Colorado Regional Director
I didn’t grow up in a hunting family. My father hunted large game as a young man but by the time I was born he had hung up his gun. I did however grow up outdoors. A love of the outdoors was firmly instilled in me by my minister father at a very young age. In the summer if we weren’t at my grandfather’s farm in Nebraska, we were wandering around the mountains of Summit County Colorado, hiking, camping and fishing near my Uncle’s cabin in Frisco. I remember many nights by the camp fire, looking at the immense sky above, filled with thousands of stars and listening to the night sounds of the woods (and wondering if I was going to get pulled out of the tent by a bear). We heard spellbinding stories told by my father and my uncle while eating the rainbow trout we had caught and cooked on the campfire. While my immediate family didn’t hunt, I had uncles and cousins who hunted and I heard stories of their hunts and the animals they harvested. Though I was somewhat familiar with hunting concepts and lingo through them, hunting was still somewhat of a mystery to me. That is, until I met my husband Wayne.
Wayne grew up hunting in Kansas with his father, grandfather, uncles and brother, so sooner or later my hunting introduction was inevitable. It was sooner. Not long after we got married my husband dared me to take a Hunter's Safety Class. You see I was one of those people who didn't have a problem with other people hunting, as long as they did it responsibly, but had no interest in hunting myself. I didn’t understand the necessity of it. Wayne pointed out to me that my opinions were uneducated (although, not quite this diplomatically), and that he would be willing to accept my decision not to hunt after I had been educated by a Hunter's Safety Course, then and only then would he agree not to keep asking me to go with him. At the time I didn't know just how flattered I should be by the fact that my husband actually wanted me as a hunting partner, and still does I’m glad to say. I agreed and took the course. I realized half way through the course that I had been ignorant about just how important hunters were to conservation, so we went hunting.
Our first hunt was in Kansas for Quail. Even after the Hunter's Safety Course, I hadn’t decided that I could actually pull the trigger to kill a bird. Funny how five miles of wet, freezing, ankle deep mud, lugging my father-in-law's archaic, massive shotgun, wearing baggies on my feet to keep them dry (which didn’t work by the way) in my not so warm hiking boots , could so completely change my mind about whether I could kill a bird. We came to a thicket that looked to Wayne like good Quail habitat. He sent me in while he stayed on the edge. I think he wanted to see just how willing I was to do what it took. After five miles of mud, I was willing! I got into the midst of the thicket and a covey of about fifteen birds flushed. We had quail that night and my hunting days began.
To further cement my dive into the hunting world my husband employed a tricky tactic. He thought that if he equipped me with the appropriate gear I would want to use it. He bought me a 12 Gauge, Browning Citori, over under shotgun. Beautiful gun! To further cement the deal he bought me the most adorable, yellow lab pup I'd ever seen, Kate. It worked. How could I resist? He now had a hunting partner for life.
We hunted and field trialed our labs for a number of years. When we had children our field trialing came to a halt and our labs grew older. When our oldest son, Jared, was ready to start hunting we needed to replace our hunting dogs. Both my husband and I were concerned about our sons starting to hunt behind labs. We loved labs, but had concern about a boy making a quick decision on the safety of a shot when a bird flushed unexpectedly. We felt the boys would have more chance to ready themselves with a pointing dog. We decided to try English Pointers. We found a one year old, started Pointer from Arizona and bought him sight unseen. He came to us as Fireman and was renamed Buck. He was money well spent!
Rachel Baker (in the middle) with her two English Pointers.
A friend asked us how good Buck was and challenged my husband to run him in a National Shoot to Retrieve Association (NSTRA) field trial. Without knowing the rules, my husband ran him in a weekend of trials and placed 2nd and 3rd. He was hooked. I wasn’t there because I’m an E.D. Nurse and was working that weekend. My husband really wanted me to love this new passion of his and employed another tricky tactic. He spoke with the friend who challenged him to run Buck in the first place and who happened to be the president of the region. The two of them hatched a plan to have me help out and learn to do the scoreboards, which I was happy to do. That was two and a half years ago. Now I have a pup of my own, Belle, who will start running this spring, I’m a certified NSTRA judge and the Vice President of the Rocky Mountain Region of NSTRA. I really have to learn to watch these tactics of my husband’s. He knows me too well. My oldest son Jared, 14, has also run Buck and is hoping to become a bird planter this spring. My youngest son, Nick, 10, has become the bird handler of the family and calls himself “the birdman.”
My passion for field trialing and hunting has grown into a desire to get more women and youth interested in hunting, shooting and trialing. I’ve found that there are many women who would love to shoot but don’t know how to get started. When I take them trap shooting and give them the opportunity to hunt planted birds on a game farm they find they also love to hunt! Once the women are involved they give their kids an opportunity to do the same. Through a local gun dog club, that my husband is Vice President of, we have the opportunity to have youth and ladies trials. If the participants don’t have a dog we provide the dog, the handler and a coach to help them through the trial. It’s so satisfying to hear a woman, who never thought hunting would be an interest of hers, come off the field beaming and confidently state “I want a gun and a dog!”
Little did I know, 24 years ago, when I first tentatively stepped into that Kansas field with cold, wet feet, my father-in-law’s ancient shotgun, and an eager husband, that I would be so completely enthralled with this wonderful world of hunting, guns and dogs. So far I’ve only hunted upland birds, ducks and geese. I hope to go for turkey this spring and would love to go big game hunting in the near future. I’m excited to be able to share my passion with other women and it’s a fond hope of mine to be able to call up girlfriends and say “let’s go hunting!”