Monday, February 29, 2016

The Nine Finger Chronicles

Dan Johnson from The Nine Finger Chronicles started doing listener reviews of bows.  It was an unbiased way to hear from everyday people about what was working for them and what bows they liked or didnt like and why.

As a beginner and newbie to the world of archery, I offered to review a couple of bows.  It also helped that I was in the market to buy one.  Dan posted what he was hoping to get for information on each bow and left it up to us.

I was the first woman on the podcast and the first woman to review bows. You can listen to the podcast of Dan and me talking about the PSE Stringer and the Mission: Craze II here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Determined to take one last draw

I was going to get the first shot in.  I put the pin on the target and released.
Hubby spun around, "where did it go?"
I shook my head, "I have no idea"
And just like that, I was down to five arrows.

We put the kiddo down for his nap and lugged our gear outside.  This was the first time that we were shooting at our house and not in the archery shop.  I lined up again to shoot and realized that I hadn't lined up my peep with my sight for that first shot.  I tried to determine how far off my first shot had been but it was pointless.  I still haven't found that arrow.

I had Hubby take photos and video so that I could look at my form and posture and attempt to fix some of the early issues that I was noticing; like leaning too far back in my stance.  I also wanted to work on holding the bow correctly and not twisting it like I have a tendency to do with my rifle.

It also helps that I have an incredible support team with EvoOutdoors and a few of them were immediately giving me tips and suggestions to help with my form and helping me understand just what it was that I was doing.  As a rifle hunter, I know bullet size, grains etc. As a bow hunter, I have a steep learning curve as I figure out my fps, that my arrow has a spine, that grain I may need in regards to the broadheads that I have yet to buy... So. Many. Things!

Hubby and I took turns shooting for a couple of hours.  We were getting tired as time passed but we just couldn't get stop.  We were determined to keep taking 'one last draw' until finally, the kiddo woke up and we had to go inside. 

For now all I need to work on is getting my arrows to hit the target in a decent grouping.  I will work on the rest as I get more comfortable with my bow, the sights and feel of shooting it over and over again.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Skye Goode: crazy about canines

One of the few good things about social media is connecting with folks who are like you in order to compare notes, get tips and tricks and share in successes.  One of the coolest women that I have met is Skye Goode who is a rock-star trapper. 

Learning from the book "Hoofbeats of a Wolfer" by O'Gorman, Skye watched her family members as they trapped mink, raccoons and muskrats.  Her uncles got into beaver and fox trapping which helped to give Skye a more complete picture of how to learn each animal’s behavior and habitat and the types of traps, lures and set ups that worked best for each.  The tipping point for Skye’s own trapping career happened when she shot a buck, “I shot a buck with my bow in the evening and because of the shot, I let it sit overnight.  When I recovered the buck the next morning, it had been consumed by coyotes. It was that moment that I had the notion to try trapping those specific coyotes, almost a sort of revenge plan.”

Skye and a trapped coyote (c) Skye Goode
One of the most controversial animals to target are those coyotes.  Coyote hunters work hard to keep the predators in check mostly so the deer in the area have a chance to survive. But no matter what you do to make sure the coyote hunt is ethical, someone will argue and call you horrible names.  As someone who posts a lot of pictures of the animals she traps online, I asked Skye how she feels about coyotes, “I am crazy about canines! I trap fox and coyotes mainly, with raccoon and skunk on a regular basis.  With the use of trail cameras, I became hooked on fox and coyotes.”  Posting photos on social media is a slippery slope with the potential for a single picture to gain a life of its own.  One photo from my bear hunt 2014 explored with an obscene amount of shares, likes and comments (good and bad.)

Each person's first successful hunt or trapping experience is something that they will always remember.  For Skye, the first animal that she trapped on her own trap line was a female coyote on the first night that she placed the traps.  But it didn't end the way that you would think.  Skye explains, "I went to check my trap and saw that she was dead in the foothold.  After studying the scene, I realized that other coyotes had killed her! So my first catch was bittersweet because she was dead when I got there, but I kept trapping and two weeks later I caught the alpha female coyote that killed my first catch.  I dubbed her “Scarface”, and she was definitely the culprit, evident by the freshly healed scars on her muzzle." 

"Scarface" (c) Skye Goode

Women are targeted more on social media because of the perception that we are not supposed to be cold, hard killers (sorry guys) but it is something that more and more women are challenging and starting to push back on.  For Skye, posting her incredible photos is something she will always do, “education is my primary goal.  I have posted many photos that show my sets/traps before, and then after I catch animals to show what works for me. I also post videos of the catches to show that their feet are not injured in any way.  I’ve made videos on Youtube and Facebook showing myself putting my hands in traps as proof that traps hold, not hurt.”

When I asked her about the issues that she has had to deal with, I am amazed by what she describes, "I have feel immense discrimination and judgment for being a female in a male dominated sport.  I have had ongoing issues with trap theft, harassment from my local conservation wardens, and backlash from the non-trapping community on social media.  Much like Melissa Bachman’s lion hunt, trapping foxes and coyotes would fall under the radar if it weren’t a woman doing the deed.  On a smaller scale, I am often stopped when I’m on the road or in a field trapping from people passing by who stop to see if I’m lost, or if my vehicle broke down, or if I’m waiting for my husband." It is sad to think that in a country where women are making strides in the hunting world, when it comes to trapping, the attacks and discrimination is probably at its worst.

I did not realize how intense and in-depth trapping is until I took the course and got my own license. There is so much information that each trapper needs to know about their targeted animals.  Skye agreed, “trappers must study literally every step that their prey takes, and must convince an animal who spends its entire life in the woods to step perfectly on a 3 inch piece of metal.  I think trappers are among the most compassionate sportsmen out there, because they are doing their job FOR the benefit of wildlife, to prevent disease and overpopulation.  If you’ve ever seen a coyote or fox slowly dying of mange, you will think to thank a trapper for regulating their populations so this does not happen again.

Skye and her dog Duke (c) Skye Goode 

On the importance of trapping, Skye nails it, "predator management will always be an important issue for landowners, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts alike, and without proper furbearer management, disease, depredation, and overpopulation occurs.  With that said, I believe trapping will remain in our future as long as politics stay out of the mix.  Trapping was the foundation of our country, and continued to be an important tradition throughout the generations.  The only way to ensure the future of trapping is to pass it on to the younger generations, which is why every trapper should attempt to introduce at least 1 youth to the sport each season."

Finally, I asked Skye what advice she has for women like me who are brand new to trapping, she laughed, “know that you will be pretty terrible in your first season because there is so much to learn, but that after you make a considerable amount of mistakes firsthand, you will slowly start to outwit critters and complete catches of your own.”  Noted!  When I do set out my first trap, I will not be holding out hope for much.  Probably a lot of trail camera photos of the animals looking at the trap and walking off.  But, as least I will be prepared and have women like Skye to look up to and go to for tips and advice.

Skye's catches in the 2015-2016 season.  Not all of these animals were killed. The bobcats were all released.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Turkeys in winter

These birds were making their way to the little water hole as we pulled into the driveway.  There were six total that walked through, each stopping to get some water before continuing on.

Just a few more months until the spring season starts!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Growing and gaining for outdoor women

** The following article was written for The Liberty Project and posted on their website on October 30, 2015.  You can see it here.  I was never paid for this article so The Liberty Project never bought the copyright.

Women’s interest in hunting is growing fast, despite online harassment

I never questioned the size of my gun.  If Dad could shoot it, why couldn’t I? My mom said that the kick alone would send me backwards out of the treestand.  I shot the 30-06 twice to get comfortable and on the third shot three weeks later, I killed a small buck that filled the freezer.

I never questioned my abilities again until I started writing about and posting photos of my hunting adventures.  I was then forced to prove my credibility and knowledge of hunting in a way that men are not.  You will not see a suggestion in writing saying that to start a guy out hunting, you should give him a small gun with little kick.  There is nothing stating that a blue gun (do a quick Google search for blue guns and pink guns) will get them excited about joining the ranks of fellow hunters.

In a world where you can communicate to millions of people in a single click, those millions can communicate right back.  Surprisingly, women seem to be the worst when it comes to attacking female hunters.  Safely behind their screens, they cast judgement, accusations and threats against anyone who is proud to be a hunter and sharing it with the world. Never before have we lived in a time where negative comments and threats have been so personal and cruel.

I will be the first to admit that I have not had to endure the type of threats or harassment that women like Mia Anstine, Carrie Zylka and Eva Shockey have had to, but there is something about reading that people think you should have died instead of the animal that you shot that is unsettling.  It’s eye opening to check your social media and have attacks posted in regards to the way that you choose to feed your family.  Anti-hunters don’t realize that for most hunters, pulling the trigger is the worst part.  It means you have killed something and removed it from the ecosystem.  It is a huge responsibility that non-hunters do not fully understand.  But behind every piece of meat, there is a gut pile. It is a reality that hunters face every time they head into the woods and fields.

Anyone who puts themselves out there knows that they may face those types of comments but we do it anyway to encourage those who want to hunt, to learn more and enjoy seeing the success that comes from hours and hours of work.  In 2014, I documented my adventures learning how to tend bear bait sites as well as hunting black bears over bait and with hounds. It was exciting each time we saw bears on the trail cameras.  We never knew what we would see as we sat in the ground blinds.  I didn’t see a single bear while I hunted over bait but I decided to hire a guide to take me out with his hounds so I could learn more about the methods of bear hunting in my home state.  There were comments posted, photos reported but at the end of the day, the support far outweighed the criticism and bullying that I saw online. I shot a beautiful 457lb Maine black bear who has provided my family and friends with great meals. 

The number of women in the hunting industry is growing so rapidly that I hope in a few years, there won’t be clothing and guns designed in pink to get more women interested.  We will have ‘normal’ colored equipment and clothing that helps us be successful in our hunts.  I would love nothing more than for women to feel free to share their stories, pictures and experiences without worrying about the cyber-bullies showing up and threatening them.  I think that we are slowly getting there but it will take understanding and education before we can see a drop in the harassment and an uptick in more support and encouragement for the next generation of hunters.  As an outdoor woman, I will continue to hunt and be proud to post my accomplishments online in order to gain support and show the bullies that their uneducated threats that we will not be scared away.  Providing for our family means too much. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

If you love deer, you need to hunt coyotes

On January 22nd of 2015, I semi-conquered my fear of coyotes.  I went with Steve to his bait pile and we called in my beautiful 37lb male coyote.

My coyote from 2015
A few weeks ago, we went back to the same spot.  The coyotes had been staying close to the bait pile and their well worn trail ran just behind the shack.

When we got there, the wind was blowing and the temperatures were dropping.  It was a lot colder than it had been last year and for some reason, I had forgotten by good hunting boots and had to wear my 'normal' winter boots which were not big enough to get two layers of socks in.

Getting ready to head to the shack
There were fresh tracks when we got to the shack, which was promising. Steve set out the rabbit decoy and call and we got settled in.  I kept hoping that it would be like last year and one would come right in.  The full moon was two nights away but it was bright enough that we planned to have some decent lighting.

Steve setting up the call and a view of the field.
 We waited about a half hour then started to call.  I was prepared for that awful rabbit call and between that and the mating female, I was on guard and hoping that we would get a reply. Before too long, we did!

The entire pack called in response to the female call.  We called again and waited.  The pack waited.  It seemed longer than I am sure it was, but they called back a second time and were closer than before.  We listened and watched, looking for one or more coyotes to come into the field.  I would lean forward to look at the same spot where I had found my coyote the year before.  Nothing.

The temperature kept dropping and the response from the pack had stopped.  They were around, but not interested in checking out the decoy - or they came into the field where we could not see them, didnt see a coyote (even though they could hear one) and decided to leave.  Either way, we called it a night earlier than we had planned and headed for a vehicle with heat!

I am hoping that not getting a coyote is a good sign.  I shot one in 2015 but did not shoot a bear or deer.  In 2014, I didn't get a coyote but had a deer and, I am hopeful.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016: we become bow hunters

When I said that I was interested in trying out some bows, the first thing out of the guy's mouth was, "these are the only ones we have in pink or purple."  He hadn't even finish the sentence when I noticed Hubby take a step back. "Good, then those are the only ones I don't want to shoot." I replied. The guy had no idea what to do or how to respond but after an awkward pause, he said that he should measure is to see what our drawn length will be.

As he fumbled with the measuring tape, I wondered if it was even worth staying there. I did not feel like I was being taken seriously and it was clear that the employee was hoping he would be helping Hubby and not me.  I knew nothing about bow hunting going into this.  I was surprised that I had to put on a wrist band that had the trigger connected to it.  I was as green as they come.

Me "shooting" the PSE
The first bow that I tried was the PSE Stinger X.  He had set the drawn length to 27 inches and set it for 45 pounds.  Having never shot a bow (besides this) it was unconformable and I could barely draw it back.  I asked him to lower the weight, which he did.  The second time that I asked him, he tried paying more attention to other customers.

Then, Lee showed up.  It was night and day.  Lee either runs that archery shop or is their top tech because it was a complete 180.  He helped me hold the bow correctly (I snapped my wrist the first time) and worked on my form and trigger placement in relation to my face and nose.  It felt a little too big and stiff and it was not an easy draw back to where I needed it to be lined up. I shot the bow six times before I decided that I wanted to try a different one.

Lee stepping in to help me with the PSE
The next bow Lee got for me was the Matthews Mission Craze II.  Lee made some tweaks before he let me shoot it.  He dropped the draw length down to 26 and reduced the weight to 35 pounds.  He made sure that I had the trigger set up where I needed it to and watched me as I drew back to help me hit one spot on my cheek every time.

From the minute I picked up the bow, it felt better.  It was shorter and a little more top heavy than the PSE.  The shorter draw length also made a difference, I think.

Hubby took over after I shot a few times and tried a PSE and then a Matthews.  We were only 10 feet from the target, but he was nailing those targets shot after shot.  His grouping was incredible and he seemed relaxed and comfortable. We knew that we were in trouble then.

We spent well over an hour in the shop talking with Lee and figuring out what we may want and what felt comfortable for us. Lee said that he would set aside the triggers, some arrows and the bows and we could decide what we wanted to do.

If you follow me on social media, you know what we did.  Otherwise, stay tuned for another blog post.