<![CDATA[Hunt Like You're Hungry - I WRITE.]]>Mon, 01 Feb 2016 12:33:24 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Where in the world has The Writing Huntress been?]]>Tue, 26 Jan 2016 21:03:18 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/where-in-the-world-has-the-writing-huntress-been
It was understandably silly of me to simply waltz back into your collective blogging world without explaining my four month writing sabbatical.  I almost got away with it, had it not been for one of my sharp readers who rejoiced that I hadn't died or come down with a mysterious, anti-hunting disease. 

Forest Gump

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No, faithful reader, I haven't come down with an illness, adopted a unicorn named Stan and flew off to magical places unknown, or took up bagpipe lessons in the hopes to become the next Eric Rigler of the Celtic world. To aptly describe my whereabouts, the closest approximation to my activities can be described as: Forest Gump. 

You remember when Forest Gump breaks the braces off of his legs while getting chased by bullies and the next scene he's about 100 yards away with a trail of dust in his wake? That's exactly what I've been doing since June. I realized in early summer that I was really unhappy with how I looked. If you've been reading Hunt Like You're Hungry for a while, you'll know I've been the long-suffering host of eating disorders since age 13, so being uncomfortable with my body is nothing new for me. However, I did notice that with my new job, I was sitting around a lot and working 108-hour weeks, which didn't benefit my naturally sluggish metabolism. So, I decided to make a change. 

Mike bought me a Garmin VivoFit because he knew I wanted one to push me to take steps every day. My goal was 1,000 miles in six months. By August, I was increasing my step goal by hundreds a day. Seeing this, my marathon-runner mother-in-law, Kim, suggested that I run in the Rock N' Roll half marathon with her in Vegas in November. I laughed at first, figuring that I, with my terrible knees from hockey, would never be able to run that far. Then I looked at my watch and realized I was averaging 35 miles a week. Emboldened by blind ambition and ruthless competitiveness, I said yes. 

What followed was 12 weeks of intense training. I eschewed every eating disorder tendency hardwired in my stubborn brain, drank thousands of ounces of water, subsisted wholly on disgusting smoothies, egg whites, seed bread, heaps of venison, rice and not one single salad. I ran five days a week, culminating in the 13.1 mile run in Vegas. 

The start line was intimidating enough but thankfully, or miraculously, my feet starting pounding from the first moment of the race. This particular run is the only private event that shuts down the entirety of the strip from the Vegas sign to old downtown Vegas, past the stratosphere, and back to the Mirage, which made for an awesome run. Over 30,000 people ran, which resulted in about 60,000 spectators, all of which suffered along with us runners through the 30-45 mile per hour winds, torrential downpours and one large dust storm.

I didn't stop once, Mike even said at one point he saw flames coming from my sneakers. At the 2:08:21 mark, I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and tears mingling with the accumulating sweat. 

Since then, I signed up for another half marathon in April and am currently training. I met my goal of 1,000 miles in six months and have expanded it to 2,000 by June 19, a year to the day I initially began walking with my Garmin. I feel great and will most likely continue to run until my knees beg for mercy, but I won't let it keep me from writing, that's a promise, dear reader. 

The Fishing. Oh Goodness, the Salt-Water Fishing.

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In an effort to live a little bit more and enjoy ourselves, Mike and I have taken to enjoying sojourns when work allows. He had to head to a location in Louisiana; we decided to make it a long weekend. We basically ate ourselves into oblivion.

I ordered no less than 6 bowls of crayfish etouffee, which I heard is more of a badge of honor than an obvious illustration of gluttony to a Cajun.

I thought I loved Louisiana when I ferociously imbibed on its culinary cuisine but I knew nothing of its splendor until we hit the water. Due to mechanical issues, the boat we chartered only was able to take us a few hundred yards from the dock. Luckily, after about a half an hour, the fish were practically climbing up the poles and throwing themselves into the vessel. It was easily the most enjoyment I've ever had fishing, and the friends made during that trip made it all the more memorable. 

We headed home making serious plans to move to the land of cayenne and fish, with a cooler full of fillets, and happy bellies when I saw a roadside stand boasting the best boudin around. Obviously, I made Mike stop. We bought enough to last us the year, in addition to gator and a whole ton of crayfish for homemade etouffee. 

Work.

I got promoted in June  to my current position at an oilfield-servicing company here in West Texas. I love my job, as it's the first one I've ever had that my boss actually told me was too smart for my previous position. However, Since The Writing Huntress is mainly focused around my life in the outdoors, I won't go into further detail. 

Just realize that cheap oil may seem really awesome but it really isn't for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because that which comes in droves from overseas is produced and sold into an over-stocked market with the express intent to push Americans out of jobs and drive the market down. Millions of Americans, your neighbors, depend on oil for their work. Remember that the next time you start to rejoice over your $20 tank fill. 

The Biggest Buck of My Life. 

Our hunting opportunities here in Texas, mingled with jobs that require a bulk of our time, produced a less than exciting Fall 2015 season. Leases are expensive and more time-consuming than we're currently able to accommodate. Luckily, Mike found a great day-hunting ranch just a few hours from our house. 

The deal was, for an extremely modest daily rate, even by my intensely frugal standards, you can solo hunt for two deer, limit one buck, while staying in a really cute, rustic cabin. You shoot whatever you see--no matter the size of the buck. 

The first evening, we saw no less than a hundred deer. My trigger finger was itchy, as thoughts of my empty freezer continued to creep across my vision every time a spike crossed in front of the blind. I had had enough and texted Mike. 

"I'm going to shoot one," I proclaimed.
"Wait a few, let's see if there are bigger doe or bucks out here," he replied. 

I acquiesced, then watched as innumerable venison burgers pranced their way down the field. The next morning, there were no deer. None.

Early the next afternoon followed suit. The cold front we thought was going to move deer our way seemed to do the opposite. Just as I lost hope of anything coming out and was busy berating myself for failing to shoot, I noticed movement about 120 yards away, at the edge of the field. 

What I thought was a small buck came plodding out of the thicket with a smaller spike trailing behind. With a half a glance to his left to where Mike sat, he proceeded to make his way right towards me. My heart started beating wildly, thoughts of tenderloin dancing in my head. I did my best to slow my nerves but, as always when faced with any sort of target, I turn into the human equivalent of an anxiety-induced earthquake.

I lined up the crosshairs just as the buck, which I now thought was a small four point, gave me the perfect shot. Again, since I lose all sense of proper hunting or semblance of calm, I paused and he proceeded to turn, butt-first in my direction. He then ate for no less than 10 minutes as my frustration grew and the sun set.

Nearing close to posted sunset, I told myself as soon as he picked up his head, I'd go for a clean neck shot since he seemed content to munch until past dark. I stomped my feet; his ears perked and head turned. As soon as I saw the white of his neck, I took the shot.

Just like my last buck that was also taken down via neck shot, he fell like a ton of bricks. 

To this point, I still thought he was a small buck so I was absolutely floored when I walked the 80 yards that separated us. What lay where he stood was the biggest 8-point I had ever seen, let alone shot.
About the time that I had downed this brute, Mike shot a gigantic doe. When we began quartering them out, it was a cool Texas evening. By the time we were approaching being done, gale force winds whipped up and sideways rain began to fall. We rushed into the cabin, pulled everything inside and threw out our plans for a celebratory fire and grill out. Instead, we made sandwiches, popped cheap champagne, and toasted our wonderful luck.   

Realizations

I now realize that all of what had happened in the last four months were stories in and of themselves. So, I do apologize dear reader, for failing to entertain you with the tales of my crazy life. Be rest assured, you'll be properly informed the next time I race, shoot, eat, and celebrate. 
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<![CDATA[The Ghosts of Hunts' Past]]>Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:00:54 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/the-ghosts-of-hunts-pastPicture
​It was very much unlike any other duck hunt in recent memory. Mike, knowing full well of my nearly-narcoleptic tendencies, always gives me a stern look and sit-down chit chat when faced with an ungodly early wakeup time. We discussed it thoroughly and agreed, we had to be out the door at 5:15AM, not a minute later. I bartered and begged for more time but my husband stood firm in his belief that depriving his wife of well-needed rest was the best way to start of our first duck hunt since relocating from North Dakota two years ago.

Conversely to every hunt before it, I amass all necessary gear the night previous. My new waders, four sizes too big and six inches too tall, purchased in haste and joy, as no waders had ever been close to fitting the bill in terms of comfortably ambulating while setting decoys, are standing tall, waiting by the door. Three pairs of wool socks sit aside, waiting to make my minuscule feet appear bigger. It takes nearly 45-minutes to locate the gloves I had seen just moments before, double that to track down my lucky Prois hat; transforming my house into a hell tornado of unorganized fury. By the time my head connects with pillow, I'm ready.

Although we agree on a 5:15 alarm, I, as usual when faced with any type of hunt, can't sleep. I lie awake after a few winks in an opaque cloud. I fumble for my phone but can't find it. Staggering like an extra from The Walking Dead, I crawl out of bed, throw myself ungracefully down the stairs, past the bay windows shielding our farm home from the biting, piling snow, and stare at the oven’s neon green time: 4:10AM.
I sigh, and push myself across the icy floor, again past the winter wonderland, back up the stairs and dive into the still-warm bed.

As soon as I close my eyes to enjoy precisely 43 minutes of additional sleep, they pop back open with the realization that our house doesn’t have stairs. The snow that fell in Texas weeks ago had melted, giving way to the warm desert below. We don’t have bay windows anymore, we left them behind at the farm. I again grope in vain for my phone. Finding it, I turn on the flashlight to find my room as it was the day and year prior, still in the Lone Star State, 30 hours from North Dakota’s frozen tundra.

Since I’m up anyway and sleep is now as evasive as a herd of tequila-rabid jackalopes, I get up and ready myself for the day.

Hours later finds Mike and me at the mouth of the slough, feet momentarily poised to slop mightily into the depths when a voice breaks the silence.

“Bro, let’s get moving, sun’s about up,” it says in a voice so familiar I could place it anywhere but in Texas. Looking around, the treeless landscape gives way to gigantic North Carolina pines. What had been one hunting companion morphs into two. Mike, in just a few seconds, flew 20 yards ahead and is already throwing out decoys we hadn’t had before.  Devin, the owner of the voice, again urges for Mike to hurry up as I try, and fumble to move, as I suddenly find myself in hip-deep water. My waders are no longer the comfortable, lovely things I was wearing but horrible rubber contraptions that resist movement with the ferocity of a 3-year-old facing a plate of peas.

I try a few more steps with no real progress, save for the creeping and unmistakable searing pain of knees tearing themselves apart encased in rubber. Mike, noticing my obvious difficulty, throws the rest of his decoys, and unceremoniously retrieves and deposits me into the boat.
 
As I fall to the john boat floor, the carpet transforms to West Texas dirt and my knees buckle as I try to stay upright. An arm reaches out to steady me and once again, we are alone. The trees disappear and all I can hear is Mike’s mirth at my choosing to hunt in new, non-broken-in waders.

Just then, our newly-acquainted hunting friend Wes joins us. I’m thankfully unable to comment on my apparent stroke or momentary coma, which is for the better since the sun is rising and there is a lot of work to get done. Decoys are thrown, hunters are set and we cruise to our spot.

I’m in the midst of pulling my gear from the john boat to fill my pockets with shells when the smell of burning bacon singes my nose. Flames rise up from the boat seat, engulfing a side of the blind. Alarmed, I look to the oblivious duo who are currently too busy loading their guns to notice the large fire inches from their faces. I turn to get Mike’s attention, tugging on his sleeve like an insolent 5-year old and point to the flameless, normal-in-every-way boat. Thinking I was pointing at ducks, he asks if they had flown off.

Embarrassed of and now highly concerned about my hallucinations, I nod, load my own and slowly disappear into the cattails, camouflaged in every way possible, except from myself.

Mallards quack, teal whistle, shots ring, birds are called in kind, sandhills purr; the cacophony I’ve equated closely with a Sunday choir envelops me in a musical embrace, lulling me away from real life. All that exists now is the ducks, their pursuit, and the beauty therein.
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​The hunting somewhat slows so we make a plan to chase sandhills to give the ducks time to feed and return. I'm feeling like my normal self, the ghosts and apparitions a thing of the not-so-distant past. We settle in a berm between two gigantic fields boasting the aftermath of harvest, filled with white puffs on spindly stalks. The vibration of the flock thunders under our boots until they come close enough for a shot. Triggers are pulled, earth-shattering thuds follow. When I’d normally look to the ground for flapping dinner, my eyes continue to search the skyscape above.

Endless circles and lines are being painted as I watch in awe. Copper and white wings show metallic from below. Hundreds of thousands appear where a handful had previously been. The world tilts level. A tailgate of ducks that had been just previously memorialized, as the men who appear on the screen are slowly unfolding themselves. I pass the camera that had appeared in my hands to Mike. I look into his eyes for understanding. He winks in reply and softy compliments, “Nice shooting today.”


I look from face to face and see the legends who shaped my waterfowl world. One who taught me more than I’d ever previously known about hunting. One, the drummer, whose dogs saw duck chasing as a competitive Olympic sport and one whose laugh I still recall today. We're hunting together; my overabundant joy in the moment overshadows the fear accompanying another hallucination.

As I reach into my pocket for my phone to take a last shot of all of us together, I pull out a sandhill instead.

All must have seen my shock because laughter ensues, but not the familiar laughs of the trio—new laughs, non-legendary ones. Again, I cover my confusion and pick up the bird in triumph and smile broadly--if I'm quickly going insane, I'll at least pretend to be happy about it.

The ducks return to water so we follow suit. My waders are happily back to normal; I'm gleefully picking green wing teal from the cloudless expanse. The water laps all around me, a new experience, as I had never been able to wade this far out. Comfortable in the understanding that my memory would not impede my shooting, I join in the barrage of shooting until my trigger finger aches.

A rainbow drops in small, football-shaped packages. Waterfowl I had never seen in full plumage—drake blue wings, cinnamons, red heads, gadwall and even a solitary ruddy soar past in a seemingly endless arc. I find myself transfixed by the iridescent nature of their heads, the multi-hued, otherworldly tones of their feathers. Their grace in death, a morose gratitude to fall to the hands of those who will enjoy instead of waste.
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Our limits are almost there so we decide to give the ducks a break. As we wade out, I catch the distinct odor of the marsh floor which had, in its hardened state on the way in, escaped the purview of my senses. Although there may not exist a less pleasant smell, I bend my head back and close my eyes to drink deeply the decomposing musk.

I fall backward to the ground and find myself amidst a sea of Canada geese decoys. A man is talking, a voice I hadn’t been able to hear in two years. Excited, I turn to my left and hear the end of the infamous tale of the snow geese and the Game Wadren. In the lull that follows,  I recall this day--when he, my boss, forced me to skip work to chase the uneducated lessers of early season. I laugh then, remembering our lunch just 20 minutes prior at the seedy hole-in-the-wall smoky bar where the owner, who knew my hunting companion’s proclivity to jalapeno chicken pizza, was loudly pontificating with a cigarette hanging from his mouth against the new smoking bar ban. The geese never showed up, but we stayed and talked for hours and I would’ve stayed to hear again his stories if I wasn’t jolted back to Texas by Mike urging me to don the duck lanyard that I hadn’t sported in two seasons.

We all take turns, smiling in one another’s good fortune, for the sustenance to come. The real work begins now, down the road, where coyotes certainly would return to relieve the ground of its newly placed scarlet innards.

In a flurry of feathers, I see the tall pines of North Carolina emerge. The most southern gentlemen I know and his faithful dog, Crickett, rejoice along with Mike as I look down on my first duck kill. A vision of a john boat nearly engulfed in bacon-fat flames while Devin, Mike and me beat down the inferno. As the plumages continue to fly, I feel the North Dakota snow falling on us as three legends silently go about their work. Two remain while one fades through a gate of blinding white discarded goose down.

Before I know it, they disappear, along with the ducks from today’s hunt. Only their breasts remain, my fingers covered with the blood of dinner’s future. We stand, talking for a while, sharing stories of close calls with Game Wardens, limits that seemed to take five minutes, and the awe we all feel every time we take to the field.

As the pickup takes off, churning the sea of caliche and feathers I realize this hunt, this whole day, is actually six years in the making. The day I became more self-aware that I, and many like me, are not just duck hunters but time travelers too—when the nuts and bolts holding together the scaffolding of our memories become malleable play dough in the face of another hunt, another day to remember. ​​
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<![CDATA[A Guide to Living In West Texas]]>Wed, 09 Sep 2015 17:29:40 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/a-guide-to-living-in-texasPicture
Standing still in one place for an extended period of time is something I'm not exactly good at. Case in point: in the last five and a half years, I've moved over 4,000 miles. During these miles, I've seen a lot of places and met a whole spectrum of individuals from the hearty family of friends found in North Carolina to the bitterly cold, yet warm individuals who call North Dakota home. My latest abode is found in Texas, a place that seems so much like every where else I've lived but yet completely different. 

Texas is known as the land of big things. It has the world's biggest rocking chair, gingerbread house, flea market, pair of cowboy boots, fire hydrant (yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately, Clifford doesn't reside in the same town) and BBQ smoker. 

You can order and consume a 72-ounce steak and instead of being ridiculed for ingesting a gross amount of meat, you'll be paraded through towns atop a longhorn while cowboy hats are continually thrown in your general direction. 

The inherent bigness of Texas was the source of much bemusement from my peers when my husband, Mike, and I announced that we would be relocating from North Dakota to Texas at the end of May 2014. 

One response to this announcement loosely read:  "...and in one fell swoop, Lisa has single-handedly destroyed the timeless cliche that everything is bigger in Texas". This statement, while mean, is actually correct, as I will, for obvious reasons, not go down in history as the tallest woman to ever move to Texas. 

My dreams dashed, I endeavored to rise above nonetheless and live life as only one can when one stands 4'10 3/8. 

It's been more than a year since Texas became home. In that time, I've amassed a good amount of life experiences that one can only collect if said individual is living in West Texas. 

Hence, without further adieu, please enjoy the

Writing Huntress' Guide to West Texas Living (Vol. 1)

1. While living in Texas, you eat only Blue Bell. 

If you're from upstate New York, you know that grocery store preference boils down to two main camps of thought: Wegmans and Tops (also known as You're Wrong). Therefore, I'm a connoisseur when it comes to edifices of food obtainment. This explains why I was entirely too overjoyed when I first walked into the nearest HEB. 

It's a lovely mecca of food, albeit not even in the same league, nay stadium or even sport of Wegmans.

During my first visit, I yearned for ice cream since West Texas' average summer temperature equals that of the sun. When I reached into the freezer containing gelato, I heard a distinct tsk tsk from behind me. A woman, clad head-to-toe in red Ts (a symbol I would much later associate with football, and not a repetitive lesson in the 18th letter of the alphabet) and her associated offspring collectively looked at me like I had longhorns growing out of my head and began shuffling, sideways to the Blue Bell freezer. I, much afraid of inciting a riot among the locals, followed suit and bought my first quart. 

It's ice cream, very good ice cream. Would I walk to the ends of the world for it? No. But would I ever buy anything else from HEB? That's also a big no. 

When the Blue Bell recall began earlier this summer, I noticed that instead of filling the shelves with Ben and Jerry's, a lone note, written more like a eulogy than a simple apology notice, was taped to the door amidst a backdrop of rows and rows of empty shelves. I honestly heard people, in muffled tones reserved only for churches or holy sanctuaries, speak of the day Blue Bell returned. No one bought any other brand, no one could--because here in Texas, the Bell reigns supreme. 

2. There is no iced tea. 

I have no tolerance for things with a lot of sugar or for caffeine. Which, in many small towns in Texas would sentence me to life of being shunned at best, thrown bodily from the edge of the community like a 1950s Western at worst. That being said, I'm not a fan of sweet tea. However, although I don't drink the stuff, I've found I've adopted a Texas-esque aversion to places that don't serve it. 

Case in point--I recently dined at a restaurant with my husband in Louisiana. The food looked delicious but the evening began on a sour note when Mike asked for a sweet tea and was told, in a snide manner, that all they had was iced tea. And it was unsweetened. 

As soon as the unfortunate waiter sauntered back to his station, we, adopted Texans, began to seriously consider leaving the restaurant. 

Behind massive menus, we muttered, "Iced Tea? ICED TEA? And it's unsweetened? What is that?" 

While we were obviously wounded, Mike more than I, the waiter came back with a small tray of sweeteners. 

He, believing he had won the war, proudly proclaimed, "We have sweetener. That's the same thing, right?"

"We're from Texas," I replied, assuming this would excuse away the sorry glass of liquefied, non-sweetened Tea leaves. 

"And...?" said the waiter, his eyebrows disappearing beneath his blond choppy bowl cut. 

Sighing, I realized this was a losing battle, smiled broadly, and said, "Well bless your heart, water's just fine. "

3. It's Football, I don't understand it but man do I hate A&M. 

It became extremely clear to me, quite quickly, that Texans take football seriously. I, believing I knew everything that was to know about Texas football from watching Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues, was a little blindsided to find I actually knew nothing at all about my adopted home's love for the game that involves seemingly overweight men running around, hugging one another tightly and chasing a ball made of pig skin. 

I know hockey, therefore if a sport can be translated into puck terms, I understand it. Football cannot be translated thus so I'm SOL when it comes to conversing about it at length. 

To save myself the embarrassment of calling the field goal "that big fork thing they kick the ball through" and every single player the quarterback, I attempted to skirt the issue whenever brought up--a near impossibility in Texas. 

At my first job, on my first day, I was the Yankee sideshow. I was bombarded with questions about my Yankee life, how I say certain things, what it's like to be able to confidently drive through snow and all inclement weather; all things southerners don't understand about us northerners. When the subject inevitably circled to football, I did my best to claw to the ceiling when the empty stares  turned my way after I proclaimed my loyalty to the long-suffering, always disappointing Buffalo Bills. 

When college football was brought up, it became clear that everyone here in West Texas loves Tech. They tailgate before games, follow the player's careers and long after they've graduated, still associate the "Wreck 'em Tech, Guns Up" pose in all photographs, including weddings, christenings, and even funerals. All this hoopla surrounding a school I never went to, nor ever visited, seemed odd to me but one thing became clear: to survive in any job in West Texas, you must vow allegiance to Tech and swear to hate A&M and the Longhorns with every fiber of your being until the end of time. 

The caveat of this strict policy is that if any of the above teams are playing any team outside Texas, you must cheer for that team because Texans support their own above all else. 

So am I a Tech fan? You betcha. Does my lack of football knowledge confound and amuse my Texas coworkers and acquaintances? Yes sir. But does any of that matter so long as I laugh along with Aggie jokes and make fun of the Longhorns? 

The answer to that is a resounding HELL NO. 
4. Chivalry is not dead, so much so that I've forgotten how to open a door. 

I hadn't been in the oilfield long when I realized that men in Texas are so chivalrous that Webster's needs to create a new word for the lengths Texan men will go to in order to make women feel like queens wearing cutoffs and cowboy boots. 

One day at the old gig, I really wanted coconut water, another phenomena I've grown increasingly attached to since living in the Southwest. I knew the nearest gas station stocked the stuff so I headed that way. 

Upon arrival, I noticed two large rigs from two large drilling companies, meaning the interior of the gas station-cum-grocery store would be packed to the gills. Given I really didn't want to be at work anyway, I resigned to a lengthy journey to procure my beverage of choice. However, the process became a quick one as soon as the men noticed a female had waltzed into their presence. 

The door was opened and held open. The door to the freezer followed suit and a man actually carried my purchases and insisted I cut the entire line of 45 roughnecks. I looked at the line and every single man began nodding his head. So I cut. And then five men asked to carry my one-bottle-purchase to my Jeep. I declined, silently wondering how these dirty, overworked men learned such manners. 

Opening doors aside, men will also protect you from anything that can hurt you, especially but not limited to, rattlesnakes. 

Yesterday, a group of my coworkers went dove hunting on a vendor's property. A few hours into the hunt, I was standing with two of my coworkers when one turned to look over the water tank. 

He took a half a step back and informed us to do the same. Without a single cuss word or even raising his voice, he urged us along while raising his shotgun. I screamed, as I'm wont to do when faced with a 4'10" rattlesnake, and was completely useless until a solid five minutes after the shot rang out. 

Once the rattler's head was cleanly detached from his body, I was encouraged to take hold of the snake. While the headless thing continued to writhe, and I screamed along with its movements. 

Moral of the story: by and large, men from (or adopted by) Texas are gentlemen in every sense of the word from holding open doors to decapitating animals that can easily kill you. 

5. Africa is just next door. 

My first day at my old job, I was quite astounded to step into the conference room and be faced by no less than 200 animals I had only seen on TV or in magazines. I sneakily took pictures of the room that included a large zebra rug that took up the majority of the back wall. 

I was shocked still when my boss at the time invited me to assist him in cleaning out his freezer, expecting deer and duck but receiving wildebeest, kudu, gemsbok, watusi, and nilgai instead. 

Exotic ranches are everywhere, hence why so many of my Texan acquaintances are up to the ears in extremely wild game. For a solid six months, my household googled what dinner was before preparing it. Soon, it became commonplace to see blackbuck and ostrich running down the road after they had gotten out from a nearby ranch. 

North Dakota was a snow globe; Texas, an expansive, 18-hour long Safari drive.  

6. The sunsets. 
Late Spring storms stir the atmosphere with a large wooden spoon. The resulting sunsets and 30-mile stretches of views make Texas a perpetual canvas, illustrating the boundless creativity of the big guy upstairs. 

7. Texas loves Darwinism. 

In New York, there's a virus of stupidity. People are protected from themselves, and from the evil opinions of others, by rules, regulations and safety barriers. Not so in Texas. 

If you're stupid in Texas, you're probably going to die. 

Fig 1: The rodeo. 

I'm accustomed to rodeos that are so hermetically sealed with iron, steel, and seats so far away from the action that the bulls look like angry cocker spaniels being ridden by miniature squirrels. 

Because of my past experiences with safety rodeos, I was less than excited about my first Texas rodeo, until I saw the arena. Imagine if you will a hockey arena with no glass (yes, there is one here--the only regulation rink within 300 miles. I joined the beer league in an attempt to find friends. Not surprisingly, the league ended up being 80 guys and me). That was the barely-contained arena that contained many, extremely unhappy 2,000-pound animals for many hours that evening. 

Our seats were close enough that if I ever wanted to hug a bull while it tried in earnest to buck whatever is on its back off, I could've. During one tense moment, it appeared as if one of the equally irate broncs was about to launch itself into the seats mere inches from its nose. Instead of running away like any normal person would, the Texans occupying the seats sat more hardily, ready to take the horse full-on if need arose. 

I left happy that night, happy that I wasn't dead but also a little proud that my state doesn't coddle its residents--that if I were stupid enough to try to hug an angry animal, I probably deserved a gory, if entertaining, death. 

Fig 2. The speed. 

Texas boasts the fastest speed limit in the county, clocking in at 85 MPH. 

Meaning: if you can survive the ice cream deficiency, football fanaticism, rattlesnakes, rhinos, and beauty of sunsets, and if the speed doesn't kill you, then you can be christened a true West Texan. 
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<![CDATA[The Death Threat Huntress]]>Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:00:22 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/the-death-threat-huntressPicture
There's something about waking up in the desert air in spring that makes life worth living. The flowers have begun to bloom, the coyotes are out in full force, their yodels reverberating around the empty landscape, forcing the country dogs to join in the haunting tune. The sun hadn't shone above the horizon, for I get up far earlier than she, so the only light emitted from my bedroom window was that of my cell phone, merrily jarring me awake from a restful slumber. 

I had many notifications, but that wasn't anything new, especially recently having returned from yet another life-changing Prois Double B hunt. However, there was something amiss: a shiny new death threat targeted at yours truly via Twitter.
Unfortunately, as it has been the case for some time now, hunters and huntresses, the latter especially, have been beating back the anti-hunters with figurative large, pointy sticks. Almost overnight, it was no longer socially acceptable to obtain meat legally via hunting. Suddenly, it became commonplace for social-media connected outdoorspeople to be barraged with horrific threats against person, family, and even dogs.  For a human population who can trace their ancestry back to hunters and gatherers, it's a sad state of affairs.

However, instead of making this huntress mad, an emotion none of y'all have seen, which is good because those who have equate my fury to a pugnacious hell tornado or miniature atomic bomb, these absurd threats have made me proud of this lifestyle. Proud of every kill, of every meal and prouder still that there are still those in the world still so far removed from the realities of life that hunting is that much of a threat.
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Just to be clear--I didn't grow up hunting, I adopted it, like the best beloved of a pack of rescue dogs.

I killed my first deer on a cold, dreary New York Thanksgiving many years ago. I keenly remember standing atop the massive, almost absurd tree stand, shaking. When I crept down to survey my handiwork, I fell apart. The guys around me were throwing their congratulations my way in a boisterous, celebratory manner but as their compliments rained down upon me, all I felt was deep, unending sadness. When it seemed clear that for the moment, I would not be joining in the frivolity, my boyfriend at the time sent the troops into the recesses of the woods to allow me time to process what had just happened.

At the time, I did not realize that the moment my finger squeezed that trigger, my life would never be the same. At the time, I did not realize that from that point forward, I would never see food the same way again.

I cried because I had never taken a life before that day. I had never, to quote Ron Swanson, "looked my dinner in the eye and considered the circle of life." To do that, all of it, for the first time in my life was heavy; big in a way that only an experience like that can be. I clearly recall bending over the fat doe, patting her big belly, and thanking God for putting her in my cross hairs, her for her sacrifice for my dinner table-- a prayer of thanks I've repeated without ceasing in the years since.

Back then, those who didn't understand my lifestyle would simply shake their heads or ignore the subject. When I began writing, I had many a conversation with people who had either never hunted or never wanted to. These exchanges were, on the whole, cordial. Thoughts were shared, discussed, and never once did the debate ever end with a death threat.

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I was also big on the word "harvest" years past. I used the term like I had invented it. It appeared to make people more at ease with the idea of hunting. Which, in retrospect, was stupid. I didn't harvest anything. Did I plant the deer in the ground, fertilize it, pray for it to rain so the deer would grow bigger antlers and then mow it down with an International Harvester? No. I didn't. And thanks to the death-threat-happy antis of today, I can proudly say, I killed the deer. I shot it. I gave it reverence, I processed it and then I ate it. It was delicious and it was legal.

Those who are vehemently opposed to hunting exhaust all of their efforts by pounding angrily at keyboards, sending death threats across the internet waves in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, encouraging a random person that they'd never recognize in the streets, to kill themselves would somehow avenge the life of a deer that would most likely have been turned into a venison smoothie by an 18-wheeler on a highway anyway. Obviously, they could spend their time better by donating to conservation organizations that are largely supported by hunters or even donate their time to efforts assisting the animals they waste so much useless time defending on social media but that would be rational, an affliction that appears to be in short supply in today's unfortunate climate.


Many are saying these threats must stop. But I'm encouraging quite the opposite:

I say to you, Lord or Lady of Too-Much-Internet, Not-Enough-Research: keep the death threats coming! Just as Obama has become the biggest salesmen of guns the world has ever known, you, Pioneer of Wasting Oxygen, are breeding a population of the proudest hunters and huntresses in history, Yes, you, Queen and King of Vengeful Carpal- Tunnel, have begun a conversation about hunting that may have never been had you not chosen to chomp down on your overly-processed turkey leg while shaking your finger at a woman who killed and subsequently donated enough meat to literally feed an entire village! Bravo, you Gaggle of Tight-Walleted, Big-Mouthed peons--because of your lack of generosity, hunters, not death-threaters, act as the "primary source of funding for most state wildlife conservation efforts" (source)! Although there's mountains of evidence to the contrary, you Peaceful, Accepting Gargoyles continue to attempt to affect social change with death threats and name calling--an impressive amount of dedication to a useless practice! Congratulations to all of you, Hateful Ladies and Gentlemen, for encouraging individuals to take a good, long look at their dinner plates and see what hunters see--sacrifice, passion, devotion, and most of all, respect.

Keep calling us bloodthirsty, we'll prove we're not. Keep telling us that we're a cancer to the world, we'll keep donating our funds and time to conservation organizations that ensure a future of abundant wildlife for all in the future. Keep telling us that hunters are disgusting, horrible, and should be shot-- we'll keep from retaliating by continuing our tradition so when the world ceases to be as we know it, the grocery store deli counter dries up and the meat oddities in the freezer section disappear, we'll be just fine, knowing full well how to survive on the land. Keep eating your steaks, your pantry chock-full of wares grown by farmers you hate because of practices you don't understand--we'll continue to ration our venison, pheasant, tundra swan, goose and the like, happily knowing exactly where, down to the square inch of desolate wheat field, our food came from.

Keep living your life the way you choose, we won't bother you. We know you can't help but hate us, and that's understandable. I'd hate me too if I knew how amazing of a life I've had since the first squeeze of that trigger, the first realization that life is a full, but short and wondrous thing.
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<![CDATA[I Am Ron Swanson]]>Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:16:43 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/best-hunting-quote-ever
A recorded Parks and Rec marathon couldn't have come at a better time.  The pipes are frozen, ice has made the roads impossible but I'm warm in bed with the pups, enjoying Ron Swanson and the memories of season's past.
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<![CDATA[Prois Jackalope Hunt]]>Tue, 13 Jan 2015 21:47:49 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/prois-jackalope-hunt
Starting the world’s first and only jackalope guide service was a dream come true for me. I poured over the literature and applicable tax forms to make my business a legitimate one. Unfortunately, the screening process, done after the initial $10,000 application fee, proved to be too much for all of my applicants so I sat, unhappily raking in the cash while the horned daemons ran amok, no hunters in tow. I could see them in my mind’s eye, taunting me with their voracious blood lust for cinnamon toast crunch and destruction. They knew I would be after them, but they also knew I’d have to wait until an applicant deemed themselves worthy for the hunt.
I embarked upon a west Texas deer hunt with the lovely ladies of Prois when my opportunity finally arrived. After three days of killing deer after deer, one, Katherine Grand, and myself had filled our tags and were watching the menfolk of the establishment skin and quarter our kills. As I gazed upon the statuesque figure of the falconer, I saw my opportunity.

“Hey Katherine,” I said, “Do me a favor? Crawl up onto that roof and jump off.”

If this seemed like an odd request, she didn’t let on for she scaled the building like spider man and promptly jumped off. Emboldened by her success, I then ordered her to leap into the den of angry goats and sing them a story.

Again, without much adieu or fanfare, she leapt into the crazy frenzy of baaing and disturbing human screams then began dancing about and singing to the yellow-eyed garbage disposals who began to sway with her song. Just as they fell to slumber one by one, she changed her tune and began belting Frank Sinatra, which awoke the sleepy cloven-footed creatures who began to slow dance and bark at one another in Italian.

Seeing this, I went over to the outfitter’s men folk and informed them I was borrowing one of their trucks, a hefty cache of supplies and two goats. When asked at what time we expected to return, I looked over my shoulder dramatically and muttered, “when the job’s done” as lightning flashed in my eyes amidst the cloudless day. Everyone was awed. It was impressive enough that I didn’t even yearn to look back one more time to ensure the impressiveness of the moment had seeped into the veins of all present, like an atomic bomb of emotion.

Unfortunately, Katherine was standing amongst the crowd, trailed by a long line of adoring goats, her arms at her sides with a look of puzzlement about her face. I unwittingly turned around to the sight of four guides shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads in a way that conveyed they were not nearly as impressed or shocked by my dramatic exit.

“I’M GOING TO EMBARK ON A SERIES OF DRAMATIC ADVENTURES THAT MAY END IN MY DEMISE!” I yelled, hoping for some sort of reaction. Katherine began clapping manically.

This time the men didn’t even look up from their work so I tried again.

“THIS IS SERIOUS! I MAY NOT RETURN! JACKALOPE HUNTING IS SERIOUS BUISNESS! THIS IS QUEST. LIKE LORD OF THE RINGS BUT BETTER WITH LESS CGI AND A FEW MORE HOBBITS!” Once more, not even a twitch in my direction, which was impressive as Katherine got the hint that she was coming too so as my proclamation rang out, I was flanked by a tall woman who couldn’t stop clapping, enough equipment to last two months in the field and a collection of the happiest goats this side of the Mississippi artfully arranged on a rocky ledge brought in just for this announcement.

Angrily, I screamed, “BACON! BEER! PIGS WEARING MONOCLES!” This seemed to tickle the fancy of all those present so with their attention momentarily turned our way, I held my walking stick aloft, parted the white fleece sea of sheep that had joined the goats in their happiness parade and marched off. This time, I didn’t look back.

We were hours into our trip up and down many canyons when the goats began to slow us down. Katherine insisted on giving them all names before we got too far into our adventure so as she began listing their new identities that included but were not limited to: Cupcake, Piggy, Bruce, Steve, Peggy, Felicia, Pico, Rico, and Glen, while I sat, charting our course.

The path of destruction of the common jackalope is the best way to scout and attempt to pattern them. I had heard a few days prior that farms west of the area had been ransacked, whole herds of cows decimated in a single five-minute window. Once all the goats were named and sheep lost interest, we headed west. Before too long, we came upon a family toting their belongings on a horse-drawn carriage covered in dust.

The eldest man coughed, spraying dust in every direction, and pointed his gnarly thumb behind him. “Don’t go there,” he warned, “it aint worth it. Everythin’s gone. Jus’ gone. The…the bunnies…” He shuddered and looked away. We felt badly for his plight so we, despite his loud and forceful protestations, gave him no less than 30 of our goats who came back in our fold anyway, as it’s difficult to force a goat to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go.

Katherine had stopped clapping by now and our entourage began falling back, two by two. We had just breached our seventh day of scouting when the forest of fires appeared in the distance. Our cell phones had begun losing service about then so despite the frantic calls from home, we abandoned our phones, placing a marker over where we had left them in reverence for the service they provided.
Fires rose up 100 feet on either side of us as we entered the flame. The remaining goats fiercely stuck by Katherine’s side, their heroine in this strange journey. Hot breaths of yellow and red licked our legs up our backs, singeing our hair, wafting the smell of grilled meat in the air.

It wasn’t too long after that I began to notice darting shadows weaving in and out of the trees. Their quickness left trails in the heat, dark streaks where blinding light had been. Katherine had been largely unfazed by the death, destruction, and carnage surrounding us so I took a moment to inform her that this was it, the jackalopes were here, it was time.
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We took a knee.

“This is it, the jackalopes are here, it is time,” I intoned gravely.

Katherine smiled and nodded, as if we were facing a horde of teddy bears instead of bloodthirsty beats.

“Damit, Katherine, this is serious,” I growled. 

She then frowned and gave me her best game face. This, I assumed was good enough.

We set out with the customary jackalope banquet in order to lull them asleep and take the biggest buck humanely but our plans changed quickly when the bunnies became aware of our presence. They charged, a multi-faceted furry wave.

Katherine went one way, I another. Since my tag was already filled this year, I did my best to keep the horde back while Katherine took her prize. As the creatures of terror pursued me, I was forced behind the shelter of the nearest tree. Through its flaming branches, I made out the silhouette of Katherine battling the army with a voraciousness only seen in Greco-Roman war movies. She somehow obtained medieval chain link amour. Her battle cries rose above the anarchy as she swung her jewel-encrusted sword towards the king of the bunnies.

He fell with one swift motion as Katherine scooped him up. Her flaming chariot appeared then, piloted by two pairs of war torn goats. Without a glance backward, she set off, tearing through the flames, forest and destruction.

Normally, I’d be a little peeved that she abandoned me when clearly she harbored the means to transport me back home but she knew as well as I, those that take a jackalope are hunted relentlessly by the rest of its pack. Her loyalty knew no bounds as she left me in that inferno to take flight by herself against the bloodthirsty beasts.

Somehow, I made it out. I unearthed our cell phones, which thankfully worked after a quick dusting. I called my husband to assure him of my safety. I then used Katherine’s to make a series of calls to 1-800 psychic hotlines. As time went on, I began breaking up the monotony by making prank phone calls. In recent weeks, I’ve giggled to myself every time Prois headquarters reports yet another kid calling to check if their refrigerator is running.

I emerged home a week later, after getting lost a number of times. Mud pies abounded and I fared quite well. Katherine, with one less leg, finally lost the bunnies around remote Joshua Tree, Arizona. Her chariot, no longer on fire, and her goats, also no longer aflame, brought her as far as civilization and disappeared. As soon as she returned to Colorado, we reconnected.

We shared our tales. I told her of the 1-800 numbers, she gave me the bill. I inquired about her leg and she chuckled, informing me that the goats got hungry in their exile and she provided her limb. Aghast, I proclaimed, “Good Lord in heaven! Why would you do something like that?”

She smiled, gazing at her trophy over the mantle and nuzzled her trusty steed, Polly, “Same reason I took the heat for the jackalope hunt, because we’re friends and I’d do anything for a friend, even if it’s a goat.”

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<![CDATA[2014: The Year of The PegLeg Turkey]]>Fri, 02 Jan 2015 21:44:01 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/2014-the-year-of-the-pegleg-turkey
The ringing in of 2015 came with a bang in our desert homestead; literally, as the transformer right outside our back window blew up in a cloud of fire, accompanied by a magnificent BOOM that far surpassed the lesser explosions of the multitudinous fireworks being set off at the same time by a gaggle of the most patriotic West Texans around, for the light show was equal to, if not slightly smaller than those on Fourth of July and Christmas day, celebrating the real reason why we’re all here.
This past year has been another one for the travel record books.  It’s difficult to believe that I was roused from my post- New Year’s Eve slumber a year ago to the day to the vision of yet another North Dakota blizzard, followed by four months of negative-degree temperatures. It’s even stranger still to think that we haven’t even been in Texas for a year yet and here we sit, in a new house, our own, our first. Sure, we’re surrounded by a horde of people who make me believe it may be best to learn a little Spanish for the sake of our country neighborhood, but it’s been home and thus far, I’m a fan.
I’m looking forward to yet another SHOT Show experience, this time with a twist; we’re driving to Vegas, assuming that a 14-hour drive would equal that in flying/layover time. I’ll be documenting the entire experience using the hashtag, #RoadtoSHOTShow. Do follow it, for if I know anything about myself, it'll turn into a nifty quest involving a gold ring and a volcano. 

Last year, I was quite the nervous wreck about SHOT, as I had never experienced it and had frankly no idea what I was going to do while there. Luckily, I survived the experience with a hefty appreciation for good footwear, amazing friends and the power of social media for putting me in the crosshairs for opportunities with some of the greatest outdoor companies out there. This SHOT, I’m looking forward to co-chairing the third-annual Women's Outdoor and Shooting Industry Dinner along with a few great ladies, namely miss Britney Starr, Julie Golob, Whitney Bodenheimer and Carrie Zylka. I'll also be fortunate enough to be helping out at the Prois Field Hunting and Apparel booth
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A look back at 2014 would be unnecessary without including the trip that put the whole motion of our lives in a south westerly motion. The #BenelliTexasTurkeyAdventure not only proved to be one of the hardest hunts of my life but one of the most memorable, as Britney Starr and I were finally able to hunt together. I had the ultimate honor of meeting the lovely leader of the clan of Prois, Kirstie Pike. To much fanfare, Team Sweet Persimmons was born.  Sure, I didn’t shoot a turkey that trip but it didn’t matter because I brought home turkey prints on my heart instead.

Of course, as fate would have it, I shot my first ever turkey after 6 seasons of fruitless gobbler chasing 15 minutes into North Dakota’s opening day. He had one foot and was aptly named PegLeg Pete, after the nub he so lovingly perched upon. It became extremely apparent why he wasn't so eager to run away from my awaiting barrel. That round of tagless soup came full-circle on Thanksgiving when I was finally able to eat my first wild turkey along with masses of homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade apple pie.

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Shortly prior to turkey season, a few great friends and I ambushed a horde of snow geese using a cardboard cow named Bessie. Frighteningly and amusingly it worked for the light-fronted geese were not happy. I’m sure they’re wary of cows now, much to the confusion of hunters and farmers alike.

While we had a lot of fun out there in the arctic north, watching the northern lights shimmy their way across the sky with the ferocity of migrating waterfowl, opportunity lay elsewhere, namely far away in the desert.

Our third cross-country trip in four years brought me to tears, while as happy as I was to escape the -60 degree temperatures; I was extremely unprepared to be forced to live next to actual people in an actual neighborhood. As we fell out of the vehicles we had lived in for the trip, tears dripped from my disbelieving eyes; People, I thought, People everywhere. We lasted exactly 5 months in the rental house in the city that drove my husband’s allergies to the brink; he claimed it on mold, I on civilization. We bought a little lot in the outlaying county where tumbleweeds outnumber cars and internet isn’t available at all. Sure, the coyotes come a little close for comfort in their unending scavenging but they’re far preferable neighbors to humans in the city who balk at a deer being skinned on one’s front yard.

We were able to explore this new landscape with a short dove hunt that produced, besides the delicious meat and lasting memories, a ghost from the past, a friend who I had missed deeply since his passing into the happy hunting grounds.

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As we dealt with the fun of working and living in the oilfield, we became intimately aware that hunting opportunities, even finding hunting leases in Texas so late in the game would be absolutely impossible, save for a solitary, life-threatening jackalope hunt. So, when an opportunity presented itself to hunt with the ladies of Prois at Double B Outfitters, I jumped at the opportunity.

Come to think of it, I’ve never documented those beautiful days of hunting, darnit lack of internet and adult responsibilities, so besides sharing this picture, I’ll keep the story to myself for a few days at least. Just to whet your appetite dear reader, I had the best hunting experience of my life with an absolutely amazing group of ladies. We laughed hard, hunted harder and made lasting friendships. One of my fellow huntress and soul sister Katherine Grand and I even got the opportunity to take a semi-mature jackalope during the trip, a tale that will be told as soon as soon as Grand, who ended up losing half of one leg during the hunt, resurfaces from her commune hideout in Joshua Tree, Arizona where she fled the bloodthirsty horned bunnies. 

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Our freezer is happily full, as will be the wall, given my first-ever shoulder mount is being crafted as I write. My husband found a job that he loves, while I’m not exactly thrilled with my current position but happy just to be working. A raging ice storm has blanketed our corner of West Texas, bringing us back to where we were a year ago, suffering through sub-zero temperatures, huddled up with our four rescues, endlessly grabbing volume after volume from my small library, wishing for warmer times which, happily enough is only days away, instead of, as was in North Dakota, months.

Many thanks to all for continuing to check in, as my internet situation has made it increasingly difficult to post anything at all, especially these rambling missives of the life of the Writing Huntress. Do keep an eye out in the coming days for the story of my three-deer weekend and the jackalope massacre that ensued, as well as my #RoadtoSHOTSHow adventure! 

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<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Deer]]>Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:24:53 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/thanksgiving-deerPicture
This is an old post, one I wrote when I first began my hunting life, before the passion of the outdoors took over my being, when I wore mascara while hunting and my ill-fitting, bulky camo was all I could find in the children's section.

Although I'd edit a few things here and there, I've chosen to repost it in its entirety simply because it represents one of the most defining moments of my life. Years have passed, many animals have been sent directly to my dinner plate, memories have been stacked alongside the bounty of my deep freeze, and I am a different person than the girl who climbed her first stand and shot her first deer. But in many ways, I'm the same. I still shake uncontrollably at the sight of an animal in the wild, I still morn the loss of life while at the same time thanking the animal for its sacrifice to feed my family. This post, this hunt changed my life forever and for that, I am forever thankful.


 Holidays bring families together.  Children gather around a fire in the hopes that a grandparent’s story will be the catalyst for slumber that will cause Santa to make his appearance sooner.  Piles of food patiently wait to be ingested by hordes of hungry, football-lovers.  Some holidays bring people together.  For others, it is another story all together.  

It was a cold Thanksgiving morning.  My boyfriend at the time and I were at a turning point in our relationship.  After a year of relatively good times, things were starting to go sour.  The weekend after opening day I came home to a half-empty apartment.  It felt terrible because at first, I experienced a sense of relief.  Relieved that I wouldn't have to hear him complain everyday, wait up for him or have to be the one to tell him to leave.

Once the initial shock melted away, I was sad, lonely and angry.  I had moved to the town I lived in essentially so we could be together. I worked hard to pay for everything and wasted money that needn't be wasted on a guy like him. Most of all, I was angry because I didn't know what would come of my hunting season.  We had been hunting his friend's property and I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to continue hunting there.

I eventually got a hold of him a little later. He told me how much he loved me and that we'd be together but he needed to move out in order to be less of a burden on my shoulders.  A complete cop-out if you ask me, but since he didn't ask, I didn't mention it.

Weeks went by, I went hunting every morning and afternoon I could. Some days he'd be there, some days not.  But every time I saw him, a part of my heart would ignite.  That part got smaller and smaller as the months went by and eventually went out.  But we're not there yet.

And then there was that Thanksgiving morning.  It started like any early morning hunt. 4:00am. Freezing cold walk outside to let Titus, puppy companion extraordinaire, out and a quick run upstairs to throw my camo on.  It felt like I should have been festive, but my mood was anything but.   I drove to the land alone.  Snow was gradually turning to rain.  A damp chill infiltrated every crevice of the car.  When I finally pulled up to the land, he was standing there.   I faked a smile and loaded myself down with gear. 
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Calling the distance between the stands and where we stood a road is implying that the strip could support vehicle activity.  What we were faced with was a river of mud and freezing water.  Walking was turned into an aerobic workout in a matter of moments.  Gunky mud held fast to my boots which were deeply submerged in the sludge.  Staring at my stagnant, sad footwear I realized all I really wanted to do was go home and watch Thanksgiving parades. Somehow, I ventured forth.

I finally got to the stand and waited.   The morning was relatively quiet and nothing moved.  Once everyone descended from their tree stand thrones, the men decided a push was necessary to get the deer moving.  I was told to scale a monstrous stand and wait.

The guys started screaming and singing as they walked through the brush.

I stood and waited, my gun shaking in apprehension as my hands refused to calm.

Then came the moment the deer decided to peek outside the thicket.

 I breathed and calmly lined the cross hairs.

A second later it was done and I could barely move.

Numbly, I loaded another shell just in case.

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Once the push was over, the guys came out yelling and high-fiving one another as I looked down from the stand.  Encouraging me to come down and survey my handiwork, the menfolk gathered around my first kill, a massive doe that dropped where she stood. I shakily put the safety on and climbed down. Walking over to where they had circled up, I saw the mound of deer in the brush.  I quickly knelt down and patted her stomach while tears slow as molasses slid down my grateful face.  I said a quick prayer and thanked her for the meals she would provide.

The whole ordeal took only a second but forever I had been changed.

That Thanksgiving Day altered me in ways that I’m still attempting to fully grasp. 

I felt empowered.  I felt like there was nothing I couldn't do.  And I fell in love with hunting.

Later after the hunt was over, I made a makeshift turkey dinner and extended an invite to my soon to be ex-significant other.  He said he'd call when he was done with another push.

He never called.

But that night, I ate my small dinner and drank deeply from a cheap bottle of wine alone. Christmas movies were prematurely playing as the melancholic rain transformed into radiant snow in the opaque sky.  For the first time in a long while, I wasn't sad and I knew all would be well.  As long as I could hunt, life would be good.

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<![CDATA[Decoy Spreads For Newbies]]>Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:00:26 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/decoy-spreads-for-newbies
Dear Writing Huntress,

I’ve always duck hunted with my dad and brothers, but would like to finally get out and go by myself. I generally stay in the boat while they’re setting up, so I’ve never done any duck spreads. Do you have any pointers for how to set decoy spreads?

Sincerely,
Spread Aide in Spokane
PictureMike Barron Photo

Dear Spread Aide,

Duck hunting, as you’re probably aware, is a fickle thing. I can’t count the number of times that, after scouting for days and finally figuring out where the ducks are, and then after hours of setting up, the ducks decide to go elsewhere. It’s a common frustration in duck hunting, and there’s only so much you can do when it comes to spreads and working ducks and geese. But, a good spread and game plan can vastly improve your chances.

Before you set a spread, remember to evaluate the following factors, as they will impact your luck in the field:

The X

“The X” is where the ducks are actually going to feed — it’s where they want to be, no matter what. I’ve been on the X many times, and even when mallards are getting shot at, the pintails behind them still load in. When you’re right where you need to be, light calling and accurate shots are necessary, because even if you were blowing on a kazoo, the ducks will still want in.

The non-X is the area between the roosting site and the X. The non-X isn’t necessarily bad, but be ready to run traffic, e.g., employ large spreads and a lot of calling to get the ducks to notice an area they weren’t necessarily planning on visiting.

The wind

Remember that ducks fly into the wind while landing. This is because it not only slows them down, but also allows for a quick getaway in the event something seems off. Spreads, therefore, should be structured around where you want the ducks to land or fly for an optimal shot. Keep an eye on your weather app in the days preceding your hunt for wind strength and direction. Unfortunately, even if you plan perfectly, wind can change at the last minute or during your hunt. Being able to adapt to this situation can make or break your day.

The weather

While some claim the best duck hunting is done on clear days, others say it’s on the worst of windy, dreary days that the ducks fly best. Personally, I agree with the latter. It’s been on -10 degree days with a 20-mph wind that the ducks did exactly what I wanted them to. Study the ducks and how they’re responding to the weather in your area in order to maximize your hunting experience.

The kind of spread you put out largely depends on what’s worked in the past, the wind and weather conditions, and what you’re comfortable shooting. That being said, I’ve collected the 5 spreads we’ve most used with success in the past. But, first, a quick spread thesaurus, so you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Quick spread thesaurus

  • Full-body decoys are decoys that have the entire body of a kind of waterfowl and are generally used for field hunting with tall stubble, or on the bank of shallow water hunts, like up against banks, sloughs or flooded timber.
  • MOJOs, or spinning-wing decoys, have mechanical wings that spin. Ducks cannot get enough of them — geese generally hate them.
  • Floaters are to be used in water but can be utilized in the field too. In order to use them in water without floating away, invest in good line and anchor weights.
  • landing zone is where you want the ducks to land.
  • Blinds are concealments that hunters use in order to be more able to shoot their targets. While many prefer ground blinds, others prefer lying on burlap or blind bags and covering themselves with natural camouflage. Be sure to surround your blinds with decoys, as nothing sets off a group of ducks like a lone blind next to a sea of ducks.
Spreads
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The horseshoe

Good for low- or high-wind situations in fields or low water, the horseshoe shape, constructed from all sorts of decoys including, but not limited to full bodies or even floaters sans weights. This spread allows for ducks to have a designated landing site, and is optimal for blind concealment.


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The J-hook

Ideally for geese over land or water, as they like to fly down the far end. This is more of a pass-shoot spread for those set up on the side of the J.


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The X spread

This spread is perfect for low-wind situations, as it allows for 4 different landing zones in each corner of the X. Keep in mind that this spread will allow for different shots, so ensure all the hunters in your party know where everyone else is at all times.

For the rest of my response, including two additional spreads, check out this week's Ask Writing Huntress column on the Women's Outdoor News website
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<![CDATA[Dove Hunting In Spirit]]>Thu, 02 Oct 2014 01:39:10 GMThttp://www.writinghuntress.com/i-write/dove-hunting-in-spiritPicture
We spent all day in a kind of suspended animation, waiting for a friend's call, beckoning us out to the dove fields. Given that we relocated to Texas a mere six months ago, we realized this season wasn’t going to mirror those of yesteryear, especially in North Dakota where the birds were as multitudinous as our neighbors, non-existent.

This year is destined to be a reconstruction year where we get on our feet, establish our surroundings and find places to hunt in the few moments we have to breathe in this, our newest, most south-westerly adventure.

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When hubby’s coworker, Rascal, exclaimed how excited he was to enjoy those Texas dove fields, Mike couldn’t resist lamenting how sad we had gotten, pouring over the animal-freezer-filling newsfeeds of our social media; how we suddenly were the ones without hunting opportunities, how the mighty had indeed fallen.

It only took a few seconds after for Rascal to extend an invite our way, allowing our guns a brief reprieve away from the claustrophobic gun safe to the cradle of nature; soft, safe, alluring home.

Counting down the moments until his call that day, we raced around, mice in a maze, attempting to track down the one glove that had gone array since it escaped from the box labeled in haphazard charcoal black sharpie LISA HUNTING GEAR. Camo had strewn itself about my sparse office in a way that made me think it was throwing itself a party; enjoying the warm air of the tiled, disorganized room, the way stuffed animals surely come to life when one’s child is looking the other way.

Academy was our first stop; a sad place where hunting clothes uncomfortably rub up against golf shoes, guns stand straight as arrows against the looser, more carefree salt-water yearning deep-sea fishing poles. We dug through empty box after empty box of shotgun shells, an obvious product of our oversight—that buying dove loads five days after opening day may not have been the best idea. Finally coming up with six battered cardboard containers, we made our way home to wait.

Laughing then at how quickly we had gotten ready, it only seemed right that the second we had relaxed, the call came. We were off before we realized we had no earthly idea where to go.

Directions were given, routes were found and soon, the delicious beginning of the hunt had begun. While the men folk opted for lawn chairs and a mojo that confused a cow into puzzlement and then transfixion, I opted to stalk the land alone to walk with an old friend.

Before I departed, I loaded up my bag with shells, ensured my license was on my person and gave my husband a quick peck on the cheek. As I walked out into the unfamiliar territory, I heard someone ask, “Is she going to be okay out there alone?”



















To which my husband answered, “She’s got a gun, she’ll be fine.”

With that vote of confidence drifting in my wake, I set out. 

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Cows soon followed for a spell, prompting me to wonder if Texans had legions of bovine attack squadrons; a cow mafia as it were, for the four-legged steakhouses followed my person for at least a half a mile: a 20-cow parade scaring the wits out of this one-woman float.

Once the cows lost interest in the strange woman yelling “GO BACK TO YOUR DAIRY” and “I DON’T HAVE COW TREATS”, I was truly, almost alone. The man who taught me everything I know about dove hunting appeared translucent then, when the first dove flushed in front of my awaiting barrel.

It tumbled from the sky, an acrobat performing her final show, landing in a thicket so aptly named I could barely make it through. After minutes of searching, I pleaded with my old teacher to point me in the right direction to find that bird.



A sound rustled nearby; a jackrabbit streak, white and brown, flew to my left. Looking in that direction, a few feet away lay my first kill as a Texas resident; a heavenly sign that my hunting buddy was still there, watching my back for the doves I couldn’t see.

Doves fell in quick succession after; some easy to find, others, not at all; but none were lost—all divinely made it back to enjoy a simmering skillet, a grateful huntress, a teacher in spirit.

The hunter’s high I relished post-hunt was reinvigorated later that evening when we feasted upon our bounty crammed with cream cheese and jalapeno, wrapped in bacon. We sat then, licking our fingers, fat with the knowledge that the day had been spent well, our bellies happy with the fruitfulness of the hunt.

Melancholy soon returned later that week when the gunpowder smell clinging lightly vanished, when all that was right in the world afield became not so under the weight of the office’s florescent lights. Hubby was working late so as I readied Netflix and popcorn for another solitary night, I remembered the doves.

The last time I had crafted the over-garlicky dish, my old teacher and I had just finished the best shoot of my life, where shells weren’t spent; doubles were the norm and I couldn’t scrape the smile off my face with a blunt axe and sharp chisel. While the dish cooked, I texted him—a string of messages I haven’t yet allowed myself to delete—thanking him for the day, the kills, and the lessons.

He’s gone now, a reality I came to truly realize during this hunt, but that night he lived in that dish. Through the act of the hunt, the lifelong love affair of the outdoors and a true understanding of what makes a hunt a successful one, I was able to enjoy memories and, just for a second, bring to life those loved since gone in the middle of my tiny kitchen, amidst the aroma of garlic, dove and a hint of that North Dakota field September last.

Dove JALAPEÑO Poppers

Dove breasts
Dove marinade 
Bacon (preferably wild boar)
Jalapeños (cut into halves or strips)
Cream Cheese
Toothpicks 
Grill
1. Marinade dove breasts for a few hours.
2. Fire up grill.
3. Cut bacon in half, lay on your cutting board. On one end, lay jalapeño strip. Apply cream cheese and dove breast.
4. Roll the rest of the breasts, secure with toothpick and grill until bacon is crisp; dove slightly rare in the middle.
5. Devour. 

Garlic Dove Garlic Butter rice. With garlic.


Marinated dove
Rice
Butter
Cloves (as many as you have) of garlic, smashed and diced 
Olive oil
Some sort of Sauce. I weirdly enjoy A1 with this. 
Trough to catch your drool during cooking


1. Make rice. With lots of butter. 
2. Heat up oil. 
3. Heat garlic. Then burn it. Or don't. Cook the garlic as much or as little as you desire.
4. Throw in dove. Pan fry till slightly rare in the middle.
5. Pour garlic/dove/garlic mixture over butter rice. Add sauce of some kind.
6. Eat. Relive the memories. Smile.
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