06 Jun Just like Men, Only Prettier By: Heidi Manley WKP Pro Staffer
Just Like Men, Only Prettier!
Blog 1- The Set Up
In past hunting times, it was a man’s world and women were just supportive home body, but like today’s trends, women are making their appearance where they’ve never been before. But unfortunately, since hunting was dominated by men for so long, women have yet to earn their place on the camo shelf and in the tree stand. Times are changing, and women are proving to be making their way to the top.
Growing up I came from a family of non-hunters and even some anti-hunters so the idea of hunting was unheard of. But when you live in a farming community in Wisconsin where everyone and their brother hunts, the thought of getting in the tree yourself is an intriguing idea. So, with a little reasoning, I was able to convince my non-hunting uncle to sign me up for hunter’s safety and the idea became reality.
I was lucky enough to have a girlfriend with an extra gun and tree stand, and eventually, her dad set up agreed to take me out for the first time. Like most Wisconsin gun hunters, I started out my first hunt in subzero weather and was underdressed for the all-day event. But there was something about sitting in the stand, freezing my toes off, and seeing the sun rise in front of me, that lit a blaze orange spark in my soul. Even though we didn’t see a deer that year I couldn’t get enough.
After research on and off through the next year, I discovered that women’s bows were expensive and hard to come by, so a youth bow would have to do. I purchased my first bow from Walmart in October and took it to the home-town archery shop to get a sight, rest, and release. By the time I left, the bow technicians knew I would be back for help, and I probably became the laughing stock of the year because it was a Great Value bow and not one of their top shelf name brand bows. After some time practicing in the back yard at quilt stuffed inside the plastic tote it came in, I realized I had little to no skills and no one to help me develop them, so I went to the internet for pointers from other female hunters. One of my favorite role models, and still to this day is Eva Shockey and her endless successful hunts. Seeing her constantly learning and hunting in a variety of environments, and kick some butt at it, was motivation enough for me to get back out and shoot that quilt. After hours of shooting and moving my pins one way and the other, only to find out I needed to go the other way after each adjustment, I had my bow all dialed in. Now I just needed deer.
After some begging over the next year, I was finally able to convince my brother to take me out hunting with him, where I finally had the opportunity to use my bow on something other than thick bedsheets. I watched my first deer, a fork buck, walk out in front of me at 15 yards. The nervous shakes set in, my heart started pounding, and I almost lost all of my bodily functions. Everything happened so fast I don’t even remember drawing back or even aiming. Next thing I knew my arrow had disappeared from my rest and the deer was gone. I texted my brother once I could type a complete, and literate sentence, to let him know I just shot a monster. As the night settled, my tree never stopped shaking, but it wasn’t because of the wind. When it got too dark to see, my brother walked along the corn field edge in hopes of finding some blood. But I wasn’t holding my breath, as I didn’t even remember my name let alone where I shot the deer. After a short search that night, we returned the next day and searched for eight hours. We found only one drop of blood… My heart sunk as I realized I screwed up somehow. I was getting frustrated; I had no kills under my belt, none of my own hunting spots to learn, and I had no idea what to do unless someone told me what to do. I felt like no one would devote the time to help me develop into the huntress I watched on social media and wanted to become. I felt like a burden to the people that forced themselves to help me out.
Just when I was about to hang up the bow the biggest blessing came into my life. I met my new mentor, new best friend, my other half, and my new hunting partner, Mike. Instead of telling me where to sit and shoot, Mike taught me when and why to hunt certain crops fields, how to play the wind, and showed me how to be successful. He also taught me the importance of failure and how it is, unfortunately, necessary to learn. On our first date, he took me to his super-secret cedar spot in the middle of a bedding area, during what I know now as the prime rut. But that day deserves its own blog, maybe my second post! Mike and his parents have taught me so much, but I am nowhere near their level of connection to the woods and train-of-thought! I am slowly learning, and somewhat being told where to go hunt, but I am not afraid to ask questions with them as to why to hunt certain spots at different times of the year. I think all hunters start out this way when under the wing of experienced and willing mentors, but experience is required and can’t be learned shooting at a quilt or during gun season when no connection with nature can really develop. I would be nowhere near where I am in the hunting industries without them if I would be hunting at all.
Throughout my blogs I will go through the struggles and experiences I have encountered by not only not growing up with hunting but also by being a female hunter.