Thursday, November 18, 2004
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: The joy of a wife who hunts
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
My wife, Katherine, is a meticulously organized person who jots down her next-day activities on a “to-do” list. I can take a peek at it and pretty well know how she expects her day to go.
When I did that the other evening, at the top of the list for her next-day’s activities was the word “Hunting.” My heart skipped. Not shopping, not going to the bank, not doing yard work, not meeting friends. Hunting. Hunting with me.
At grandma age, Katherine has taken up hunting. Now I am basking in the envy of my male counterparts who would like few things better than to have their lady become a hunter.
I have written about hunting for more than 40 years, and for a big part of that time men dominated the sport. If I came across a woman hunter it was news.
No longer. More and more women, happily, are showing up wearing camo or blaze orange and toting a rifle or shotgun. Woman like Sherry Crumley, a board member of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries from Botetourt County, have pioneered in the reality that you can be feminine and a hunter. Up the road from where I live, Ellen Horn runs the Hunter’s Den gun shop, where good old boys bearing beards and chews of tobacco listen intently as Ellen tells them about the best load for their black-powder gun.
One of the favorite publications of the NRA is the monthly “Woman’s Outlook.” The first vice president of the NRA is a woman. Many outfitters now sell women’s boots and hunting clothing. No longer must women buy ill-fitting boy’s outfits. A new book, “The Thrill of the Chase” features stories on scores of women hunters.
The Justice Department recently reported that 12 percent of the gun buyers are women. No telling how many other women get guns as a gift from their dad or husband. Most gun clubs, including the Roanoke Rifle and Revolver Club, offers shooting for women.
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is one of several organizations dedicated to helping women catch up on the outdoor skills they may have missed when growing up.
Women on the rifle ranges, in the treestands and in the dove fields are vital to the future of hunting and shooting. If these activities are to survive, they must have the support of women, and if menfolk are smart they will welcome women into the fraternity.
Women represent one of the most powerful voting groups in the country. When they shoot and hunt, they become active and vocal in the support of such traditions. They become proponents of open space and wildlife conservation. And they get kids involved.
When people ask Katherine why she took up shooting and hunting, her answer is, “Because I have a granddaughter.” She is talking about Kalei, who will be 2 in March. Maybe Kalei won’t become a hunter -- that’s her decision -- but in Katherine’s mind, she should have the freedom and opportunity to do so.
Like many women, Katherine has had a long interest in the outdoors as a family activity. She is an accomplished angler. She has done her share of hiking, camping and boating. But she had stopped short at guns and hunting.
She changed that by purchasing a handgun and taking training under NRA instructor Mike Smith, a taskmaster who doesn’t let gender soften his demands.
Next came dove and turkey hunting. I gave her a Thompson Center Omega muzzleloader for our anniversary. We’d planned to hunt deer last fall, but I screwed things up with heart surgery.
This season, she zeroed the rifle and practiced all the components that go with black-power hunting. Opening day, before daylight, I left her in the treestand that I often hunt from. I made her double check to see if her rifle was ready should a deer approach. Then I took a stand about 300 yards away.
I had not experienced this kind of excitement since I took our son hunting when he was a youngster or since my Dad took me hunting. I wondered what Katherine was seeing, what she was thinking, what she was experiencing. I longed for the sound of her rifle.
About 8 a.m. I heard a deer coming through the woods to my rear. I moved my rifle into position. The deer stopped broadside. I put the scope on him and pulled the trigger.
There was the dull clink of metal hitting metal, but no boom. I figured the cap had not ignited the powder for some reason. Without taking my eyes off the deer, I re-cocked the gun and pulled the trigger again. Another metallic clink.
I looked down and there was no cap on the nipple. I couldn’t believe it. Had it dropped off? I dug into my possibles bag for another cap. The deer had enough. It trotted off.
In my intensity to make certain Katherine’s gear was right, apparently I had failed to check mine. I guess you can say that I am a novel at this thing of hunting with a woman, but I love it.