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Author: Tabitha Woodden
The NRA is committed to teaching women about shooting, hunting, and the great outdoors. Learn more about their programs here.
I've always had an interest in shooting, but since there aren't many gun clubs in rural Nebraska, getting introduced to a shooting sport was difficult for me. Luckily, my brothers like to target shoot, so once in awhile, they'd let me come along and shoot a few rounds. It was a lot of fun when I was actually shooting, but you don't get to shoot very much when you are borrowing someone else's gun - because they usually want to shoot too! Watching someone have fun isn't quite the same, so I invested in a rifle of my own and bugged my family into going target shooting more often. I was definitely hooked.
It was only a matter of time until I was ready to try something more challenging. I'd heard the guys at work talk about hunting and it sounded like it could be a lot of fun because I love being outdoors. My first opportunity came when I was asked if I'd attend a pheasant and chukar hunt arranged by the NRA Women on Target program, in conjunction with the Oak Creek Sporting Club in Brainard, NE. I said "Sure!" without hesitation. When I knew positively I was going, I was really excited, but nervous at the same time. It was intimidating to think of myself hunting with many experienced hunters. I relaxed when I learned that Women on Target arranges hunts specifically for beginners and experienced hunters alike to get out in the field and have a great time doing what they already love!
Since I had never hunted before, I needed to get the right gear. Fortunately, I work at Cabela's, so rounding up a shotgun and getting quality upland clothing took less than a day. Once I was in the field, I found out very quickly that gear is very important. It can make the difference between having a great time and being miserable. Most people are aware that good boots are a must for any amount of walking in rough terrain, but for walking through brush, tall grass and weeds, you also want some thick pants to protect your legs. You also need lots of pockets when you are pheasant hunting because you're trying to carry your shotgun, water, shotgun shells, and hopefully some birds.
After getting all decked out, I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I stayed the night. The next morning I double-checked my gear as I packed it into the Cabela's Expedition and drove 45 minutes to the Oak Creek Sporting Club. I arrived to find that everyone was very enthusiastic about the upcoming hunt, and loved shooting as much, if not more, than I did. I had a great time talking with everyone about gear and guns and listening to their hunting stories. Some of the ladies had a lot of hunting experience, but there were plenty of beginners like myself. It was great being around experienced hunters who were more than willing to help out a novice. Just listening to them was an education in itself!
Talking was fun, but I was ready to get out into the field and start making some of my own hunting stories. I got my gear together and met Katrina, Sally and Tekla, the three ladies I would be hunting with. We drove out to the field where we met our guide, Gaylon, and his two pointers, Tinker and Wyatt. We grabbed our shotguns, shells and hit the fields. The dogs were moving back and forth in front of us, trying to smell where a bird might be hiding. We spread out and stayed in a straight line for safety. It was a great day to be in the field. The air was cold since it was late October, but the sun and the exercise of walking through the tall grass kept us warm.
Soon, Wyatt pointed and we got ready for action as we walked up to his mark. A pheasant flushed and, though several shots were fired, we all missed. We continued walking with Wyatt, who was more than a bit disappointed in us. As we approached some trees next to a creek, Wyatt pointed again, this time directly in front of me. I walked forward in anticipation and a chukar flushed at my feet, flying straight away. I took the safety off as I shouldered my shotgun and fired. The bird fell and Wyatt went to retrieve it.
We were all excited as I bagged the first bird for our group that morning, not to mention my first chukar. After we calmed down, we continued walking along the tree line. As we came to the end of the field, Tinker located two rooster pheasants that had run into the trees. As we closed in, the roosters moved across the creek into a bean field, where they hid in a line of weeds around an old tree trunk that had been left in the field. As the dogs, Gaylon, Katrina and I crossed the creek and began walking along the weeds, the roosters left the cover and continued to run up the field. They stopped, looked back (as if to taunt us), and ran into the trees along the creek.
We continued to chase them along the bean field side of the creek, while the other two hunters covered the opposite side. We were determined to flush the birds one way or another. Tinker got a solid point near a tree. Finally! As we approached, the stubborn rooster flushed away from us and across the creek toward the other two hunters. We didn't hear any shots, so we crossed the creek and joined them. The sneaky rooster had landed along the trees, ran 100 yards, and then went back into the trees.
We all walked along the edge of the treeline, except for Gaylon, who went into the trees to work with the dogs and try to flush the birds out into the open in front of us. As we walked along the trees, I noticed some odd orange patches in a low evergreen tree. I realized it was Gaylon in his hunter orange. I suddenly gained a better appreciation for how practical it is to wear hunter orange. It works. Even though I couldn't see Gaylon, the little bits of orange that were showing through the trees' foliage let me know where he was.
We had no luck flushing the errant bird, so we headed back to where we left off and continued walking the field. The dogs flushed more birds and the two experienced hunters brought in several birds each. The other first-timer, Tekla, winged a pheasant. The dogs chased it down, Gaylon caught it, and brought it over to Tekla.
Nobody wanted to stop hunting, so it was unanimously decided to put in another hour instead of heading in for lunch. By the time we walked another tier, the dogs were definitely getting tired, so we decided it was time to head back. The more experienced hunters brought in two or three birds, while Tekla and myself, both beginners, were thrilled just to be bringing in our first birds. We ate a quick lunch before getting ready for an afternoon of sporting clays. I found sporting clays to be more challenging than the trap shooting I had previously done, but every bit as much fun. We finished our rounds and headed back to the cabin for a great time of eating and talking about the day.
NRA Women On Target
The NRA Women On Target™ program is supporting the growing interest of women in hunting by sponsoring shooting events and hunts similar to the one I attended. For me, it was easy to see why there has been so much interest in this program. It was great to be part of a group of women discovering just how much fun shooting sports can be. If you have even the faintest of interest, give it a try. Once I had begun the journey, all fear and intimidation seemed to melt away and I was quickly engulfed in the total experience. Driving home, I pondered the weekend's exciting events and realized that the event is about more than just shooting. I had made friends with ladies who had come from different parts of the country. We all had very different backgrounds, but our common love for shooting brought us together in a camaraderie that made my memories of the weekend even more special. I can't wait to go again!
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