Girl Meets Game: A First-Time Hunter Shares Her Journey

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Cathy Brons and Aaliyah. Photo by © Jerry Neal/CPW.

A southerner by birth, I moved to Colorado last year with the mindset that I would be open to new opportunities. The moment arose last fall when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in joining her on a duck hunt. I had met Randi through work, and was thrilled to make a connection with another female who shared similar passions for the outdoors and wildlife. I hastily agreed, eager to understand her enthusiasm for hunting and to find out if I might enjoy the experience myself.

I hadn’t given much consideration to hunting until I took wildlife management classes in college, which fostered both my appreciation for the hunter’s role in conservation and hunting as a valuable wildlife-management tool. Yet the physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness I experienced as a novice in the field was unforeseen; something that could not have been revealed to me from the pages in a book or a lecture in a classroom.

My initiation into hunting was unique in that it was not a traditional, family-centered process. My Granddaddy passed away when I was very young, but I have always been told that he was a passionate dove and duck hunter. It saddens me that I did not have the opportunity to learn from him—to go out in the field with him or to be able to listen to the stories of his endeavors. However, I believe that I am sharing a connection with my past generations through my present hunting experiences. I know Granddaddy would be proud of my newfound eagerness and commitment to preserve the hunting heritage in our family.

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My granddaddy, Fred L. Ford, was an avid dove hunter.  I feel proud to carry on the hunting tradition in my family.

Most females I know learned to hunt either from their fathers, husbands or boyfriends. That opportunity did not arise for me. But in my opinion, being introduced to hunting by a female mentor has had its advantages. Whereas I believe a male might have a tendency to see things as black and white, I pay a lot of attention to the details and respond to adrenaline in my own way. Randi reassured me when I felt out of my comfort zone and made certain that my first hunting experiences were both unintimidating and enjoyable. The camaraderie with other women who hunt has extended well beyond being out in the field together, whether it be honing our shooting skills at the range or shopping for gear. I also can appreciate the social values of hunting. The sport has introduced me to so many inspiring people who value outdoor opportunities and are also interested in our wildlife resources.

Furthermore, I have found that a heightened interest in local food sources is an appealing aspect of hunting. There is an attraction and excitement in the challenge to hunt and cook my own game meat for my family. My first experiences hunting have resulted in my becoming a more mindful meat eater, giving more consideration to where my food comes from.

Earning my hunter education card was also a memorable part of my journey. Although I was first overwhelmed at the prospect of becoming a new hunter, the course content increased both my comfort and confidence as I learned about the elements of being a safe, legal and responsible hunter. I have a great appreciation for the knowledgeable and dedicated hunter education instructors throughout Colorado who provide the groundwork for novices like myself.

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Randy Clark (left) and me after a recent duck hunt.

 

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From left: the author, Randi Clark and Megan Lacey on a duck hunt in northeast Colorado. Photo by © Jerry Neal/CPW.

Additionally, being introduced to hunting by way of small game provided me with a solid understanding of concepts that I will carry forward with me on future hunts. Waterfowl hunting, particularly, has provided a great opportunity to familiarize myself with hunting regulations, apply my knowledge of species identification and has provoked an even greater enthusiasm to better understand my natural surroundings.

Now that I have acquired a taste of what it’s like to hunt, I understand that the benefits and rewards of my ventures hinge on far more than pulling the trigger. In a fast-paced world filled with screens and stimulation, hunting offers a retreat and an escape from life’s responsibilities. I am consumed by the outdoors when I am hunting and fully aware of my heart beating during an invigorating encounter with wildlife.

Although I have always loved being outside, never before have I absorbed the smells and sounds of nature quite so deeply. It is as if my senses have been awakened, my instinctual behaviors rejuvenated. Sensations of cold and tiredness can be quickly replaced by the warmth from the excitement I feel when in the field. Through hunting, I have new respect and understanding for animals, their habitats and the complex processes of nature. Looking back on my first year as a resident, I can hardly consider a better way to have initiated my discovery of Colorado’s natural beauty and wildlife.

I am grateful for experienced hunters like Randi who are willing to contribute their knowledge and support to novice hunters. I expect to continue honing my skills and expanding my time afield with the optimism that one day I may pass on the hunting heritage to others. Not only do I believe social support is an enriching element to provide for anyone who is willing to learn the hunting tradition, it is vital to ensure its future. It is a cherished connection that I already hope to share with the future generations of my family even when I am no longer present, much like the one I am now fortunate to sense with my Granddaddy when I am in the field.

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Story written by Cathy Brons. Brons is an education assistant for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a major in forestry (wildland recreation concentration) and minor in wildlife and fisheries science.

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