My birthday falls just before deer-hunting season. And, as fate would have it, my birthday presents have always involved hunting gear. For instance, on my 12th birthday, I got a giant Mark Twain anthology, long underwear and wool socks—not just any wool socks, but the ugly, thick kind with a red stripe around the calves.
While I used the hunting gear and read the Mark Twain at least twice (and have subsequently passed the book down to my youngest), I gained a more valuable gift than that book and the hunting gear: the experience of time spent in the woods and hunting.
When you take girls and women hunting, you’re building future generations that don’t just tolerate the guns and hunting gear around the house; they actually use them. These are women who will carry on traditions and teach their own families. You’re making it easier and more enjoyable for someone’s son or daughter to hunt in the future.
The first thing I will suggest to women is that you tag along on a hunt. Don’t worry about what clothes you have or what gear you’re going to need. Pick a hunt that’s short, nearby and safe, such as rabbit hunting with your grandpa or duck hunting with your boyfriend. Go along and watch.
Observation is a good way to find out what sort of hunting you’ll like most. Keep in mind, however, that in most states, you’ll need to take a hunter safety class in order to carry a gun and shoot. Some states offer youth hunts that require a licensed adult, but the youth or new hunter can go without hunter safety just to see if they like it.
If you’re an adult and have a daughter, take her with you when you hunt, because she won’t hunt as an adult if she never builds that experience as a kid. So, dress warmly, put on appropriate boots and safety gear, and dress for the weather. Borrow something if you need to, but go!
Maybe you decide you’re just going to go for the first few hours of opening morning. Then, you’ll go get lunch and come back a few hours before dark.
Perhaps your daughter is 11, and you’re not sure she’s up for a weekend with you and a bunch of guys, so have a back-up plan. It’s also good idea to plan a bathroom break in a real bathroom, especially for girls who are not outdoorsy.
Staying warm and dry are two of the biggest components of feeling comfortable in the woods. Sometimes, a guy’s big hunting jacket might be nice, because it would fit over your non-hunting winter coat. It’s okay to wear what keeps you the warmest, even if it’s not hunting gear. As long as you cover up with the appropriate or required items—such as blaze-orange for deer hunting or camo for turkey hunting—you’ll be good. Some of my favorite things for cold hunts are hand warmers, a “mad bomber” fur hat, large outer gloves or mittens, and sometimes, a propane heater.
Gear that you should spend money on? Boots that fit you, whether they are waders for duck hunting, hiking boots or cold-weather boots. Keeping feet blister-free and warm is a huge part of having an enjoyable time outside. And don’t let your tag-along child trip around in gear that is too big. My dad understood that; that’s why I got wool socks and polypropylene for my birthday. Other items you should really have are long underwear (the good type that will wick moisture) and something for your hands so you can safely handle a firearm. I use gloves for walking into the stand and shooting, with mittens to cover them when I sit.
And I wasn’t joking about a propane heater. Guys, dads, grandpas: If you want your grandkids, wife or daughter to sit in the cold deer stand when it’s 5 degrees outside, consider spending some money on a portable propane heater. Staging a blanket or setting up a blind at your hunting spot the week before your hunt will be well-spent effort. We have a propane heater in both our open deer stand and the enclosed stand. It makes it much more enjoyable for the kids.
Getting comfortable also means not waiting all day to use the bathroom … this can be a conundrum. Deer smell you. Serious bow hunters will hang their clothes outside and consider what they eat and what they bathe with. Marking up your territory can be a dicey subject.
But there are options. Some people even bring a portable latrine to an enclosed stand. It all depends on your level of commitment to the hunt. It’s important to not cut back on fluids, though. Sweating in heavy clothing can make you dehydrate faster than you think.
THERE’S A TIME AND PLACE
Picking where and when you hunt can be just as important as picking what you hunt. If you are a guy taking a girl on her first hunt, don’t take her out duck hunting in January, when it’s cold. Take her on an early-season hunt, when it’s warmer.
Pick something close to home—somewhere a new hunter can leave the woods and keep warm in the car (or return to the family farm and sit around the fire). If you want women to
embrace the fact that you hunt, taking them along and showing them the fun (rather than the misery) is a better plan.
GRAB A MEAL
Women who didn’t grow up hunting might not have experienced an annual hunting trip or time wandering in the woods with their friends. That’s a shame. More girls and women should enjoy time outside.
And children should understand where our food comes from. A meal of protein that isn’t raised on hormones and antibiotics isn’t just healthy eating, it’s teaching your family about responsible stewardship of natural resources. Women tend to be the ones who do the grocery shopping and tell the menfolk to eat their vegetables, so teaching children where protein comes from is a realistic goal.
There are as many types of hunting as there are boots to wear for them. Duck, rabbit, squirrel, deer, coyotes, raccoons, hogs— there are so many types of hunting, you can hunt all year.
Ladies, keep in mind that what you hunt is less important than with whom you hunt and why you’re hunting. Let’s face it, it’s cheaper to go buy a pound of ground beef than a pound of venison (that is, the cost of deer tags, gas, hotel, time off work, gear, guns, ammo). Hunting is really about healthy choices.
Instead of choosing to eat meat raised in a feedlot, it’s lean, red meat raised by Mother Nature. Instead of spending a weekend drinking at a bar or at a baseball game, watching other people do something they love, hunting is doing something you love. It’s quality time outside in nature with people you enjoy.
These are just some of the reasons men make annual deer hunting trips—family and friends with whom they love to spend time.
Hunting offers opportunities to be close (literally) with others. You are sitting right next to someone, possibly to stay warm. You share conversation and sights many people might never stop to see.
And aside from memories of the experiences and sights, you share a common history. For example, my personal hunting rifle is a Mauser my dad re-barreled in .308. My husband, my sons and I have all shot our first deer with it.
Now, that’s shared history.