For me, hunting is a personal passion. It’s the way I escape the hustle and bustle. Hunting is cultural tradition, self-reliance and the pursuit of knowledge all wrapped up in a peaceful, primitive package. It’s a tremendous part of my life.
For most women, however, hunting is not much of anything. There are a multitude of reasons why individuals don’t hunt, and that’s fine with me. I admit: grocery stores are a much easier and tidier way to obtain meat. However, there may come a time when providing meat for you and yours is absolutely necessary. Here is the most basic information that any gal (or guy) should know about hunting.
1.) You don’t shoot ducks with an elephant gun
Weapon choice is absolutely critical. Some weapons are completely inappropriate for certain game species. Guns are the most effective weapon, and the learning curve is not as steep as with other weapons. I am an avid archer (archess!!!), but in all honesty, archery can take years to learn properly and has a lower success rate than gun use.
Now, there are plenty of guns to choose from. If you use a gun that is too small for your chosen prey you may only wound the animal. If you use a gun that is too large, you may not be able to handle the power behind the gunshot. I think that it is a good idea for any household to own one handgun for self protection and one rifle for emergency food needs. A great gun for deer hunting is a .308 caliber rifle.
Guns can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, pawn shops and, of course, gun stores. I recommend shopping at your local sporting goods store. Sporting goods stores usually have incredibly helpful, knowledgeable staff that will take the time to find you exactly what you need. I also feel much safer at sporting goods stores than at some pawn and guns shops. Also, be prepared for a background check, paperwork, and red tape. Buying a gun takes time. Laws differ from state to state. To research gun laws in your state go to either your library, always a great place for gathering information, or access http://www.gunlaws.com/links/ .
2.) To everything there is a season
Hunting is completely regulated. First and foremost, you need to purchase a license and research your state hunting regulations. There are specific times of year that it is ok to hunt specific animal species. More importantly, there are seasons when it is very much not okay to hunt! Laws vary by state, and detailed regulations vary within state boundaries. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know regulations, and not very many law enforcement officers are going to fall for the old “I had no idea (notice my batting eyelashes?)” Most states also require every hunter to complete a “hunter’s education” course. Each year your state wildlife agency prints up copies of current regulations. For the most part, these are available at all sporting goods stores and gun stores. In rural areas you can even pick up copies at grocery stores and gas stations. Regulations are also very easy to get off of the internet. Just type your state name and the words “hunting regulations” into Google and poof!
3.) Makeup and clothing are always a girl’s best weapons
I spend more time in front of the mirror during hunting season than any other time of the year; getting dressed for a hunting trip requires as much attention and effort as getting dressed for a job interview. A little before-hand contemplation goes a long way. The most important thing to think about when choosing your attire is weather. Be prepared for everything. Wear shoes that are comfortable and tough.
Camouflage is important, but you don’t have to look like a military combatant. The main thing is to try to break up your outline. Wear clothes with large patches of both light and dark colors. Use face paint, dark eye shadow or mud to draw lines across your face and other exposed skin. The main point of camouflage is to not look like a large human blob while in the forest. It is also best to camouflage your scent. Don’t wear perfume, scented deodorant, or eat garlic roasted sardines before you head out.
When preparing a trip in the outdoors, hunting or not, you should always be safe and bring along some emergency supplies. A few things that every good woodswoman should pack with her are: matches, small fire starters/tinder, water, a metal cup, a sharp knife, a poncho, a pair of binoculars, non-perishable food items and rope. A key note: don’t go overboard. If you try to haul an airmattress, a portable espresso maker, three frying pans and your field guide library, a lot of unnecessary energy will be expended.
4.) Animals, like college freshman, live to eat, drink and sleep
The best places to find animals are by food and water sources. Great places to start looking are alfalfa and corn fields, orchards, rivers, creeks, and ponds. Often, the best place to look for deer is literally in your back yard. Any decent hunting spot should have a plethora of game trails entering the area. Game trails look like human trails, just not as wide and lacking pavement. You can tell if a trail has been traveled recently if there are fresh tracks (loose dirt around tracks) and if droppings are all warm and squishy. You can decide how you will find that out!
For the most part, animals are most active during the hours near dawn and dusk. Scout out an area ahead of time. Look for any game trails coming into fields or water sources. Finding areas of high animal concentration is a key factor influencing a successful hunt.
5.) We can all learn from Elmer Fudd
Almost any animal can see, smell and hear far better than you can. Being very, very quiet is not just a cutesy little cartoon line. You should always move slowly and be as alert and quiet as possible when hunting. Silence is not easily achieved however. As soon as you try to walk silently through the forest you will realize that every twig and leaf is like a miniature sound bomb, just awaiting your step for detonation. The easiest way to ensure silence is to simply stay put. I like to find a promising area and sit down at a good viewpoint. Then the hardest part is mustering up enough patience to wait for game to come by.
6.) Shoot to kill
Hunters live by a very definite code of ethics. One of the principal laws of hunting ethics is this: shoot to kill. There is no reason why an animal should suffer a long death. The best place to aim to achieve this goal is directly behind the front shoulder blade. This is the location of the heart and lungs. Also, be practiced with your weapon. If shot properly, an animal will feel little or no pain and die in a matter of seconds. Watch your animal carefully after you take a shot. It will run, but if shot properly it won’t get far. You should remain still and wait for at least 15-30 minutes, then follow the track of blood and hoof prints left by the animal. Visit www.twpd.state.tx.us/edu/homestudy/ to learn the basics of hunting ethics and safety.
7.) Hunting is not all fun and games
Death is messy. I think this is one of the biggest reasons more women don’t hunt. Dressing game is a lot of unpleasant work. Techniques are far beyond the scope of this article, so we’ll cover them in a later edition. Just remember that you should always carry a sharp knife and get the meat to a cool place as soon as possible. There are numerous articles and books written on game dressing and you ought to read up before you begin to pursue your prey.