The Sisterhood of the Outdoors (SOTO), a woman-owned company offering guided hunting and fishing trips to women all over the United States, has joined with freelance marketing partner, Lindsey Bodamer, of Leavenworth, Kansas. Lindsey will be offering social media, press, marketing, and administrative strategy to SOTO. SOTO looks forward to utilizing Lindsey to further their marketing efforts, partner with new companies and organizations, expand their outreach, and promote women’s hunting and fishing on a growing scale.
Lindsey has an extensive career in business operations, including project management, marketing, social media management, and business administration. She and her husband, Scott, reside in the Kansas City area where they own and operate Bradley Retrievers, LLC. Both are heavily involved in the outdoor industry and strive to support hunting, wildlife, and conservation traditions for all.
If you would like more details on The Sisterhood of the Outdoors trips, memberships or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amy Ray, President at 706-847-6338 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chatsworth, GA (June 11, 2019) – The Sisterhood of the Outdoors (SOTO), a woman-owned company offering guided hunting and fishing trips to women all over the United States, partnered with Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters in February to host a Nebraska goose hunt benefitting Shooting Sports for Cancer, Inc. and breast cancer research. The hunt, guided by Cheyenne Ridge’s professional guides and retrievers along the famous North Platte River, was 100% donated by Cheyenne Ridge as a fundraiser for the cause. Writer, Jodi Stemler, and photographer, Tess Rousey, documented the hunt in an outstanding article released in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Sporting Classics magazine.
Women from all over the United States flew in to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime hunt, which included the opportunity to handle and shoot the XLR5 Women’s Waterfowl shotgun, exclusive to Syren USA. SITKA Gear also provided select pieces from their new women’s waterfowl line to test in the elements. First-class hospitality and lodging were provided, all courtesy of Cheyenne Ridge and their General Manager, Sean Finley, of High Adventure Company.
President of SOTO, Amy Ray, reflected on the hunt, “Our Sisterhood hunts are never about the kill. When we tag out or fill a limit, we all celebrate, but that’s not the point. Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for women to get out hunting with other women – We can all try something new, or simply realize what it’s like to share our passion for the outdoors with other women.”
About Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters
Cheyenne Ridge Outfitters owns and operates two, world-class hunting lodges – the Signature Lodge in Pierre, South Dakota; and the North Platte Outpost in Minatare, Nebraska. Both lodges are part of the elite Beretta Trident program, with the North Platte Outpost being the only Beretta Trident waterfowl lodge in the world. Sean Finley, of the High Adventure Company, serves as the General Manager and Executive Chef for both lodges, where exquisite cuisine and exceptional hunting are offered to guests from around the world.
About Shooting Sports for Cancer, Inc.
Shooting Sports for Cancer, Inc. is a 501(c) non-profit started by Carmen Neil who is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Carmen is best known, perhaps, for the Ta Ta Bang! Bang! Sporting clay event held in Georgia each year. Funds for the goose hunt were raised by women who “paid to play” on the North Platte river for two beautiful winter mornings. The funds were then given from Shooting Sports for Cancer, Inc. to the Regional West Breast Health Center in nearby Scottsbluff, Nebraska, which services predominantly rural communities within a 100-mile radius. Those funds went specifically towards 3D Tomography technology that the Health Center was able to begin offering in March.
About Sporting Classics
Sporting Classics magazine was established in 1981 and is considered one of the leading industry magazines for world class hunting and fishing. Each of the eight (8) yearly issues is written for active sportsmen who love to read about all things outdoors: guns, knives, adventures, art, dogs, collectibles, along with biographies of talented writers, craftsmen, painters and sculptors, who make these great things possible. For more information about Sporting Classics magazine or to subscribe, visit www.sportingclassics.com.
If you would like more details on The Sisterhood of the Outdoors hunting trips, memberships or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amy Ray, President at 706-847-6338 or email her at email@example.com.
What happened on an Arkansas goose hunt – a conservation light goose hunt, to be exact – does not stay in Arkansas. We had way too much fun for that, with The Sisterhood of the Outdoors earlier in March.
Sponsored by Fiocchi
What is a conservation light goose hunt, you might ask? Here’s how the Sisterhood described it: “Join us for an open bag light goose hunt during the annual conservation season in famed Arkansas. Why the unlimited harvest? Light (snow, blue & Ross) geese are in such h
igh numbers that they are actually destroying their own breeding grounds in the Arctic Tundra.”
As it turns out, you don’t even need a “duck stamp,” or a waterfowl permit for Arkansas to hunt here for these birds. You just need to prove that you have a hunting permit from any state, and file that with Arkansas Game & Fish. With the cost of waterfowl hunts with outfitters in the duck capital of the world, that eases the cost somewhat.
What Happened on an Arkansas Goose Hunt
The tale of my first-ever conservation order Arkansas goose hunt started when I picked up TeamWON member Jen Barcklay at the airport. She had decided that she, too, wanted to discover what lie ahead in the world of wild geese.
We packed out my Subaru with three shotguns (along with our own two concealed carry guns and we added a truck gun for good measure), our case of Fiocchi ammunition, camo, boots, suitcases, pillows (we’re getting old and we like our own pillows), snacks and other accoutrements.
We headed east then south, out of the Missouri Ozarks, through the Arkansas Ozarks and down to the rice fields of Arkansas near Moro.
After arrival at On the Deck Outfitters, and having met our roommates, we enjoyed a taco bar dinner and then, heard the news. The morning alarm needed to be set for … 3 a.m. Yikes. The geese had been spotted flying about an hour away. It would be cold. It would be damp. It could be wonderful.
According to the women who have hunted with the Sisterhood of the Outdoors before this trip, DOTS (you know, those gooey gummy candies in a box and found at most convenience stores) are the go-to good luck charm for success while hunting. After situating ourselves into lay-out blinds, we each took a few DOTS for good luck. Then, we waited as hundreds of goose decoys, along with electronic goose calls honking away, lured some geese down toward us. We waited until we heard the command, “Shoot ‘em!” Then, up we popped, out of our boxes and 20 of us fired into the flock above us and in front of us.
All in all, we picked up six geese on that first day. Does that mean we all shot at the same ones? Some of us thought maybe so. Does it mean our shooting left something to be desired? Quite possibly. Someone muttered, “Tomorrow, we’ll do better.”
The temperature never rose above freezing. There’s nothing quite like lying in the ground in freezing weather, hoping for a goose to fly overhead. Surreal, and if anyone had ever told me I’d actually enjoy doing this stuff when I was younger, I would have told them otherwise.
Day #2 and #LittleDebbie
The night before, the women from Texas revealed that they didn’t believe in the luck of the DOTS. They, in fact, preferred Little Debbies – and not just any Little Debbies (from the vast assortment of cakes and cookies), but the Christmas cake version of this popular foodstuff. We all decided (even the DOTS’ girls, I think) to try them out and see. The Texans had brought some Christmas trees (in fact, they’d been hoarding them), maybe even enough for everyone to have one before the geese arrived. According to the ladies, they often use the hashtag #littledebbie on Instagram when they go hunting, and lo and behold, the Little Debbie people of the social media world noticed.
On the second day, we arose again at 3 a.m. and headed out in a caravan to another spot, also at least an hour away. Today, however, as the sun rose, temperatures thankfully did, too. We had our Little Debbies in our bellies, and our shotguns loaded. So far, my Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro had run nice and smooth, and with its loads of Fiocchi Golden Waterfowl BBs, hadn’t malfunctioned once. As our guides told us, shooting after popping up in a layout blind is a whole ‘nother animal, and it is … It requires core support and a six-pack of abs (if possible).
So, once again, what seemed like thousands of specklebellies mixed in with the designated conservation order geese, flew over and around and down – making it impossible to shoot. If it had been no holds barred, and specklebellies had been legal, we would have been covered in goose feathers. However, the story doesn’t go like this – at the end of the day, we actually did a bit better. We got seven geese down.
After the hunt, Jen and I decided to eat cheeseburgers in Weiner, Arkansas (which is pronounced just like the hotdog). We drove around, noted several things named after Weiner (Our favorite one was the sign that read “Wiener Security Storage”), chuckled like schoolgirls playing hooky, and then, went to Harrisburg and went junking. We found an antiques shop off the square downtown and across from the old courthouse (where the Confederate Army in this area surrendered). I bought a stuffed pillow Canadian goose (legal), along with a few spindles and Jen found a vintage Army helmet with a shrapnel ding in it.
That night, we regrouped and just knew that tomorrow had to be better.
On the third day, the pattern of early rising had set in and we also packed the car so we could leave from the hunt. On this day, it would be a long morning drive of 90 minutes to get to our designated hunting spot. But, we felt optimistic that it could be our best day yet – because that what gets you through hunting!
We helped set out decoys, slogging through muck that wanted to suck a boot off your foot faster than a fish will slip out of your hands for that trophy pic. When you do this chore, you pray that you will not wind up on your backside in the muck, because … there’s no going back. You’re going to be cold and wet if this happens.
We lay there for hours. Seriously, hours. Some ladies had to leave by mid-morning to start driving home or head to the airport. We stayed till 11 and near that last hour, a tiny, straggler flock came from the east and circled us a few times. We lay so still that we could hear their wings flapping, since the guide had turned off the calls. And then, as if by magic, one snow goose dropped down, turned and came right toward the middle of our layout. Our “hunting hostess with the mostest,” Nikki, dropped him at about 25 yards in front of her. And, that was all. Just one.
More to Hunting than the Feathers Down
You may think that’s the end of the tale of the wild goose chase – which really was a wild goose chase in some ways, but in other ways, a wonderful adventure. The lodge offered a spacious back patio area, with a firepit, and on the last evening, I talked to some of the hunters about their feelings surrounding hunting and this opportunity. We had 20 hunters show up – representing Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia and Kansas. Here are some of their thoughts.
A retired judge, hailing from California, this new-to-hunting woman accepted an invitation from a friend to join her in Arkansas to goose hunt. She’d never hunted goose, but had hunted for pheasant and ducks. She said, “This morning, in many ways, it was amazing and frustrating … it was like those specklebellies knew it was not the season for them. They were low and slow and right at us!” In our conversation, Deby revealed her new interests – archery and long-range precision shooting. Fortunately, Fiocchi ambassador Kay Miculek attended the hunt, and so Deby had been picking her brains about shooting. She added, “There are several of us in our 60s here, and I never owned a firearm until 2009. I was an active skydiver for a long time. … My friend would find interesting things for us to do, and she sent a me link to the NRA Women’s Wilderness Escape at the Whittington Center in New Mexico. It was amazing. I came home from that, and bought a shotgun and pursued my interest in firearms.”
From Pennsylvania, Katie Keyser is an emergency vet tech and works in EMS. She has been hunting since she was 15. Her dad was a weapons specialist in the military, so she grew up around firearms and now teaches firearms safety courses and helps her dad out at a gun shop. Katie felt that the guides made this hunt more likeable. “I like the fact that our guides are out there scouting. They don’t belittle you, as a woman … obviously, the cooking here is really good, too. And, the guides – they’re very respectful.” Katie appreciated the itinerary we received before the trip, along with what to expect, and the safety briefings.
Tara Stoddard is part-owner of Reel Camo Girl, has been an editor at “Woman Shooter” magazine, and is an avid outdoorsman. Tara is presently working on a grant with the National Wild Turkey Federation to teach women how to hunt. We are looking forward to learning more about this program as COVID restrictions lift. Reel Camo Girl boasts a pro-staff team of 30 and brand champion of 40 women. She described her mission as, “It’s not ‘Hey, look at me!’ It’s ‘Hey, what can we do to get this going for women outdoors?’”
On her first hunt ever, Kelsi Beam drove from north of Wichita, Kansas, to join us on this hunt. She is a math teacher, and now teaches GED courses and works on a farm. “I wanted to start with birds, and this hunt came up, so I took the chance,” said Kelsi. She wasn’t disappointed, and headed back to Kansas with fresh thoughts of how to hunt a turkey next. Then, she wants to pick up bow skills and go fall turkey hunting.
Sarah Morton is an experienced hunter for deer and fox, and saw the announcement for this hunt on the Internet. She works as an ER nurse in Richmond, Virginia. She said although the birds didn’t fly for us, she understands that it can happen. As a traveling nurse, she plans her next work gig around seasons for hunting and fishing. She said, “Was it a great hunt? Well, I think they [the outfitters] tried, but birds are birds.” Sarah hopes to get out in the gobbler woods in Virginia next, and has a planned fishing trip in Florida in July. Sarah also mentioned that she started traveling solo last year, and said, “If you’re scared to travel by yourself, it’s just mind over matter. If I never started traveling by myself last year, I would have had the courage to come out and then, you see what I would have missed!”
To book a future hunt with The Sisterhood of the Outdoors, check this website.
To find the right Fiocchi ammunition for your future hunts, look no further than this resource.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We are so glad a few of our guest took the first steps to learn to duck hunt on our annual women’s waterfowl event at Bust-A-Duck Guide Service in Arkansas. Sometimes taking that first step can lead to feelings of fear and not belonging. To help us with our goal of creating moments of belonging we partnered with Beretta USA to provide our guest with top-of-the-line shotguns. Our event featured the Beretta A300 Ultima and the Beretta A400 Xtreme plus shotguns in 12 gauge. Having Beretta support our new women waterfowlers means the world to us. Our programs grow stronger with partners who believe in women hunters.
We were so excited the first day to open the boxes and get the guns ready to shoot. We start all our events with a safety brief and question session. These ladies were eager to get their hands on the guns, so we immediately went to shoot some clays. We had a mix of some experience to zero experience. It’s great to see the light in their eyes and smiles on their faces when they bust that first clay. We took this opportunity to answer questions and to prepare them for what to expect in the duck blinds. We take seriously the safety of our guest, guides, and dogs while hunting. And what a great opportunity to start these new hunters off right with duck blind etiquette and gun safety in the field.
The evening of learning didn’t stop with shooting lessons. We had the pleasure of learning to duck call with three times world champion Lana Van Winkle. We were gifted calls from Echo calls, one of the best in the industry. Thank goodness we had a fully guided hunt because not many of us sounded much like a real duck. We were, however, intrigued, and excited to wake up to our first day afield.
Bust-A-Duck has been our waterfowl partner for 9 years. The guides are so willing to slow down, answer questions and make anyone feel comfortable for their first-time hunting. Having no expectations makes it fun to share what it’s like to go afield in the dark and set up a spread and get hunkered down for the hunt. Each guest had a Beretta to take afield. We were able to separate into smaller groups of three and four to make the learning experience more personal. We believe that personal interaction is what creates the best learning experience.
The first day was tough, there were no new ducks around for late December. But this also became a blessing in disguise. We were able to share more tips and tricks during the slower duck movement. Each group managed to bring in a few ducks. We would be the first to admit we would have more if we could shoot better. The only way to get better is to keep shooting. The Beretta shotguns worked flawlessly and after one day in the blind most of the girls were hooked and asking how to get one for themselves.
Day two became an action-packed goose hunt. As a group the entire lodge set out on a huge spread set by the guides for a goose hunt. More guns, more geese right! Heck yeah, we were all about it. We limited out on specklebelly and snows. The guides were so awesome, when one shot was left for the last limit, they let the youngest shooter take it. We tagged our game and headed in for some afternoon fun exploring the area. Of course, we took our obligatory trip to Mack’s Prairie Wings. You can’t go to Arkansas to duck hunt and not stop in at Mack’s.
For our last morning hunt the fog rolled in so thick that we could hardly see where the guides were taking us. It was a moment of pure dependance on the experts. The sound of snow geese all around and not one we could see. The sounds of geese everywhere had our heads on swivel and our eyes working overtime to try and see them through the fog. The thick fog helped us to be extra sneaky in our efforts to get inside our blinds and set out some decoys. But what it also did was make it hard to spot birds flying into our hole until they breeched the fog and were suddenly on top of us. Limits were reached on both ducks and geese on day three. The pack and ride out was still in low visibility but much less concerning or noticeable in the daylight. As we raced back to the lodge in our side by side, we were high fiving the end of a great experience shared together in the outdoors.
I have been waterfowl hunting with Bust-A-Duck for nine years now. Sisterhood Outdoors has a standing date for an after Christmas holiday hunt. Over the years we have hunted with women from all over the USA. These moments of belonging are not possible without partners like Beretta, who help build our program and help us deliver a great experience. We strive to have partners that believe in progress for women hunters, believe in teaching and safety and have the commitment we share to improve outdoor experiences for women. Everyone belongs in the outdoors, and we thank Beretta USA for help us create this amazing moment of belonging. If you want more information on Beretta Shotguns, we would love to help you choose your next gun. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.