Some Things I Have Learned While Hunting This Year... So Far

by Rogue Huntress - The author of The WhiteTailed Doe, Manitoba, Canada
Contest entry for Burton Treble Yell Pack.  See contest details.

It seems like every hunting excursion I have, I learn something new. I thought I would share a few of the things I have learned so far this hunting season, though I'm sure there will be many more lessons to come.

These are in random order because I think they are all pretty important.

Never let your guard down.
I wrote previously on my blog about my hunt out of the Frontier Wildlife Association and my encounter with the two deer when I was within sight of my truck. I have heard countless stories of people getting ready to leave their tree stands only to have animals come strolling in.

This is a simple lesson but seems to be of utmost importance because, for me anyways, it never fails! My experiences with hunting seem to be mainly based on luck and random chance and the fact that you just never know when something might pop out of the bush. My constant goal when hunting now is to always be vigilant and try to never let my guard down, ever.

Keep your face off the shotgun!
My justification for this is that I was shooting Tim's semi-auto Mossburg 935 magnum with 3 1/2 inch shells instead of my usual pump action Remington 870 express mag with 3 inch shells.

The picture should be self explanatory.
Having helpful friends is a godsend.
This is true for life in general not just hunting because sometimes there are things that you just can't do by yourself. I have been extremely privileged to have always had friends within my hunting community who were willing to help me out.

This year it really hit home when I shot my bear. After it ran into the willows I realized, I didn't really know what to do. How long should I wait before going in after it? Were the two other bears going to be waiting for me by their fallen friend? What do I do if it's still alive?

Thankfully, Tim got ahold of one of our friends who lives nearby who has a lifetime's experience with hunting and tracking and who has helped us track animals before. He arrived quickly with two more friends of his own and we all went in following the blood trail straight to the bear, who was still alive though only just.

My mind was envisioning getting mauled by an angry bear while trapped in the willows so I told them to shoot it (even though we only had the 935 mag with shot shells). They did not shoot it and the bear passed quietly away at our feet.

They used my belt and one of their own to pull the sow out of the tangled willows for me and Art later showed me how to skin the head and told me how to boil the skull properly.

What would I have done without the selfless help of these people? We probably would have gotten the bear out. It's possible that one of us may have shot the poor girl not realizing she was already on death's door, which I am glad did not happen.

I am grateful that there are people out there willing to help someone like myself who is still green to the world of hunting.

I have never claimed to be an expert, for I am far from it, but with the help of people like this I am getting better with every new experience. This leads on to the next big lesson I quickly learned.

Hunting is not always as glorious as it can seem.
When we finally got the bear back to Tim's cottage everyone was pooped. Art and his friends had an early morning duck hunt planned and after thanking them profusely I sent them home to bed telling them they had already helped me tremendously.

Tim, who is still recovering from his injuries was spent and retired to bed after I ensured him I would be alright with the bear. As it turns out this may not have been the best judgement call I have ever made.

I had skinned deer before (with help for the gutting) and remembered how that was done but had never even seen a dead bear before and there I stood before this hanging bear carcass. The skinning part was relatively simple, though a taxidermist would have shuddered at the sight of the hide when I was done with it.

Once I had the hide off (which was shockingly heavy, I might add) my real issues began. I was staring at what looked like the body of a person. I started getting emotional thinking of the bear eating acorns only hours before and now hanging lifeless and cold before me.

I am an animal lover and do feel bad every time I take something's life. Maybe this is because I am a girl, or maybe it's just me, but it really got to me with this bear. I was terrified to gut the thing. Inside, I knew I had to do it. I was not going to waste the meat of this animal whose life I had just taken.

It took me a while, and I will not go into every gory detail of what I saw, but I got it gutted. As it turned out, my shot was a little farther back than I had originally thought, and took out the liver, leaving the intestines and stomach intact, which was one of my greatest concerns at the time.

I will not deny that I felt sick to my stomach during this experience but once it was finished and wrapped I felt like I had accomplished something big. Something much bigger than the now seemingly simple act of taking the shot.

I now clearly understand that there is far more to hunting than just shooting, and I now know that I am capable of following through to the end. I think I am a bit changed mentally from doing this part all on my own. Not changed in a bad way, but more aware. It made me think about all life and living creatures in a different way that I am having trouble really expressing here.

I can only assume that those who have also experienced something like this will know what I am talking about.

We are heading out for another weekend adventure as soon as I am off work tonight. Who knows what else I may learn along the way.

Cheers to all and good luck with all of your endeavors.

-Rogue Huntress

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