Autumn days are filled with goodness almost impossible to describe. There is a satisfaction and contentment in them. You look at your rifle as you have not looked at it during the summer, and the thought of venison steak is pleasant, though the hunting trip may still be several weeks away.
Speaking of guns, it was with pride that I learned that Kim Rhode from California in this year’s Olympics was awarded a gold medal for her skeet shooting competition. Kim was the first American to win five medals in five consecutive Olympics. She said her dad taught her to use a gun. When she won, she said, “I wanted to run, scream, cry and I just didn’t know which to do first.” Her quote was, “Never give up. We need more women, inner city women and more youth involved in our sport.” I learned that Kim often helps young people learn to shoot. I wish I could have seen more of champion shooting in London, but unfortunately it seems TV coverage did not see fit to cover her 99 out of 100 championship skeet shots. It would have been a chance for game hunting enthusiasts to see an American shooting icon make history.
The reason I am so interested is that as a teen, every fall, my dad took me pheasant hunting with him. He taught me well as there is not one male in our family that will skeet shoot against me anymore. No, I don’t score nine out of ten, but close. Since I now have daughters interested in big game hunting, I am a lot more enthusiastic about it. (Of course, I get to horseback ride while I’m there. ) I learned that the number of women putting in for wild game permits has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.
Last fall, I do not know if our two daughters were in competition with each other or not, but Beth emailed that she shot a 4-point buck at 200 yards, and her sister, Renee, responded that her 2-point at 200 yards was harder to hit as he was a smaller target. (Renee did shoot a 4-point several years earlier.) They both said, “It’s the thrill of the hunt that I go for.” They are fun to be with.
My husband, two of our daughters, four grandsons, a great-grandson, and even a great- granddaughter were counting the hours for hunting season to open for deer and elk. Neither rain nor snow nor wind can keep them from the hunt.
I’ll never forget the first youth hunt our grandson Conner went on. We took him up Soldier Creek to get his doe. She was a hard one to seek out and when we did find her and got her moving, she let out a snort that would have scared all the critters large or small. We had seen her with a large herd at about 100 yards away and needed to get closer. We watched her separate from the bunch and we thought she might be a dry doe. Our goal was to make sure Conner did not hit any of the other deer. However, she must have had a nose that could detect any dangerous smell even in the Idaho strong wind. She was an overly smart doe and after tracking her all afternoon, we finally spotted her. We split up so we could direct her toward Conner. We heard Conner shoot and hiked up to where we had left him. He stood there bathing in his glory over his doe he shot at 80 yards.
Some things have not changed — the challenge, the excitement and the comraderie to go hunting. While a pack-string and long days in the saddle might sound romantic to some, the reality is it’s hard work, time consuiming and for everyone but the most dedicated, wildly impractical. More and more hunters are using four-wheel vehicles for transporting their kill and that’s fine if it’s allowed in the area they are hunting.
When we go hunting and camping, we often take our younger grandchildren along. They seem to enjoy the youth hunts. teaching them hunter safety is a reponsiblity most grandpas wish to do. Yet, the hunter safety program offered by the Fish and Game Department is the best way to start and in Idaho it is mandatory. Remember, there will always be another shot. Do be safety minded. You will not get the opportunity to call the shot back.
If you’re a hunter and you have never set a hunting goal, I hope you consider doing it. Step up and get outside your comfort zone. I challenge you to plan your next hunt with that young neighbor or grandchild. The memories from it will consume your mind, body and soul.
To me, hunting is a deep abiding joy of an old love that can become a precious part of you — as precious as the memories I have when I hunted with my dad.
W. Lenore Mobley is an author of “Enjoy the Journey: Of Women and their Horses along the Snake River Plain.”