My First Hunt — By Gabriella Hoffman
Remember the three B's, my guide told me. Butt, Bead, and Bird.
It was a chilly early December morning the day of my first hunt.
The cold front hadn’t settled in Virginia yet, but frost made an unexpected appearance that morning. Winters are generally mild here in the Old Dominion State. No appearance of frost wasn't going to deter me from driving down Interstate 95 though. It was the perfect fall day for my first hunt.
With my Cabela’s OutfitHer Realtree camo from head to toe and 600g insulate boots, I was ready to go. Having prepared for this hunt—along with studying for and acquiring my hunters ed certification—I learned about the importance of layering up. I hadn't dressed in full hunting apparel except for one beagling trip in Maryland during Winter 2016. Plus, I'm not ashamed to say I don't do well with freezing temperatures. I'm from Southern California, after all. But that wasn't the case for my December 2, 2017, hunt. My apparel provided more than a sufficient amount of warmth.
When I arrived at Rappahannock Bird Dog Training Club in Hustle, Virginia—approximately 1 hour, 35 minutes southeast of home—I was greeted by friendly faces, a warm burning fire, and the sounds of bird dogs whimpering in anticipation of the hunt.
Veterans, married couples, and kids joined us to raise money for veterans—roughly $2,200 to support Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, who was holding their 2nd annual Upland Charity Bird Hunt. (If you live in Virginia, join them for their third hunt on March 3, 2018.)
Not only was the hunt exhilarating, the fellowship enjoyed over a wild game potluck that accompanied it was equally enjoyable.
Hunt participants had the opportunity to shoot some clays and go on half-day guided hunts. The hosting group was more than generous and helpful guiding shooters — including newbies like myself. I was able to select a 20-gauge rifle (the make escapes me) that best fit me and my small stature and was ready to go.
When it was my time to hunt, the weather hovered around 50F. I was nervous yet excited this was finally happening. After learning we'd be paired with a Gordon Setter and Wired Haired Pointing Griffon, we were off to the field.
Seeing these bird dogs chase and flush was exhilarating as it was astounding. These dogs are born and bred to chase birds. They undergo rigorous training over a couple of years to become master hunters. And when it came for them to retrieve our birds, they were ready for the task.
Walking around the prairie field in rural Virginia accompanied by hunting dogs is as peaceful and relaxing as you would imagine. Yet that meant paying attention to your surroundings and preparing your shotgun for action.
When the dogs pointed and flushed the birds, it was our signal to prepare our shotguns. Some birds could go down, our guides said. Be alert and don't lose sight of the dogs, they cautioned.
There were many times when I didn't pull the trigger out of missed opportunities or when the birds flew fast out of our sights. I didn't want to make a careless shot. As the hunt progressed, I applied the three B's maxim—Butt, Bead, and Bird—to the hunt. When I did that, I made better shots. It was mid-way through the hunt I made my first kill shot—a chukar. Then two quail and a rooster pheasant followed. I asked the guides if I made that shot and if those birds were mine. (I'm naturally doubtful, of course.) When they nodded "yes," I grew excited and felt accomplished. I harvested my first animal!
After getting my lot from our guides, I caressed the birds, admired their feathers, and thanked them for giving us meat to enjoy. Does that make me cold-blooded? Far from it. I realized what it meant to be a true conservationist at that moment. Beginner's luck, indeed.
I must confess: I wasn't overcome with emotion following that first kill shot. In fact, I became emotional and overwhelmed as I drove home that day. It wasn't a feeling of regret or fulfilling a quest to kill. I understood the emotion hunters feel whenever they take a successful kill shot and how much reverence they boast for the animals they harvest. It's an indescribable feeling. I anticipate more of them in the future.
It was that day I became a hunter. A hunter.
Did I ever imagine myself hunting? In all honesty, no. It wasn’t because I was opposed to the lifestyle; I very much supported it when I lived in Southern California. It just wasn't accepted for people, especially young women, to go hunting in Orange County, CA. Or so I thought.
Truth be told, moving to Virginia nearly six years ago prompted my interest to learn more about hunting and its benefits. Since I already went fishing and enjoyed its many benefits, I figured the same principles from it could be applied to hunting. Getting to know people involved in the hunting and shooting sports industry helped me realize how amazing this life is, the camaraderie you boast with your fellow hunters, and the importance of us being good stewards of wildlife. Hunting IS conservation. Don't be fooled into believing otherwise.
My first hunt will be a moment I cherish forever. For that, I am grateful. I've got much to learn, but I'm officially "hooked" and ready for the next adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ReelCamo Girl Pro Staff
CONNECT WITH HER ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM!
ReelCamo Girl is a lifestyle brand focused on ladies who love the outdoors.There is a growing need for a place for women to share their outdoor experiences, as well as an interest in clean eating and self-sufficiency. Through our website and social media networks, we offer a safe place where the ladies can share their pictures, stories, wild game and fish recipes, and news articles about conservation and hunting perspectives.
ReelCamo girls are strong, capable, kind, compassionate, nature & country-loving individuals. We encourage responsible and ethical hunting. We care about the land and wildlife management and about long term sustainability. We hunt, fish, dive, shoot and hike…for peace of mind, happiness, pure clean protein & connection to the outdoors. ReelCamoGirls can shoot a gun, draw a bow, track an animal, get CAMOed up, bait a hook, clean a fish and still be feminine.