by Asha Aiello, Secretary/Treasurer
It was always someone else (my husband) that got stuff ready, and it felt like all I did was come along for the ride. I’d help where I could – putting out decoys, hiking out to scout and place cams – but I never really felt like I owned any part of it. I had a great time, and could talk the talk, but that was it.
I struggled for a long time, even before I started being a real participant in the hunt. Like when putting together my gear the night before hunts, I’d have to ask my husband too many questions that always lead to “What have you done before?” Great question, but I realized – I’d never taken responsibility for MY part in the process.
I’m shocked my husband still speaks to me after those first few hunts. I had to start somewhere, though, and figuring out whether I could pull the trigger was a first.
My husband called a coyote with a pelt that looked like buttered toast to 10 yards in front of me and we locked eyes – it was then that I knew. I didn’t make the shot (I was told to have the rifle ready and did not) – but I knew, without a doubt, I could do it.
I’m fortunate to have spent time with Ralph and Vicki Cianrulo, Benny Spies, Jim Brennan and Kristy Titus on a trip to open a new store in Utah.
What I learned was that these individuals are some of the best in the industry – and they never stop. From learning to practicing to updating their skills, knowledge of technology and the industry – they viewed it as their responsibility to know, practice and be educated on the best.
I realized listening to them that hunting, like true passion, took practice. I should not expect to be amazing, or know everything in the first year, even two – but at the end of the day, I was the one that had to stand up and admit it.
I was not doing myself, my husband, anyone we hunted with, any favors by being lackluster, uneducated and out of practice and shape.
Now I’m a waterfowl and big game hunter. I shoot on occasion during the offseason, and once in a while I’ll shoot sporting clays (both with lessons). With a lot of work, my accuracy has gone from awful to pretty good, but it wasn’t without struggles.
If you’re looking to join your significant other in the hunt or looking to get started on your own, benefit from some hard lessons I learned.
Hunt fitness. To keep up you have to be in shape, and feel good about yourself. My first goal was to get in shape and lose weight. I personally chose CrossFit due to my learning style and schedule – I need to go, workout, not think, and go home. I needed to work on strength for my shotgun skills, and toting my rifle miles through the wilderness. I did it one class at a time. I will share with you what has helped the most so far that can be done at home and without equipment.
Set a goal. ANY GOAL. What do you want to learn, try or master first? Jumping in with both feet and trying to conquer it all will result in frustration, lack of confidence and potentially setting yourself back. I chose to start with shotgun skills. I was going to improve by taking lessons. For another, this could simply be getting out and going shooting at a club, with friends or taking an ODFW class. I chose to improve my accuracy and have taken 3 lessons so far. My accuracy has improved vastly and I feel much more confident in how I handle my weapon. Setting a specific goal will help you measure where you need to improve and when it’s time to tackle the next step.
Educate yourself on your chosen hunt or fishing tactic. My suggestion is to take the goal from the previous and find a way to take a class. There are a ton of free classes, seminars, and resources to get you started. When wanting to develop my skills in bird hunting, for a mere $50 I took a Women’s Pheasant Hunting Class put on by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was with fellow women that have never hunted – and I had access to free targets, ammo and a variety of shotguns so that I could build my skills before we ever started with the pheasants. I was also able to learn how to process my animal myself, which also gave me an idea of things to keep in a hunting pack and gear that I needed if I wanted to be a serious huntress.
Purchase/obtain YOUR OWN gear – and become the expert on it. For me, it’s not necessary to have my own rangefinder, but you bet I have my own binoculars, and my own good fitting camo. I’ve tried different types and found that OutfitHer by Cabela’s works best for me. I bought and use a bino harness, and my husband helped me get my shotgun cheek comb updated for my height/angle. Simple things can make a huge difference – but most importantly, figure out what gear works for YOU. Own it, practice with it, wear it, and know what it feels like.
It’s easy to sit back. It has nothing to do with your drive, your ambition, your goals – when getting into hunting and shooting, there are so many willing to help. They’ll load packs and guns, give lessons, take care of details – and sometimes, it’s nice to have someone do it for you and learn as you go. Personally – I learn by doing. By making mistakes, failing, and trying again. As a female – sometimes you have to fight a little harder, train more, and commit to making every lesson you learn and the moment you’re granted in the field count. Those moments are your chances to do it right, to do it wrong, and to figure out what to do differently.
The best in the industry only got there by taking responsibility for every second that is their’s in the field and on the ranges. Who am I to expect I’d be any different as your average, everyday hunter?
I can’t wait for September to track my buck, put miles on my boots, wait in that blind, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. This time, I’ll have earned every second I spend on the hunt – and I promise you, I value it even more now than ever.
Enjoy the chase,
Rookie of the Year – Cabela’s