Starting a new hobby or sport can be intimidating. For a prospective woman hunter, terms like cull, broadhead, high-brass, or choke tube can sound like a foreign language. Add the ever-increasing cost of equipment, the potential to encounter a rattlesnake or large predator, and a societal aversion to firearms, and it's easy to see why many women choose a scrap book over a tree stand. However, in my opinion these initial challenges are also what make being a successful hunter so rewarding. Welcome to my site and happy hunting!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Scouting report

Went out to the national forest to try and find a spot to hunt next month so I loaded up the Griz and headed north.  It was SO nice to get outta the city and the cooler weather made it even better.  Since I'm hunting public land I needed to keep a few things in mind:  find a place to hunt close to camp so I don't have to drag a deer too far, find a good trail because you can't use bait, and get away from most of the high-traffic areas close to the main roads as there will be a lot of other hunters there.  Armed with a topo map and gps I headed out Saturday afternoon.

The first thing I wanted to find was water.  It's been a very dry summer so I figured if I could find water, I'd find deer.  As I walked south down a trail from camp, I followed a fenceline that was private land to the west.  There were several blinds along the fence on the private side and figured the public land must get a lot of pressure during gun season and smart private hunters sit on the property line waiting for deer to cross.  I also thought that may mean there are feeders on the private side.  So my amended game plan was to follow the property line and find a good trail running into private land.  This method paid off fairly quickly and I found a good trail headed across the property line.  I followed it south but didn't see any tracks or scat.  There was pig sign EVERYWHERE.  The trail petered out and I drifted south until hitting a big creek running east/west.

One of the buck rubs found
Running parallel to the stream was another good trail.  There wasn't any scat or tracks again, but there were fresh rubs along the trail about every 20-30 yards.  This was the most sign I'd seen all afternoon so I figured I'd follow the creekbed further west and see if I could find a good crosstrail.  Well, that plan worked great as I found a deep pool in the creek with water and lots of tracks and a HUGE doe.  Unfortunately, I'd crossed the property line without realizing it and was on private land.  I followed the creek back until I crossed the fence boundary of the national forest and started looking for more sign.  Eventually I picked up the trail with the rubs along it and there was a big, nasty thicket just north of there so I was thinking that would be a great draw for pressured deer.  Happy with finding some sign and having a rough idea of where I'd like to put my stand, I headed back to camp before dark.

Yes, I was camped out alone.  It can be done, but you have to make sure and take proper precautions.  I always leave a note at the house before I leave with where I plan to go, what I plan to do, when I left, and when I intend to return.  I have a chl and keep a gun or two handy at all times.  In the national forest you can't carry a pistol without a chl and there's a ton of pig and E Tx meth addict sign so there's no way you'll catch me out there without a blaster.  Griz makes a pretty good alarm too.  The poor thing is afraid of the dark and with the burn ban in place, we couldn't have a campfire.  Well, right at dark an armadillo decided to make a trip all the way around our campsite...what a ruckus!  Poor Griz about came unglued!  I got tired of him freakin' so grab the pistol in one hand and the six-cell mag-lite in the other and head off to chase the dang thing outta camp.  Griz was VERY worried but refused to leave the truck...little weenie.

Home Sweet Camp

The night was absolutely gorgeous and I just love sleeping out under the stars, but the weather had other plans.  Just about midnight the wind started blowing and I could smell the rain so we had to move the party into the cab of the truck.  It was still awesome to listen to the fat raindrops hitting the roof of the truck and the lightening put on quite a show. 

The next morning we headed back out with the plan of starting at the trail with the rubs and choosing a good tree to put a stand in.  The wind started coming out of the east and it looked like the buck was traveling from east to west as all the rubs were on the northeast side of the trees.  When choosing a tree I tried to find one large enough that it wouldn't sway a whole lot in the wind.  I also wanted a tree that was straight and easy to climb, but that had some branches for cover.  Luckily the trail was in a fairly open floodplain so I wouldn't need to cut any shooting lanes.  I don't want anyone to come upon my spot and decide they like it as much as I do.  Unfortunately, the wind started changing directions so I don't know how this spot's gonna work but it's the best place I've found so far.  Only time will tell...

I settled on a couple of oak that was very straight about 15 yards from the trail.  I don't want to be right on the trail as the deer would see me, but don't want to be too far so that I can't get a shot.  A cedar also looked like it'd work and I liked it for the cover-scent properties and all the little branches sticking out that I could use for cover.  I plan to go back out with my stand to practice setting it up and will end up using the tree that is the easiest to get set up in and gives me the best shooting opportunities.

Once I settled on a tree I decided to follow the creek bed back to the east and do a little exploring.  The rain the night before gave me a great opportunity to see exactly what animals were moving at what time of day and what direction they were headed.  The creek had a perfect sandy bottom and the rain was right at midnight so I knew that all the tracks I was seeing were from early that morning.  I was able to figure out that all the deer tracks were headed north, which made sense as all the fresh tracks I'd seen from the night before were headed south.

I saw lots of coyote tracks and they were moving up and down the channel all along its length.  There were a few deer tracks and tons of pigs tracks and wallows.  This creek is perfect for pig hunting because the banks are really high.  If I ever want to come and hunt pigs I know just where to go...just sit up on one of those bluffs above water and wait.

I ended up hiking about three miles southeast down the creek channel before heading back north to camp.  Unfortunately I didn't see any critters that morning.  I thought for sure we would sneak up on something in the creek with as quiet as the rain made the leaves.  All we saw was a dead armadillo, though.  I was surprised to find some cow tracks down in the creek, too.  They were very fresh and at one point I could smell the cows, but never did get to see them.

Overall it was an awesome weekend.  When we got back to camp I dozed off in the shade in my zero-gravity chair.  Heading home was so hard but I was outta food and HUNGRY.  Can't wait to go back!

On the way back we stopped at Coffee Mill Lake to see if it was holding any water.  Griz loves to pose:
The wind was blowing like crazy from the south. 

Don't forget the binoculars in your pack!
You can never have too much water with you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stephenville Pig Hunt

August 20, 2011 I drove out to Paluxy, Tx to hunt pigs with Joel and a couple guys from TFF.  Joel said he'd been seeing tons of pigs in the creek bottom.  I hunted Saturday night and didn't see anything though there was a LOT of sign.  I was hunting at the top of a bluff and just before dark Saturday night a little raccoon popped right up over the edge.  He was only about 4 feet away and way surprised to see me there!  I tried to draw on him really slow, but he ran back down the bluff and as soon as he hit the water, he let me have it!  Don't think I've ever heard a coon make so much noise.

Sunday I hunted from 6 to 3.  It hit 107 degrees.  Only saw one pig on the other side of the creek and he was moving too fast to get a shot on.  Learned I'm WAY out of hunting shape.  Was really sore for a few days after from sitting still for so long.  Saw a couple of hummingbirds and one scared the crap outta me when it appeared outta nowhere right in front of my nose. 

Joel drove me around a couple of fields after picking me up from my stand and we found a lot of fresh pig sign down the creek from where we hunted.  It looks like the pigs had moved on. 

Lessons Learned:
Thermocells ROCK.  Used it at the first sign of skeeters.  As soon as I turned it on I never saw another bug.
Those neck scarves that you put in the cooler to soak up water work great too.  Saved my rear when it was above 100 Sunday.
Used coon urine on boots as cover scent.  Also, fresh earth clip-ons and spray.   Didn't see any deer but one busted me when I was leaving the stand Sunday. 

Well, here goes nothin'!

I'm starting this blog for two reasons: (1) to keep track of my hunting and fishing adventures so the little details don't escape, and (2) help any other women learning to hunt in Texas.  It's no secret that hunting is a traditionally male-dominated sport and learning to hunt can be a challenge even for them.  Being a woman just ads another challenge.  As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate women and the role that they play in each others' lives.  Growing up in western Pa, women were generally regarded as second-class citizens...good only for breeding and cooking.  We were a PITA to take anywhere and not worth taking the time to teach.  As I got out of that environment and experienced different parts of the country, I realized that not only are women NOT insignificant, they're an essential part of every person's or woman.  

The most influential moment in this "great awakening" was my introduction to the DIVAs.  This group of Texas women showed me that it's OK to love to hunt and fish and that you can look good doing it!  Before I met the DIVA's, like most folks my idea of a woman hunter went one of two ways...the chick easily mistaken for a man, complete with butch haircut and lip full of chew, or the wannabe pretty girl just out to find a boyfriend.  I'd never met anyone like myself...a woman with a deep passion for wildlife, the outdoors, shooting sports, and hunting, but who also appreciates a pedicure and a good Merlot.  But at my first DIVA meeting I met a room FULL of women who loved jewelery, camo handbags, facials, and shotguns!  Eurika!  And not only were they kindred spirits, they were committed to helping other women learn to become empowered by firearms.  They helped women find strength and self-worth by learning a typically male sport.  And not only did these women like to shoot, they shot WELL.  And they were proud of it.  My eyes were beginning to open.

Growing up in Pa most of my hunting opportunities were handed to me by male relatives.  I went along when I was allowed and didn't have much choice where or when I would go.  I jumped on every opportunity to be in the woods, and these early experiences instilled a deep passion and appreciation for the outdoors that I will always cherish, however as young people are want to do, I took my opportunities for granted.  Now after a 10-year hiatus from hunting I find myself in Texas, a state with very little public hunting opportunities.  No longer do I have the encyclopedic hunting experience of male relatives to draw on or acres of private land at my disposal.  I'm on my own, in a huge state, with unfamiliar game laws, new species, and new dangers.  I've never had to think about running into illegals or meth labs while hunting.   I've never had to look at a map and determine where I should place my stand.  I've never had to figure out how to get a large deer out of the woods on my own.  It's an intimidating prospect at best, but what worth doing isn't??? 

As I've started along this journey, I've learned a lot about myself and come to realize that women are so much more than baby factories.  I've finally realized that my relationships with women are what keep me sane.  I'm  not alone.  Men may come and go in our lives, but our girlfriends will always be there.  Not only are we sensitive and emotional and care for others, we can kick ass at the range, hail a flock of mallards, and pattern a trophy buck.  That's what makes women so powerful and special! 

I know I'll make mistakes on this new journey, but hopefully someone can learn from them and find the peace and happiness that I do from being in the woods. 

Happy Hunting!