Although I had been out hunting on a couple of occasions before meeting Rory, and had shot several different types of guns, I definitely wasn't a hunter. I hadn't taken a hunters ed class, I had never shot at anything other than the odd tree or target, and I didn't own all that much camo. I was, however, a 'bush kid'. I grew up in the woods - 'the bush' we called it, and spent most of my time in rural and wild settings up in Canada. As a kid, even though I was a bit of a tree hugger, I knew that some animals got shot or trapped on sight if they came around our house. Raccoons would make a mess of the corn, porcupines would gnaw at the house, muskrat would make a mess of the trout pond, squirrels would steal all the bird food, mice would end up finding a way into the house. I grew up on 100 acres of fields and forest; I knew what death was - from my dad taking care of troublesome wildlife, from the chickens and geese my family used to raise for meat, and from finding animal bones and skulls in the woods.
When I met Rory, I wasn't fazed by him being an avid hunter. I loved being in the woods, in fact I had just finished up 3 intensive summers of fieldwork where most of my waking moments were spent outdoors tracking snakes. This past fall was the third hunting season I've spent with Rory and his family - hunting grouse, spending time at duck camp, and this fall had Rory's first deer. I can even now say that I am a hunter. During my first fall outdoors hunting with Rory, I was determined not to be the one who got sent around to flush birds towards the hunters, not to be the one left behind a bush behind all the action to keep an eye on where the hunters ducks fell, not to be the one sitting back at the truck waiting to let the dogs loose. I wanted in.
I took hunters ed that next spring. Shortly afterwards, we found out I was pregnant with little Maddycakes, but after researching at what age fetuses hearing developed, I didn't let being pregnant stop me from grouse hunting. I was so proud that the first grouse our puppy retrieved was also the first one I shot. One morning on our property the dogs and I flushed a grouse, and while Rory slept, I got my gun and vest and headed back down to shoot it. Boy was he ever surprised when I came back up and woke him up with my blue grouse!
By the time duck hunting rolled around that fall, well, I was getting a little rounder, so I stayed back from the action again. This past fall, after a dismal grouse season, I was motivated to get my first duck. It was hard balancing being the mom and getting out hunting, but Maddycakes cooperated, and after shooting a duck that got away in the weeds (should I mention I got soaked to my mid-thighs in icy water trying to get the dogs onto its scent?!), at the next lake I got my first duck. It was even a green head (male mallard). Rory shot several at that lake as well, and I was so proud of our puppy Lily, then no longer a puppy, as she retrieved three ducks in a row!
Hanging out with the guys though, and especially now that the baby often comes along hunting, means that I need to be the one planning and packing. Rory is content to go hungry if he forgets snacks, or get cold if he forgets a hat. Me, not so much... So here you have it, my list of things I've learned to remember to bring hunting:
More ammo than I think I will need
Warm clothing - including mitts and a hat
Snacks - depending on how long you will be out
Shovel - for when you get stuck
My hunting license
Emergency stuff - whistle, knife, matches, etc (if you are into that kind of thing)
I know it's pretty basic, but also remember to let someone know where you are going and when you will be back, and stick to that plan! If you don't let someone know, then at least write a note with these details in it and leave it somewhere obvious in your home, so that if you get lost or hurt or stuck when you are out, someone will be able to find you.