May 1, 2014 – Asha Aiello, Secretary/Treasurer
In small town, rural Oregon – this girl read. I did homework, I spent time outdoors, I volunteered – and I read.
Friends and family members hunted, fished, and hiked. I didn’t have a problem with any of it, and in fact have some of the fondest memories of my grandfather from going fishing with him as a little girl. As I grew up, and my grandfather died, I not only lost interest but didn’t really have the inclination to ask those around me to invest the time and energy to help me learn to hunt.
In 2007, I met a transplant from Michigan. He was funny, smart, had small town values – and he is a hunter. Someone who looked at the outdoors as a lifestyle – who loved to hike, hunt, fish and believed that the more you connected with what nature had to offer, the better off you were as an individual.
Don’t Be Scared – Do It!
He asked me to give hunting a shot. He never pressured me, never asked more than I could perform – just asked that I give my best and that I try to see things from his point of view. I went out hiking with him during his scouting – carrying only binoculars and learning what it was to hike, track, identify scat, and habitat. I learned about habitat, how Oregon’s politics and history has shaped our predator populations, what the ecosystem of the forest and stream need to flourish, and how we as Oregonians influence our state at the ballot box and by our actions. It took a transplant from Michigan to help me see how very much I had taken for granted as a native.
Understand – It’s Tough!
Truthfully, I don’t know how he did it. For the first season or two, even just hiking – I was whiny, out of shape, and generally a pain in the butt. I tagged along for coyote hunts, spring bear, general season hunts, and scouting expeditions. I ended up sore and worn out – but along the way, I started to pay attention. I started to learn what different tracks looked like. I paid attention to the way he hunted and why he did what he did. I started to look forward to the absolute peace when you’re alone in the early dawn and you see the world wake up. Hiking was getting me in shape. I joined a gym and realized, a la Cam Hanes – train hard, hunt easy.
Set a Timeline for when It’s “Your Hunt”
In fall of 2013, I was prepared. Geared up – boots, appropriately fitting pants, fleece, and the like – I drew my own tag in an area we selected. This was MY hunt – he was there for support and guidance. I was determined to make him proud of me – to be proud of myself. I wouldn’t complain, moan, bitch or get frustrated – I’d put in my time and if I didn’t get anything, I’d enjoy the experience.
After eight days, forty miles on the boots, beautiful (but crappy for animal movement) weather, and a boatload of sore muscles later (plus one session of crying after I missed a 4×3 buck that literally dared me to shoot him) – I had him. My first animal – a fork horn buck. I must have yelled and cheered literally half the three hour drive home. Two months later, during my first waterfowl season, I shot not only my first duck (a beautiful bufflehead) but my first double – two with one shot. I have learned how to gut a deer and breast out duck and geese.
My experience isn’t unique. However, as someone that had to dig deep to find what was already there, I thought that my experience as a new female hunter might help others starting out or a year or two in and still struggling.
Here are a few key things that I learned as a woman and huntress.
1. Clothing matters. I don’t give a flying pig’s ear what you think is “cute” or “sexy”. You’re not there to impress your partner, your hunting party, or the danged deer/waterfowl/birds. Find good quality clothing that fits. Don’t buy pink/purple/sparkly gear to hunt in – keep that for parties and other events. Use your hunting partner/party – get advice and information on good starter gear. Hunters by nature are pretty helpful individuals – sometimes people will let you borrow or try on gear to see what works best for you. You don’t have to run out and buy top of the line gear – just shop around to figure out what works for YOU. Things need to fit your body – your husband or partner’s clothes won’t cut it.
2. Small things matter outdoors. This includes boots, hats, gloves, jewelry, perfume– the smallest things can make a difference. I guarantee, aside from a good deodorant, you do. not. need. to smell “good” in the woods. I’m going to bring up undergarments now – you’ve been warned. Ladies – your undergarments make a difference. Having the right panties and bra can make all the difference in your hike after a 10 or 15 mile day. Things ride up, down, etc. and suddenly what wasn’t a problem yesterday is now a blister, raw spot or inhibits making your shot. I suggest doing a dry run to the range or short hike before you head out to make sure your gear fits and is comfortable – including the undergarments, socks, etc.
3. If you don’t have patience, learn it. You’re going to have to stow the ego. I HATE being told what to do. I hate it more when it comes from my husband – the person that knows me best in the world. (Don’t ask why – it doesn’t have to make sense.) However – my husband taught me how to hunt. I had to stow everything I thought I knew and really, really listen. I had to lose the ego and learn his way, his strategies and learn how to ask questions. Want a stronger marriage? Hunt together.
4. Be open and honest. It absolutely positively does no one any good if you’ve lost the desire to hunt. I tried to tag along on spring bear twice. It is really, really not my thing. I don’t like being out all day and the hikes – oh, the hikes. So, I sat my husband down and said I loved hunting with him but that I’d stick with deer and waterfowl for right now. People are not mind readers. You cannot get away with thinking they know what’s going on – no matter how long you’ve known them. If you prefer bird to big game – be honest. Be willing and open to try new things, but don’t waste anyone’s time and effort on something you hate.
5. Prepare. I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but bear (pun intended) with me. Hunting isn’t something you head into two weeks before your season and hope for the best. If you hunt multiple animals, you had better think ahead. What do I mean specifically?
a. Train. If you hunt deer, get your butt to a stair climber. Literally. Just do your best to imagine your scenarios and start moving your body toward that experience. Make sure you can carry your rifle all day long.
b. Buy clothing, tents, and supplies all year long. Don’t wait until right before the season or you’ll get robbed. Make a list and be on the lookout for great deals on your list. Invest in good quality supplies and you’ll end up updating, but not having to continually replace.
c. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Take your rifle to the range, and get super comfortable with your gun. Dress up in your basic gear and make sure you can move in it for a few hours. Set up the canvas tent ahead of time so you know how you’ll set it up once you’re in camp. Scout your camp location, and an alternate one or two so you know your terrain.
My only hope with what I’ve shared is that it helps a new female hunter or two adjust to this new world of dirt, blood, early mornings, sore feet – and absolute exhilaration. I didn’t think I could do it – I underestimated my own strength and my own will. I had pushed myself harder and longer than ever before and though there were times of frustration, I learned that I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I ran 75 yards in virtual silence moving into position at a buck, up a hill in unfamiliar territory. I drug my own buck out and had the pleasure of making my first venison meal from an animal that I harvested.
I read still – I read hunting magazines, hunting articles, and a whole other variety of materials. I volunteer – with OHA, with OOC, and with ODFW when I can. I can feed my family, be sustainable and continue traditions centuries old. If that’s not pretty good for a girl from small town, rural Oregon…
P.S. Are you and your significant other attending the Oregon Outdoor Council’s predator symposium on June 14, 2014 in Albany Oregon? “How Predators and Current Predator Management are Impacting Your Hunting Opportunity!” Click here for full information!