The Solo Hunt   
by Lisa Pascadlo
 

"My father took me and my younger sister hunting from the time we could keep up, and I just kinda kept on going. I began, as most hunters do, with the goal of filling my tag, and when I didn't, it was frustrating. Somewhere along the line I realized that this goal was shortsighted and set myself up for failure. It was during this period that I met my very best friend, a game warden here named Dave. Dave showed me another side of the outdoors-the strength and beauty of it- and also taught me to bowhunt. Once I saw what I'd had in front of my face all those years, it became that much more enjoyable. Naturally competitive by nature, I found myself wanting to test myself both physically and spiritually, and thus began my new era-solo hunting. I had gone the route of just not going because I could not get people to commit, and found that not going left an aching hole in my soul. Granted, I could still go outside and hike, bike and what-have-you, but there was something in the act of pitting oneself, one's skill, against a wily wild creature, and coming away connected to it that really fulfilled me. After finding that most hunters are men, and that men sometimes have a preconceived notion of a woman, not to mention a woman hunter, i.e., that they can hunt, but also should be the camp maid and general gopher, I decided that I just like it too much to not go just because I was alone. My first solo efforts were filled with all the emotions: joy, pain, anger and fear. I learned alot of lessons during those times, and my truck and pack are filled with them. I often get asked "What in the **** is in that pack??" and have to calmly explain all the lessons I've learned. To find a woman in the woods, and packing in or out, is to say the least, disconcerting to most folks, and usually the next question is "Are you out here alone?" The next comment is usually "You're nuts" followed by "Where have you been all my life?" I honestly like that one, because my reply is always the same- "Out here...where were YOU??" I'm still looking for someone to accept my passion without the stereotypes, misconceptions, and the bruised ego.. until then, I'll keep hunting. I've proven to myself time and time again, that a dream is always achievable.
I want to encourage other women to try this passion of mine. You won't know what you've been missing unless you try, and once you've tried, you'll  wonder why it took you so long. Once you've actually FELT the sunrise or smelled the pine after a storm, and found that an elk bugle on a cold autumn morning stirs in you an indescribable joy, you'll never stop. I've been blessed with a healthy strong heart and body, and I've seen people with prosthetics on  the mountain next to me, so trust me when I tell you that you can do whatever  you set your mind to. 

And fellas, instead of thinking of hunting with your buddies as a way to  get away from the wife, try including her in it, and I don't mean in terms of keeping the camp clean. Try taking her with you opening morning, share with her the smell of wet oak leaves, the way the sunrise sets red rock afire, show her what it is about this sport that so moves you. If she's interested, your real job begins. Listen, it's ok to have that ego, it's what makes you a man. Males of all species are genetically predisposed to compete with each other, and it's very difficult to put that aside and become a "woman", that is, a teacher with an open mind backed up with the love you have for her as a life partner. Make things simple for her. Try small game, like rabbits, you know, something fun that the whole family can partake in. You must remember that it is not only her that may be interested, you may have a daughter not unlike I was, with infinite curiosity about the outdoors. If you do things right, you've just added one more hunter to the pot, one more person concerned about conservation, habitat, and fair chase. And another hunter who votes. I would take her on an antelope hunt for the first big game hunt, as they can be made as easy or hard to hunt as you want. Prepare her for what happens when an animal dies, as most women are nurturers, and have not experienced death. Emphasize that skill is what allows a quick humane kill, and what provides the best table fare. I guarantee that the one time I walked up on an animal before it was gone was the last time I ever had to take more than one shot to complete the job. I take extreme pride in my skill as a result. I take all the joy in the world with me when I have the honor of "breaking in" a new hunter, doing it right, and sharing the exhilaration. You will too. Her skill and enthusiasm might just surprise you!
Good luck to all this year, and the years to come...I'll see you on the mountain!

Lisa Pascadlo