When your fiancé tells you that hunting coyotes isn’t scary, and while you’re sitting in the middle of an empty desert crouching down behind some sage brush you decide to do a Google Image search for “coyote” to remind yourself what they look like since you’ve never seen one in real life before, your search results confirm that they don’t look THAT scary… until you get about five or so rows down and there is one bearing its teeth and looking as if it were about to swallow you whole.
“They’re not scary,” he says. My response? “Oh, these piranha dogs?” as I show him the picture I’ve Googled. He laughs and says, “Just keep your head on a swivel 360 degrees because when they come in, they come in hot!” Well, that doesn’t sound awesome.
I sat there in the dirt, terrified, wishing I had brought my Gen4 9mm Glock 17 which I am proficient with, rather than holding this shotgun I know little about and had only shot at clay pigeons for one day. Granted, I did shoot about 100 rounds out of it, but let’s be honest for a minute. I hit about a solid 30% of them. I was not confident with shotgun shooting to say the least, and knowing we may or may not be attacked by a wolf pack (and not the kind in the movie The Hangover) at any time was not a settling feeling.
After listening to the numerous “pissed off baby noises” (as I like to call them) from Homer’s Foxpro for a couple of hours, there were no signs of life in the area, minus the antelope (at least that’s what I thought they were) I’d seen way out in the distance. I thought, “Let’s just shoot those and lay them out as bait for these piranha dogs we came here to hunt,” but every time I asked if we could (and still frequently do ask), I get told, “We can’t. They’re not in season and it is illegal right here (or right now).”
If there is one thing I have learned about hunting it is this: SO. MANY. RULES! How can one keep up with them all? I am just glad Homer is here teaching me all of the hunting things so I stay out of jail, because frequently I have wanted to shoot at numerous species and he just laughs and says, “No, baby, we can’t,” or, “Sure! And go to Federal prison?” Psh, fun sponge. Just kidding. I love him (even if he won’t let me shoot at a bald eagle or a ton of ducks sitting on a lake within a neighborhood).
Our first actual hunt was in Montana with my aunt and uncle. This hunt was less than a week after I’d had a knee scope surgery done and the doctor suggested it was probably not a good idea for me to be hiking up and down mountain sides through sage brush. For those that personally know me, I am stubborn and said, “Challenge accepted, Doc!” We drove for an hour or so to the middle of the Montana hillsides and found our sweet spot. Because I had no clue what the heck we were looking for, I looked around and thought, “Um, there is nothing out here.” Off we went. After what felt like 10,000 miles on my knee, my uncle yells, “Shit!” I looked up and there flying was what appeared to be two gigantic Thanksgiving dinner birds flying through the air.
My first immediate thought was, “Don’t shoot at your uncle’s birds.” Soon after the birds flew out of range for my uncle, into and out of my range before I could even contemplate a second thought like aiming my gun and pulling the trigger, they were about 100 yards away flying frantically down the mountain side, probably thinking, “You can’t catch me, suckers!” Homer then yells, “What the heck, are you guys bird watching!?” Lesson learned: I CAN shoot at my uncle’s missed birds.
Down we went looking for the ones that got away. We spooked them a few times but they still managed to get away. After another seemingly 10,000 mile hike, I fell into a badger hole, backwards, scraping my back and booty cheeks on a gigantic dead bush. Not the most pleasant feeling I have had on my knee, or my bum. How did I get scratches on my butt, you ask? Wearing camo pants that are too big for you, we have since fixed that. They tend to fall down as you walk, kind of like the men wear for fun. Homer got a good laugh as I let out a halfhearted yell as if I were hopeful that something was going to reach out and catch me from falling and making an idiot out of myself. But that is what I was there for: first-time hunter entertainment. He. Is. Welcome.
As we were giving up for the day and driving back towards the roads that lead to town, my uncle slammed on the brakes and I felt as though I was going to go through the windshield from the back seat. “Kaela!! Go, go, go!! Be quiet though” is all I heard as I looked into the road I saw another Thanksgiving dinner looking bird slowly walking across the road. “You don’t need ear plugs!!” Homer yelled. Me, “Ugh!” as I threw the ear plug to the floor of the truck (I secretly still had one in), grabbed the shot gun and exited the truck. I walked towards the bird, pointed the barrel right at it, and squeezed down on the trigger, hard. Nothing. “What the heck?” I thought. Duh, safety off. Red, you’re dead. And so was that bird once I figured out my mistake. Boom! One shot and I hear Homer yelling from inside the truck, “YEAH, KAELA!!” I’d done it. I shot my first Sage Grouse. Homer was even envious of the tail! Apparently that was another thing I needed to learn about hunting, the cool tails and all.
The cold weather seemed to come out of nowhere in Utah and next we were sliding my feet into Homer’s waders that were 4 sizes too big for me and into the marsh we went. What does a new hunter think of when she hears the term “marsh”? I thought, “yeah, those tall weeds”. It wasn’t until I was walking into it that I’d realized I was somewhat wrong. I wasn’t expecting to be walking through knee deep what I like to call “duck poo sinking mud”. For as tough as I normally am, this was a whole new experience for me and I held onto Homer’s arm for the life of me. It is the little things in life like your inner-scared-kid you shouldn’t be afraid to share with the ones you love. And there I was, stomping though duck poo sinking sand and thinking to myself, “This is how I am going to die.”
Day one (and probably the next 4) were rough, but with each time I could (and still can) feel myself getting a little more confident. That was until I tried to chase one of Homer’s decoys that started floating away down a little river that lead into Utah Lake. I reached for it and slipped, falling into the water and feeling like a helpless kid learning to swim for the first time. Truth be told, it was probably a solid 5 feet deep, but I could hear Homer calmly saying, “You’re okay, babe. You’re okay. Just stand up.” I stood up, escaping what felt like near death and went back to our hiding spot in the reeds where the dirt was hard and frozen and no water was under me. We went home with one duck this trip, thanks to Homer’s skills!
Homer asked me to help with decoys, but after my near death experience (laughs), I refused. He instead told me to grab his duck then. Blonde moment kicked in (I get those sometimes!) and I asked, “Which duck?” He laughed and told me, “The duck babe. Get the duck I shot.” My response, “Can I help collect decoys instead?” I don’t touch dead animals. I was always told as a kid that once an animal dies it instantaneously gets rabies. So, carrying that into adult life with me, I returned to the reeds and began finding the thickest twigs I could. I broke about 30 of them, divided them into each hand and used them as dead bird chopsticks. I picked that thing up by its neck and showed it to Homer. He laughed as the duck slipped out of what I thought was a perfect invention and fell to the ground. Yes, he carried his own duck back to the truck and I escaped getting rabies.
This trip, along with several others, I missed shots. Homer blames the ear plugs I wear. Although I am sure they are partially to blame, my hearing is more important to me than any animal we are hunting. We will be posting a blog soon talking about using ear plugs vs. hunting without them, the pros and cons, and asking for your input! Stay tuned for that post!
There are so many things I have learned throughout the last 4 months of hunting with my fiancé. First and foremost, you’ve got to make sure you’re having fun and can laugh at and learn from your mistakes as you go. If you’re bitter and grumpy while hunting, it makes for some long days and some missed trophies (See! I used a hunter’s term!). Although in the beginning I was terrified to walk through the marsh, and I still am a little bit, being able to experience those times with a close friend or loved one makes all the difference.
Secondly, your gear needs to be top priority. Buying crap gear because it is less expensive or whatever the reasons may be is understandable. I am not rich, nor am I close to being able to afford most of the gear we’ve purchased for my hunting journey, but at the end of the day I have been warm and dry throughout my hunting experiences and that alone speaks volumes.
Homer bought me waders from Rogers Sporting Goods that keep me nice and warm and I love them! They have a fleece pocket on the chest that works perfectly for warming up my hands and without that, hunting may be a different experience for me. He also bought me a sweet pair of gloves from King’s Camo in Utah that keep my hands nice and toasty, too. A MUST for someone like me who gets cold fingers easily and HATES being cold! I may have not taken some shots because my hands were buried in my warm waders prior to buying these gloves.
Another piece of gear we purchased was a neck gaiter from King’s Camo. This has many more purposes than I thought. My first time using it, I used it as a face shield from the bug attack we had up in Bear River. I hate mosquitoes and all of the other little pests like it, so walking back to the truck I used it to cover my entire face. I was able to see through it and I walked away without any bites. Due to Homer forgetting his, he was not so successful at escaping the swarm.
This sparked us to make a stop on the way home at Cabela’s and purchase the absolute best bug repellent I have ever used in my entire life. Sawyer Max Deet is hands down worth the purchase, especially in the warmer hunting months.
Lastly, I have truthfully learned so many things (some exciting and some not so fun) throughout my hunting experiences. I will be sharing these in a follow up post so don’t forget to subscribe to our blog so you won’t miss out on me telling it like it is from a female hunter’s perspective. Don’t forget to share it!