So, you went on your first duck hunt and now you’re hooked? You watched the guide sweet talk those birds down out of the big sky to give you that opportunity to harvest your ducks. Now you would like to be a part of that. You want to be able to call ducks in also. With so many choices in the market, how do you pick out a call?
Choosing a Maker
There are several major duck call makers and they all make a good call. There are also a lot of individuals that make their own calls. Some of those are really good and some not so much. I would recommend starting out with a call from a reputable call maker; Echo, RNT, Hobo, Refuge and Elite are just a few proven duck calls on the market, although there are many more that are well known calls too.
Do I want a single or double reed?
A double reed is fairly easy to use. You can still get some realistic duck sounds with a double reed and it is a good call for beginners. A single reed is a little more difficult to obtain good tone. Once a caller can master a single reed, the caller will be able to make a larger range of duck sounds and be more versatile in their calling.
Now what material do I want my call made out of? The three typical choices are acrylic, wood and polycarbonate. A few factors go into choosing the material. One factor may be your pocketbook. Acrylic calls are usually the most expensive, wood calls coming in second in price and polycarbonate at the bottom of the price range.
The second factor is what kind of sound do you want from your call. Do you want volume or do you want a soft low sound? An acrylic call is typically going to produce a louder and sharper sound. Wood calls are softer and more mellow. A polycarbonate call falls in between. There are acrylic calls that are made to get the soft mellow sound that you can get from a wood call. The type of sound that you want is also determined in the terrain that you will be hunting. Will you be hunting in big open water or in the close quarters of timber? If you are hunting open water, you will probably want a call that has volume. In close quarters you will want a call that can get soft.
The third factor is how well are you going to care for your call? An acrylic call is very durable, and they hold up well to moisture. A wood call is going to absorb moisture and will swell. If you don’t keep up with your calls well or you’re going to be really rough on a call and have to replace it often, you may want to consider going with a polycarbonate. I highly recommend removing your insert from your barrel after every hunt and letting it air dry no matter which material you use, but this is especially important with a wood call.
No matter which call you pick out, there is all kinds of choices in colors. This will be your personal preference. You can even go to most call makers and they can create you, your own color combination to customize it and most will do personalized engraving as well.
I recommend trying different calls. Whether you try some of your friend’s calls or try them out at the counter at the store. If you don’t like the way it feels on your lips, it’s too hard to blow or you simply do not like the way it sounds, keep trying calls until you find one that will fit you.
As I prep and prepare for another opening morning. I can’t help but reflect and feel what hunting means to me.
From a young age, I remember my brother and dad hunting.
When it came to my turn for my dad to ask me if it was something I wanted to do, I remember it so vividly.
I had taken my hunter safety course the spring before in second grade. I remember my dad asking me and then going to school the following weeks reflecting on if I wanted to do it or not. I talked to my teachers about it and told them I had a conscience. Where I came up with the whole idea of a conscience I haven’t a clue.
The morning of youth season and my dad called for my brother to wake up to head to the hunting lease. My dad then called my name, and I was already laying awake in anticipation of what I should do next. None of my friends had hunted or even talked about it or went.
I went down in my brother’s hand-me-down camo where my mom was so sweet enough to have a special thermos full of hot chocolate for me ready to go. I still remember those feelings as core memories for life.
I killed my first deer with a slug in my single action 20-gauge break action. The feeling of walking up on that animal for the first time was a rush of emotions I felt. I will never forget eating the jerky of my first deer kill the way it made me feel seeing everything come full circle. From then on, I was hooked. Now, nearing my thirties I can’t help but shed some happy emotional tears as I gear up for this year’s season. My dad is getting older and helps me manage and get my stands hung the best he can.
At this point in life, I have hunted for so long I would consider myself a seasoned deer hunter. And it all stems from that little girl that was lucky enough for a door of opportunity. I had no idea what this life had in store for me. Things have changed and it’s bittersweet. My dad doesn’t go on my hunts, he’s not there to see every kill. He’s not at the bottom of the stairs waking me up before the morning’s hunt. Time changes everything but makes you reflect on where you came from.
I now eagerly take off work for this time of year. It’s amazing the memories hunting can provide.
Hunting has brought me so many connections and opportunities that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. It’s crazy what one decision in the second grade has given me. I have so many friends made from our love of hunting and our get-togethers involve going on hunting and fishing trips. It is so much more than killing something.
I am looking forward to the day when I wake my son up before daylight and have his thermos full of hot chocolate ready for his first hunt. I can’t wait to carry on traditions to my son through the gift of the outdoors and the open morning feels.
Alright, not really, but that is definitely how our trip seemed to be going when we saddled up and took off up the trail in a remote part of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Eight ladies, from all regions of the United States, all walks of life, and of all ages gathered together in Cody, Wyoming. We were taking part in the annual Sisterhood of the Outdoors Summer Pack Trip – a sold-out experience with Boulder Basin Outfitters in the remote Wyoming wilderness. We drove the scenic route from Cody through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where we finally met up with our guides just east of Moran Junction. After watching the grueling process of getting all 21 of our horses and mules saddled and packed, we were ready. The sun was out, we had a great lunch, we were pumped.
Off we went, 10 riding horses and 11 pack horses and mules. Let’s face it, we’re women, even in the remote wilderness we seemed to have a ton of stuff. Two of our guides led strings of pack animals, woven together with piggin’ strings that would break loose should one of the horses or mules fall. We were quite the train headed up the hill to our first true mountain riding experience. All was good – we were comfortable, laughing and chatting along the way. When Alexis said, “get your cameras ready,” my heart jumped. That could mean two things: a breathtaking view OR a crazy cliff. It was the latter. After cresting the first true incline on the trail, we were faced with a very narrow trail on the edge of an incredibly steep, scree-covered drop. We’re talking a 1,500+ ft drop. Shocked and now full of adrenaline, I knew that trusting our horses was the only option. I have been around horses enough to know that they don’t want to fall off that ledge any more than we do, so I readjusted in my saddle and followed the horse in front of me. It. Was. Terrifying. But, in a matter of seconds, which seemed like hours, we were across. And off on the rest of our trek…. now in a communal silence.
After the death-defying cliff crossing, I thought we would surely get right back to the chipper vibe we left with. And then it started to rain. Not just a light rain. A heavy, constant, cold rain that blurred your ability to see ahead and soaked the trail in thick, dark mud. All was good – we could deal with some rain. We brought rain gear but getting it out of our packs and saddlebags was a bit of a maneuver, especially on the narrow trails. No big deal, right? Wrong. After riding in the rain for an hour, I was finally able to get my raincoat out of my saddle bag and wrapped around me and my backpack. My jeans were so soaked that putting on rain pants wasn’t worth it at that point. But all was good, we were still on our way.
It rained on us for three solid hours. While there was minimal lightning, the rain was constant, soaking into our gear, saddles, clothes, and boots. Even with rain gear on, we were completely drenched all the way through our layers. On top of the rain, the temperature was also dropping, leaving us with frozen hands and toes that barely functioned to give our horses any direction as they climbed up the rock and mud-covered pathway, slipping and sliding along the way. When we finally settled into a valley and saw tents in the distance, I think we all could have cried tears of joy!
We finally arrived at camp. It seemed like we had taken on an entire adventure just getting there. And once we slid off our horses, frozen and soaked, we also realized that camp was equally wet. Our tents, while waterproof, had allowed water to seep in around the flaps, leaving it standing on the floor. The fly was set up and ready to go, but nearly every inch under it was a sloppy mess. Our guides were quick to get a fire going and we unloaded all our gear as quickly as possible. We huddled around the fire and barely moved or spoke, taking in the warmth and allowing our bodies to thaw. After changing into semi-dry clothes and warming our bellies with hearty chili, it was time to put the day to rest. And by rest, I mean a bone-chilling, shivering night curled up in a ball on a cot with frozen toes. What had we gotten ourselves into?
Morning, however, was a different story. While it rained all night long, we were awakened to the soft ringing of bells, as our horses, who were turned out overnight, slowly moved throughout the valley, grazing as they pleased. It was a much-welcome clear day with sun warming our faces and coffee warming our bodies. The fire was going once again, and the smell of bacon wafted through the air. We enjoyed our breakfast, drank campfire coffee, and chatted away. Once we had unfolded from our frigid night, we enjoyed the sunshine and set up our Orvis poles to fly fish that afternoon. I was oh-so-sore – a recent back injury, combined with an awkward riding position and a night of tossing and turning in the cold had me in rough shape. Fortunately, it was nothing that a nature, sunshine, and a good nap couldn’t fix!
We fished the afternoon away along the north fork of the Buffalo River; everyone was in much better spirits. There’s just something about being along the water, basking in the sunshine, with mountains surrounding you that helps everything fall away. I napped along the riverbank, stretching out in the sun, and getting some much-needed relief from the aches and pains. Ladies were sprinkled about the river, casting, and reeling, with line arcing against the blue sky, the sound soothing to the soul.
Our guides were a dynamic trio of authentic cowboys and a fascinating cowgirl of so many talents from Kodiak, Alaska. They were the epitome of hospitality, tending to all our needs, providing exceptional food, fishing, and camaraderie. Most interesting, was the young woman, named Etta, who was somewhat of a vagabond from Alaska by way of Oklahoma and North Dakota. From cooking to climbing, wrangling to singing, she was the true “Jane of All Trades”. It was so much fun getting to know her and her dog, “Dog”, hearing their stories and watching their bond. While she led a life that was so different from ours, we were still all women, all searching for peace, all sharing the same fireside fellowship.
It was all up from there – each night we enjoyed warm meals by the fire, sweet Tang (which I had no idea was even made anymore), laughter and sisterhood – exactly what we had come for. The slow pace of the following day was much like the previous – breakfast and lunch, followed by a long afternoon spent on the water. Wading in the cold, smooth water, was both refreshing and soothing. Not many fish were caught – one giant CutBow (Rainbow, Cutthroat hybrid) was snagged by Alexis, which quite the prize. While we were there to fish, we were there more to escape. To take in all the nature had to offer away from the bustle – no cell phones, no internet, no amenities. It was beautiful.
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up. I’ll admit, I was eager to see my family, but I was also in no hurry to leave the peace and serenity that this mountain valley had to offer. After watching the amazing game of Tetris that our wonderful guides played to get all of camp packed and loaded, we set out again. This time headed back to all that we had left.
The ride out was much better than the ride in. The warm sun guided our way, with everyone in much better spirits. We reflected on our time together, time making new friends, time spent in the great outdoors, and the sisterhood that we had found. All because of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. All because we dared to step out of our comfort zone, to join a group of ladies we didn’t know, in a new place, to do something hard. Together. And for that, I am so thankful, so grateful, and so blessed.
Bowhunting is one on the most rewarding methods of hunting. It’s personal and connected to nature to get your food. What is more satisfying than the experience of the personal perseverance and patients that comes with a kill via bow?
I started my archery career early in life and then on to bowhunting as a teen. Now it’s something I will stick with until my body physically can’t anymore. It’s something I take very seriously and love sharing my knowledge to the people in the outdoor world. Here is a list tips that have helped me along in my 20 years of archery. Just tips from another person might influence or help you see archery from another point of view.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
First and foremost, it takes time to learn something new or to build up skills of archery. It is nearly ALL MENTAL. Be supportive of yourself even in bad shots. My dad would always say, “One arrow at a time, sis.” That is a phrase that has stuck with me my whole life, so much so that I have it tattooed on my body. If the first arrow was bad, be kind and make the second count. While in bowhunting that isn’t always the solution but be kind to yourself while practicing so you can gain the confidence bowhunting and drawing back on an animal.
2. You Can’t Purchase Precision
Like a firearm you can mostly upgrade and buy some accuracy. When it comes to bowhunting, someone with a $500 set up can contend or be better than someone with a set up that was thousands of dollars. It’s more about skill set and practicing than it is your equipment.
3. Fit Your Equipment
Make sure you are fitting your bow. I know it is easy to get a bow hand me down, but fitting your equipment is key. Especially your release, a shorter release helps with trigger punching. A wrist release should be a snug length and no extra length to slap the trigger. It should be a smooth steady machine by the time of being a seasoned bow hunter. Having a trusted pro shop help you fit all your equipment is worth the time.
Making sure your shots are all even, and by that, I mean insuring you are a well-oiled machine every shot. Push, pull and anchor. That is something I think before every shot I put through my bow. Having the same anchor point each shot is something I cannot stress enough. Anchoring and remembering the contact points to make sure you consistently find the same anchor point.
The placement of your hand is key in consistent shots. It should be a relaxed, floating grip. Gripping the bow too tight allows for too much control. Even the slightest grip being off can allow for error in shots. If you think about it the only direct contact with your bow is your grip. Your bow will not go anywhere there is no sense in having a death drip on the bow. It should be effortless and almost float in your hand.
6. Follow Through
Following through after each arrow is a main component. DO NOT DROP YOUR ARM. After each shot, I stand tall and keep everything in place after knowing the arrow has made connection with the target or animal that it was intended for.
Something I have noticed that has changed my bowhunting game has been the speed of my bow. Growing older and lifting in the gym and gaining muscle I have been fortunate enough to have my bow cranked for the highest poundage it can go. This has made me shoot flatter and more accurate. Hitting the gym or doing exercises that build back muscles can help your bowhunting experience. I have shot for many years and it has helped my confidence in my archery game. But just know you don’t have to do all that to bow hunt. The legal draw weight is perfectly acceptable.
8. Go Long & Dark
One of the best things I have found that have helped me whether the archery range or tree stand would be practicing at a further distance. I shoot 50 and 40 yards constantly. This makes the 20- and 30-yard shots seem like cake. Again, it’s all about where you are in your bowhunting journey but pushing yourself with these tips can be beneficial to your overall experience. Also, when prepping for hunting season sometimes it is beneficial to be outside practicing at legal shoot light, it isn’t always perfectly bright out when that monster buck steps out in front of you. Prepping for all aspects of the hunt and visualizing all scenarios will help you mentally.
Archery is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. I could go on forever in talking about archery and bowhunting. But something to remember is that it is a mental game and you are the one using that weapon method, it’s relying on your body and brain to do all the movements to secure that animal you are after. Whether you are at an archery tournament or in a tree stand with your bow, treat it with the same mentality of being that well-oiled machine. Your brain is what powers the bow essentially and if you have spent so much time and money prepping your bowhunting journey, do not forget to make sure you are tuned in mentally for each shot. Practicing year round and not just two weeks before season will totally change your confidence in bowhunting.
Long hunts and time spent afield can take a toll on your feet and ankles
As brightly colored leaves dazzle the fall landscape, hunters nationwide will migrate to mountains, woods, and fields. Unfortunately, many are ill prepared for the beating their feet will take.
Hunters, and others who love the outdoors, often don’t realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walking on uneven terrain. Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate footwear lead to many patients being seen in the office every fall for foot and ankle problems such as sprains, fractures, heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, and even infections from severe blisters. Hiking steep hillsides, climbing into tree stands, or stalking through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas puts stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, especially if you haven’t conditioned properly before getting out into the field.
How to Choose the Right Boot for You
1. Select High-Quality Boots
Strong, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks. These boots offer excellent ankle and foot support that helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk. The supportive shank or insole decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. If a boot folds in half in the middle, don’t buy it, you’ll regret it later.
2. Consider the Activity
Heavy PAC boots with thick insulation are best for people with naturally cold feet, those who trudge often in deep snow, or those who spend a lot of time motionless in the cold. My recommendation: Baffin Chloe Pac Boot
Lightly insulated boots with a snugger fit and full lacing are best for people whose activities involve lots of walking or outdoor work. My recommendation: Danner Women’s Wayfinder
Chances are, one type of boot is not going to work for every outdoor activity, and you’re eventually going to want a few different pairs to effectively cover all your needs. If you can only afford one pair now, get the style you’ll use more first, and buy another pair later.
3. Socks are Equally Important
In the wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, infections, and frostbite. I recommend synthetic socks as the first layer to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction. For the second layer, wool socks add warmth, absorb moisture away from the skin, and help make the hiking boot more comfortable. Wool lets moisture evaporate more readily than cotton, so fewer blisters develop.
What happens if your feet or ankles hurt while you’re out in the field?
Pain usually occurs from overuse, even from just walking. If you’re not accustomed to walking for long period of time, or on sloped or uneven ground, your feet and legs will tire, causing muscles to compensate and increasing the possibility of injury. To help prevent a serious injury, like a tendon rupture or severe sprain it’s important to stop and rest if you begin to have pain. Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. The risk of injury escalates significantly if you ignore the warning signs.
Evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is recommended if there is persistent pain following a hunting outing. Inattention to problems at their early stages may lead to a serious injury that will keep you stuck at home and out of the field for a long time.
Hunting for me is not all about the harvest. It is about the tiny details that complete the story, leaving memories etched in my mind. It is the Wyoming sunrise, the warm wind, the smell of the sagebrush, and the inner peace and happiness I find while hunting. As an outfitter and guide I want to share that feeling with everyone that hunts with me, hoping they leave Wyoming with unexpected friendships and life changing experiences. Every hunt I guide has a special meaning and special memories, I could never choose a favorite, but this hunt for me was life changing. I hope as I tell my story you feel it too.
Hunter #1: My daughter & I anxiously arrive at the airport, and as we are walking in, she is walking out. A tiny Sicilian lady carrying only a bow case, walking with a cane, and an eye patch graciously covering one eye. AnnaMaria Cardinalli or “CC” from New Mexico is one of the most amazing ladies I have ever met. I am grateful for her service for our freedom, I am grateful for the life lessons she taught me, and I am grateful for her friendship.
Hunter #2: I meet Shelley Heide at the hotel. She is from Wyoming, so our connection is fast, and I know instantly she is an amazing lady. Her strength, perseverance, and humbleness will forever touch my heart. Her accomplishments are beyond measure. She is quiet, sweet, and one of the strongest people I know. Her service to our country makes me humbled and her friendship treasured.
The Mentors: Lanny & Tracey Barnes, or “our Olympians”. We were all a bit star struck, uncertain and nervous to meet them. That lasted only minutes, as these two incredible ladies put us all at ease as they shared stories and we all found our passion, appreciation and excitement for this hunt was equal. If you ever have a chance in your life to cross paths with either one of these ladies, don’t pass it up.
Our hunt is memorable, emotional, full of tiny details, and huge accomplishments. It would take a book and a true storyteller (hint hint Tracey Barnes) to share it all, but I am going to tell story the best I can. We made blind adjustments, it was cold, and it was hot. The hunts were fast, and they were slow. Shelley filled her first archery antelope tag early on day 1 of the hunt. Her hunt is new friends, old blue Chevy trucks, and smiles from ear to ear. Her hunt is overcoming obstacles and believing she can with her Olympian by her side. Shelley’s hunt for me is about watching a lady trust strangers and overcome so many fears I can never understand, and don’t believe I deserve to. I am so proud of her and the high fives and hugs after her harvest are forever etched in my mind. We shared stories and tears, sometimes when words were not even spoken, we laughed as does walked toward us when CC was hunting, we gave words new meanings (pineapple), and we bonded and I am honored to be in her life.
This is CC’s first hunt ever. She is wanting to learn how to hunt to help feed the homeless in her hometown. CC’s hunt ended successfully after a day and half of hunting. CC hunted with a traditional bow, in a makeshift blind shooting out the door. Her hunt was learning to adjust, horse’s noses, big bucks when you have a doe tag and a mouth full of dots. It was a cheering section from afar, lunch in the truck full of laughter, little screaming sparrows, recovery, smiles, tears, and her Olympian by her side. She is tough and so incredible. As we packed out her antelope in the hot sun, the comradery, laughter, and the smell of the sagebrush filled the air. Friendships and sisterhoods were made with 4 of the most incredible people in the world.
I know this hunt brought aspects to healing to both ladies. They both shared their stories, and their gratitude to myself, Lanny, and Tracey for the hunt, but I believe it is the three of us that owe a world of gratitude to Shelley and CC. My life is changed because of the moments we all shared and because as CC said, “I didn’t know it was actually possible to trust and depend on strangers so quickly.” I guess we all share that thought now and it makes life a bit easier.
Thank you, Anthony, Clay, and Freedom Hunters, for providing opportunities to our heroes and allowing me to touch their lives.
Thank you, Amy Ray for the Sisterhood of the Outdoors, that I get to share with amazing people.
Thank you, Lanny & Tracey, for your knowledge, support, and your hearts of gold. I could not have done this without you.
Thank you, Jeff, and Samantha, for, well, everything you do to support me.
Thank you, Shelley & CC, for your service. You are my warriors and my heroes.
For ten years we have been staying true to our mission: to create opportunities for women to hunt, shoot and fish. Many of our guests ask the question, “If I have no experience, should I go on one of your trips?” The answer is always a resounding YES! We have a field staff member that hosts each of our events and we are committed to sharing our experience with everyone. We pride ourselves on being open to all women no matter your age or level of experience.
In a time in our country where we seem to be more divided than together it is so important to build on what we have in common. Regardless of your race, sexual orientation, age, or level of experience you are welcome to hunt with Sisterhood Outdoors. It is my goal to strive to make everyone feel welcome. Our team is one of the most diverse teams in the industry. We come from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences – that is what makes us stronger together. I love the fact that we can pull up to a lodge or event and know that we are about to share the experience of the outdoors. The people we meet are the reason we do what we do. Having friends from around the country that share their lives with me only enriches mine. It may look like we are just hunting but there is so much more to it than that. We do not care how you take your game or what size you harvest. We only care that we got to experience it along with you.
My favorite part of hosting events is meeting others who love the outdoors or want to learn. It takes courage to head out on your own to meet new friends and try something new. Courage always comes easier when you are part of a group. Many times, even I have felt the butterflies and anxiety when I head out to host a new group. The best part about meeting others is learning their perspective and life experiences. You never know what someone is going through or when someone needs encouragement. I am always happy to share my experience with others and I keep in mind that we have one thing in common to build on: the love of the outdoors.
My life is richer for having met each person and shared personal experiences of joy, hardship, and disappointment along the way. At Sisterhood Outdoors we believe you must give it away to keep it. I have shared hunting camps with some amazing women over the years. I must believe I made an impact on the recruitment, retention, and reintroduction of many hunters along this journey. I know for sure my list of hunting friends is a long one and they are from all walks of life. There is something so special about sitting around the campfire at the end of long hard day hunting or sharing a duck blind or even stalking game all day on a mountain with likeminded women.
I want to encourage you to invite someone different than you, or someone less experienced than you to hunting, fishing, or shooting. We cannot afford to miss an opportunity to unite doing what we love. The one thing we have in common is time, and there is not enough of it. If fear is what is keeping you from joining a group of women in the outdoors do not let it! FEAR is just “False Events Appearing Real”. Do not be afraid of failure, or of the unknown, or of rejection. We promise at Sisterhood Outdoors everyone is welcome, and we will support you all the way. My years of meeting total strangers in the outdoors has boosted my own confidence. My circle of friends is always growing, and it is very enriching. The standards we uphold to create fun safe events are high and number one on the list is “everyone is welcome”. There are no dumb questions, we will answer anything you need. I encourage you to reach out to us if you are hesitant to learn a new skill or want to book an event and are unsure what to expect. Let us take time to get to know each other and share our love of the outdoors.
Need some tips on getting things in order for fall? Here are some great tips from Pro-Staffer, Jaimie Robinson to help you be as prepared as possible.
If you are like me, there really is no off season. I try to work on my skills, actively hunt or fish all year. Here are a few tips for how I maintain my lifestyle and keep myself ready for the hunt. Planning, organizing & packing are all crucial steps to making sure you are prepared for your next outdoor adventure!
Organizing at Home
On my first group hunt, one of my hunting companions had his all his gear in a bin. He simply threw his bins and bow case in the back of the truck and was ready to go. Compared to my multiple bags, this seemed like the way to go and now I organize all my gear this way. I have a clothes bin or bag that all my commonly used clothes go in after washing and bins for each specific use like upland, backcountry, and tree stand or blind hunting. That way when I am invited or go on one of those hunts, I can just throw my bin in the car (after I recheck it) and be good to go.
Gear for the Hunt
Over time, I have figured out that having a bag for each pursuit. While I know this is not economical for everyone, I suggest if you can only have on bag for all hunts, choose something that has many pockets or storage pouches. I used the Kifaru Antero pack for everything from fishing to tree stand deer hunting.
We all have different requirements as we go in the field, but here are some basics for each season I use:
Whitetail Tree Stand
Grunt and/or Rattles
The only time most do not recommend binoculars is in the tree stand so I left it off. I personally like to have the opportunity to look around and binoculars can help you. I always carry a backpack or blind bag, even if I am shedding layers for a close stalk, choice of bag is its own topic.
I use Kifaru Ultralight Pullouts to keep myself organized. I use one to keep all of the things I must have for all hunts in, it has an extra knife, headlamp, my InReach, handwarmers, allen wrenches, extra packets of nuts, rehydration packets to add to water, and face paint. Depending on the season, I keep an extra bow release, bow wax, and extra calls here as well. For hunting, I depend on a good pair of knee-high boots and a good pair of hiking boots.
Shooting sports is my method of relaxation so I use my weapons all year long. If that is not your lifestyle there are a few things you need to do to prepare your weapon in the weeks before you hunt. The most important is making sure your bow is tuned and that your gun or bow is sighted in. There is nothing worse, both ethically and emotionally, than having your weapon fail when you have done all the hunting part correctly. The second most important is making sure you have enough and appropriate ammunition for the game you are hunting.
The Night Before
Even though I have a system in place to keep myself on track, I always recheck my bags the night before. You never know if you took your headlamp out to do something the night before and it landed in your pocket instead of your bag. You don’t want to be the one that everyone is waiting on because you are not prepared.
It is no secret that dogs have been an integral part of the outdoor industry throughout all of history. While hunting dogs are quite common, whether you are chasing bobwhite quail across the plains or lions in the mountain regions, bonds between women and their four-legged counterparts are a force to be reckoned with.
The Sisterhood of the Outdoors strives to introduce all women to a place in the outdoors that they can enjoy. Whether that is hiking or hunting; foraging or fishing, all women can find their niche in the outdoor space and develop friendships with like-minded women who share their passions. Here we focus on five women who have developed special bonds with their four-legged hunting partners. These are their stories.
Kaitlin Bowen – New Jersey
Three years ago, after a couple’s duck hunt in Tennessee with the Sisterhood of the Outdoors, my husband and I drove five hours north to Illinois to pick up our very first hunting dog, Ollie. We drove 20 hours back home to New Jersey without any issues. Right away we had him fetching up birds and working on commands. Now he is making us proud with every hunt; last year he retrieved almost 300 ducks and geese and he got his first bands! Without him we would have never found one banded mallard he came running out of the brush with!
“Hunting over a dog is the best part of the entire hunting experience.”
– Kaitlin Bowen, Sisterhood of the Outdoors Pro Staff
Jaimie Robinson – Colorado
This past fall, I got the opportunity to hunt with Browning, he is an English pointer. For a dog, he is ancient, coming in somewhere between 14 and 16. For the 3 years prior to meeting me, he had sat on the couch at home, living out his retirement. Then we went public land, walk-in hunting in Colorado. I was hooked, he found 8 pheasants that first day and we learned that he is tone deaf. Browning was trained as a puppy at Valhalla Hunt Club and Kennels and shortly after his owner did not want him anymore. This is a sad reality for many dogs that are not dominant. Lucky for Browning, he was adopted by someone who took him all the time and was able to showcase his amazing talent for many years, then there was less time for hunting.
Luckily for Browning, I live for the hunt as does he. He hunts my parks and back yard every day, just hoping to find something to chase. After that first hunt, Browning really became my hunting dog.
I started taking him out to a SWA once a week, just us, so that we could learn to communicate and perhaps I could figure out the upland hunting mystery. He knows when he gets in my car that it is hunting time and he is always ready to go. Browning knows his hearing limitations and other than once when he chased a pheasant very far, he turns an looks to me after he is about 100 yards away, he follows hand signals and he taught me how to tell him how to come. The best part of an English pointer is their long tail, even if he disappears in the tall grass, I can still see his big tail wagging. To keep up the skills I learned this season we have joined a pheasant club so that we can both practice and keep our skills sharp. I am always amazed by what this boy can do. I am blessed to be able to make him happy in his last hunting years.
Havely Holt – Wyoming
As an adult onset hunter, I’m getting a late start at 42; but, there’s no better time than the present! I spent hours researching different breeds and believe I landed on the best kept secret in the world of hunting dogs: the Český Fousek. I decided on my little lady, Liberty, because she met every requirement I had for a gun dog. This versatile pup covers waterfowl, upland, small game, blood tracking and shed hunting. If she doesn’t age me during the puppy stage, she will certainly help keep me young with all the fun we will have together!
I am excited to have a friend in the field, but at only 12 weeks old, we are currently working on manners. She has learned the commands of off, woah and leave it. She is a pro at manding and is retrieving a puppy sized dummy in shallow water. Berty is easily distracted, as are most pups her age…but watching her nose to the ground intensity during our adventures, and the way she methodically glances back at me, I know she is going to be so much fun. I can already envision her little white tail flashing through the tall grass on a golden Wyoming afternoon. She stops to survey the terrain ahead and makes a game plan on how she wants to hunt the field. She looks back at me with those eyes that seem to say, “it’s go time!” And with that, she’s off. Yep, little Berty and I are going to make a great team…. just wait and see. (see Havely’s full story here)
My passion for upland bird hunting started 8 years ago with my bird dog Belle. My husband and I had just bought our first house, and as the saying goes “every house needs a dog” (or five). I got lucky one night and hit the jackpot on pull tabs. The very next day I put my deposit down on my very own gun dog. Being newer to bird hunting, and having a English Pointer puppy, you could say we definitely learned from, and trained eachother, along with the help from a great trainer and amazing friends. We quickly became a great team out in the field, and on the couch too! It is safe to say I won more than the jackpot when I brought Belle home. There is no greater bond than a girl and her gun dog.
Lindsey Bodamer – Kansas
I grew up in a family of outdoorsmen who primarily hunted whitetail deer and turkey. When I met my husband, my eyes were opened to the world of hunting with dogs and I’ll never not have one!
Together we own and operate Bradley Retrievers, a competitive retriever and gundog training facility in the Kansas City area. We have five dogs (who all hunt) of our own and have anywhere from 6-14 dogs in for the training season. Life without dogs just doesn’t exist for us!
I have two particularly fond memories hunting with dogs:
The first is from a waterfowl hunt a few years back over New Years. It was a family hunt with my father, brothers and some brother-like friends. This was a no-frills hunt; propped up against trees next to a pond with two dogs who also happened to be full brothers. The hunting wasn’t great, but getting spend a beautiful, crisp, Kansas morning with family, friends and dogs was priceless!
The second memory was from my 30th birthday. We took a long road trip through six states and saw so many amazing locations. For my actual birthday, we spend the morning in a marshy pond in Northwestern Montana. Ducks were few, but the scenery and wildlife more than made up for it. That afternoon, we traded our waders for boots and chaps, and headed out to hunt for Hungarian Partridge. As any wild bird hunter knows, hunts rarely consist of a short walk and limits. This hunt was no different in that aspect, but it was different in that I shot my first hun! It was a beautiful sight as our old shorthair pointed, our young shorthair honored and our lab moseyed in for the flush – PICTURE PERFECT. Bird was down and retrieved, and I was beyond content with our small bounty and some awesome dog work.
When I started hunting, I spent the first several years hiking with my bow. I went to a spot that looked promising and sat somewhere for a few hours or basically hiked around all day. Then I started following a few prominent hunters on social media who spent their summers scouting. This seemed like a lot of work (and it can be) but I figured if I wanted to be successful, I needed to emulate their behaviors.
A few years ago, I did just that and it has changed my hunting life. There are several benefits of scouting and they are not limited to these – you will know your territory well, you should have an idea or pattern to the animals and you will have several backup spots.
Knowing Your Spot
As a solo hunter this is especially important. You need to be comfortable with knowing where you want to be and how to get there (and back) in the dark. The benefit of having a plan and being comfortable in the place you are hunting cannot be beat. The more time you spend in your spot, or spots, you will less likely spend time feeling unsure of either where you are or if this is the best spot to sit and hide if you are waiting for an ambush or want to sit and glass.
Patterning and/or Locating Animals
Every shot opportunity or near opportunity I have had since I started scouting, I have had is due to this. Having put boots on the ground or glass to the hills has helped me find some excellent spots to wait for animals. Find a good trail and follow it, it will help you find gathering or turning points that will be great spots to sit and wait when season comes. Even though we cannot change what happens when other hunters come to the forest, we can be ready in the spots they have been and likely will be, at least for the first few days of the season. Last summer, I drove down this horrible road and glassed every peak, one day I found this with my spotter.
After I climbed this mountain, I was able to find a wallow and many great trails that gave me lots of action throughout the elk season. If I had not spent my time scouting, I would have never found this bachelor group.
Back Up Spots
One of the best parts of spending the summer scouting is that you can skim or explore a few places to see if animals are there and what they are doing. That way if your super-secret spot is not so secret come opening day, you will have other options. I had a meadow that I got literally more than a thousand pictures of every two weeks and I was saving it for last, but apparently that was the spot and I got dozens of hunters on my trail cameras in the first week of hunting. I was able to move to a spot that I had found by hiking and was still able to call elk and have others pass me because I had back up spots.
When you get to season the first year of scouting, you may be disappointed as inevitably it will change if it is public land and it is not just you in the woods, but the hours or days or months of scouting and putting the time in will always pay off in terms of being prepared for what might happen and having a better idea of where you should go.