Without a doubt, hunting has made me a better person. Better to others, better to myself. There are countless ways that hunting has affected me, but let’s be serious, you wouldn’t to sit here for hours and read all of that, right? There are, however, a few major takeaways that I wish I could share with everyone … especially my sister hunters out there!
Don’t Judge a Book by … Well, you know!
“Oh so you must shoot a crossbow … OH! You don’t? You shoot a compound? Huh …”
“Does your husband do most of the scouting for you?”
I think we’ve probably all had similar situations, even if not in regard to the outdoors. The questions, the quizzical glances, and (in some cases) the reaction of utter shock when someone hears what you do. The group of guys and girls that I hunt with are amazing and none of us treat one differently from the others. However, from other friends, family, and acquaintances I still occasionally get the “Wow, you really hunt, huh?” reaction. This is usually followed by “I never thought some one like you would hunt!”.
I know they mean well, but one could say the implication is more like “Shouldn’t someone like you be more worried about getting your nails done? Or playing with your makeup?”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am 100% that girl – I like to treat myself with the best of them. But that doesn’t mean I have to choose one or the other. I can get my hair done one day and paint my face with camo the next. I can wear high heels out to dinner on Friday night and strap on my hunting boots bright & early the very next morning. I can get a fresh manicure in the morning and be field dressing a deer that same night.
Being on the receiving end of this type of reaction has really helped me gain perspective on judgement. It’s human nature – we’re all going to judge from time to time. However, I do my best to be more conscious of my reactions and assumptions.
Health is 365
I was in shape before I became a hunter, but I wouldn’t have considered myself a fitness junkie. I was a college student that practiced yoga, coached colorguard, hiked when I could, and walked to class every day. But hunting helped me become more intentional. You can’t hike a mountain if you’re not doing cardio. You can’t bump up your draw weight if you’re not exercising and strengthening those muscles. You sure as heck can’t expect to get in shape just a few days before the season starts either.
For me, if it’s not hunting season, I’m prepping for it. I do yoga (weekly, if not daily) to build strength, to work on my breathing (so important when you’re in the stand about to draw back! I even do breathing exercises while I practice shooting), and to work through any tight or sore muscles from hiking. I workout with free weights at least 3-4 times a week to strengthen my shooting muscles and keep my body prepared for long treks and climbing trees. I go on regular hikes and walks on country roads, up mountains, on trails, you name it. I strive to stay in shape all year so that once hunting season rolls around, I’m ready for the challenges. In turn for treating my body right, I have better endurance, a smoother draw, and sharpened focus in the stand.
Comfort Zones are Overrated
Becoming a hunter has forced me out of my former comfort zones. Hiking mountains full of black bears and rattlesnakes. Getting dirty, bloody, and bruised. Sitting in the middle of the woods by myself with little more than the fluttering leaves and cracking branches to keep me company.
My first time out actually hunting was with my husband when I shot my first doe. After that though, I obviously had to get to a point eventually where I’d sit by myself. That’s a little more than daunting to someone who had never been a hunter. It forced me far beyond the bounds of my comfort zone, and I am so grateful for it. Not only did it make me a better hunter by making me more aware of my surroundings, but it helped me to believe in myself and my ability.
If I had never pushed myself out of my comfort zone all those years ago, I probably never would have shot last year’s buck. The only person on the property? Driving there and four-wheeling out to my stand by myself? Sitting, waiting, and eventually shooting without anyone to come meet me at my stand right away? Yep. Of all my hunts, that one is probably the one I’m the most proud of. There is something seriously rewarding having a moment of unabashed independence, even if it’s a little scary at first. If you’d ask my husband, I think he’d be most proud of that one too!
You know how those annoying Jeep people (HA! I’m one of them too, don’t worry ;)) have stickers that say “It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand.”. Well, I’m pretty confident that hunting is the same way. It’s not something that you understand if you don’t try it. But once do, it changes you. It’s something you feel with every fibre of your being. It’s in your soul. It’s a passion. It’s a lifestyle.