As a fifth generation Californian, most of my formable years were spent enjoying all that a temperate climate has to offer. It is always better to be outside rather than inside. Swimming, camping, riding horses were my regular activities. Of course a formal education was forced upon me along the line.
But the part of my life that would be relevant here began when I married my husband who was a pistol affectionado. His quest to develop modern pistol techniques led us to attend Gunsite, Jeff Cooper’s American Pistol Institute, in Paulden, Arizona. It was a life changing experience for me. I, not only learned proper safety and shooting methods, I learned about my right to bear arms and defend myself. The training was done using very positive reinforcement, no matter what the skill level. Guns were no longer mysterious things with minds of their own to me. They were tools that with proper training and practice I could use effectively.
I participated in a few local pistol competitions with my .45 ACP. But a pistol match just didn’t connect me to the outdoors enough, because most of the scenarios involved bad guys in city streets. Then I was introduced to Trap and Skeet shooting. This was lots of fun, but when I discovered bird hunting… I was hooked.
In 1984 my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I suggested a Rocky Mtn. horseback elk hunt. Now mind you, I had never shot anything larger that a jack rabbit and had little experience with a rifle. But I knew I loved horses, tent camping, and by now, hunting. So what could be better? We booked a hunt for the following hunting season and were successful in the hunting license draw in Wyoming. During the summer I returned to Gunsite for a general purpose rifle class.
On my first big game hunt I bagged my first elk and my first mule deer. I have hunted mule deer nearly every year since that first hunt. I learned to book my future year’s hunt well in advance, not only to allow time to finance it, but I knew if I had it on the books, I’d make it happen.
Besides my passion for hunting mule deer, I’ve taken several respectable elk, Pronghorn antelope, Texas white tail deer and some exotics. Before venturing off to Alaska after barren ground caribou, my husband asked me if we were ever going to take a vacation that didn’t involve hunting. I just shook my head.
This year my husband and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We raised an agri-business rather than children, but I’m not sure it causes any less worry or rewards. My husband has suffered with macular degeneration since childhood; a problem we knew would eventually affect his shooting. So as a race against the clock we put things in fast forward.
For my 50th birthday I wanted to take a Cape Buffalo. I told my husband that this would be a one time trip to Africa, so we should do it right. We booked a 14 day safari to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. To date, that one time safari has now totaled four. I also squeezed in a chamois and tahr hunt in New Zealand and water buffalo and Bateng in Australia last year. Besides representative plains game in Botswana and Tanzania, I’ve taken lion, leopard, hippo, and most recently elephant. Now most my husband’s hunting is done vicariously through me. That works well for both of us!
Articles by Darin Nelson