, strength is required. My female heroes in the hunting industry, regardless of age, seem timeless in their beauty and strength. I look at women hunters like the "Dianas" (see Womens Outlook Magazine August 2003 issue), Michele Musacchia Eichler, Joella Bates, Tes Randle Jolly, or Sheila Burnham - and they all have their fitness regimens. I personally do aerobic conditioning with distance running, kickboxing and dance, as well as weight training, to maintain my strength to pull a bow, carry a heavy back pack or just be able to endure sitting in a tree stand for hours on very cold days. However, guys often do not have the physical strength to do many things manually either: Like moving a 700-pound galvanized bear bait cabinet. I was faced with that task last summer, alone at my hunting shack. I stared at the beastly cabinet for half an hour from my porch, when it struck me. When I was 9 months pregnant with my son, I moved a 500-pound bookshelf myself by using my legs, and inch-worming the shelf across a room. I then inch-wormed the galvanized cabinet across camp to its new location, and tipped it into position using the winch on my ATV. Oh Yes, I was smugly pleased with myself afterwards.

If you take Attitude, and Knowledge, you can approximate brute strength with sheer ingenuity. This is the mental part of strength I mentioned earlier. If something seems too big or too complicated to do by yourself, break it down into smaller components. Do not listen to naysayers who say you cannot do it. You CAN do it. Do not be frustrated if you initially cannot figure something out. Just expect that your first several tries could meet with failure and accept that. Step back, and rethink. Stay focused, calm and logical. Put emotions aside and think through it. Come back to it later, but not too much later. Too much time can make a project seem bigger than it actually is.

That gummy barrel was really starting to vex me, when it occurred to me that I should again try using the winch on my ATV for the strength I lacked. I got the whole thing rigged, but each time I drew the winch in, the barrel would torque, spin and tip over again. I decided to put some water in the barrel to soften the gummies so they would come lose easier, and put the barrel back in the center of camp in the hot sun. I toyed with the idea of using my chainsaw on the blob, but decided the ensuing fallout of sticky projectiles might not be safe given the many bees that buzz around camp, so I tabled that idea.

POWER Tools

Equalizer #2

Power tools are a girl’s second best friend. At the very minimum, you should have a circular saw, power drill and jig saw. Piston driven devices are a Godsend as well. A winch, ATV, chainsaw or generator can make your life a lot easier. Taken a step further, a good pickup truck can’t be beat either. Optional but helpful power tools are brush trimmer with harness, and a cordless drill.

Strength Equalizers:

Fitness and Ingenuity

Tool Box (side bar for basic contents)

ATV & winch

Chainsaw

Generator

Small Trailer

Hand truck or dolly

The Right Hunting Gear

As I turned down the gravel road leading to my hunting shack, I turned off the radio, rolled down the windows of my truck, and crept along about 15 miles an hour, savoring every aspect of the woods. The last quarter mile is a one-lane dirt road carved through a mature basswood forest. A deer bound across the road several yards ahead, and I could hear the hum of insects. Unchaining my entry gate, I snaked up my drive and into the turnaround at camp. It was August and 85 degrees. A big smile came across my face, for there in the center of camp was that confounded gummy barrel, successfully turned upside down with the crow bar perched on top like a calling card. There always comes a time when a friend or mentor will help you overcome when you have met with failure. I had a little help from a friend on this particular endeavor, which brings me to a final important note about hunting and big projects. Again, never be afraid to ask for help and never be afraid to volunteer your help to others. Ever so often, some project will arise that just cannot be done by one person and you will need a friend.

I bought a very large rubber hammer last week. The gummy bear blob is still imprisoned, but I am confident. I tipped the barrel up by myself last weekend and I have a renewed attitude.

The Corn Bag Debacle

In order to save a couple bucks, I bought feed corn in 100 pounds bags instead of my usual 50 pounders. I realized my folly almost immediately. I could not lift the elephantine corn bags to put them into barrels where the coons and squirrels could not get at the corn. So, I tipped the barrels on their sides, rolled the bags in and put the barrels back upright. Easy. Not easy, was the task of getting a corn bag out of the barrel and into my ATV cart. I could not lift the bag more than an inch off the ground. I tried tipping the cart, strapping the corn bag on the back, and leveraging it in. However, my weight was not enough leverage to right the cart, and after swinging on the end of the cart like a monkey, the corn bag wriggled loose and the cart snapped into position clamping a hunk of my leg meat in the process. I will have a month of bragging rights with the dandy bruise that blossomed. There is nothing like a bit of pain to get one’s ingenuity primed. I used a 4x4 sheet of plywood as a ramp, strapped the corn bag against the plywood, attached it to my ATV winch and pulled it onto the cart in a jiffy. It’s 50-pound corn bags for me from now on.

*Women hunter statistics courtesy of Dr. David Samuel. Women bow hunters represent 1% of all hunters.