“So, do you actually hunt?”
The man looked me up and down.
I was clad in an oversized blaze orange coat and matching tuque, my camouflage pants stretching over a pair of heavy rubber boots.
My hair, tucked earnestly beneath my tuque, was something a bird would have been comfortable to call its home. And my hands may even have had some dried grouse blood on them.
My shotgun was strapped to the dash of my dad’s RTV (utility vehicle), which I had just climbed out of moments earlier, and shotgun shells rattled against the large hunting knife in my front pocket.
Clearly, I wasn’t there for the shopping.
“Yeah, I hunt,” I replied, with a smile. “Why else would I be here?”
“Here” was northwest of Nipigon — smack dab in the middle of nowhere, to be exact.
A look of both shock and admiration swept across the man’s face. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting to see a young woman in the depths of the bush during moose hunting season.
I suppose that’s legit. I didn’t see another woman during the entire week I was roving around the area, this year or last. I was likely the only representation of my gender for probably a good hundred kilometres.
Before I left on my hunting trip this year, a couple of male friends asked me if I felt at all out of place.
“Heck no,” I replied. “I can hold my own at hunt camp.”
This was my second dose of being “one of the boys,” and this year I was ready for it.
When we arrived at our campsite, I immediately grabbed the shovel and set to digging the hole for our outhouse. It’s designated as my task because I’m still the rookie at camp. (I’m looking for a new recruit for next year, so I can move up the ranks.) While the installation of our outdoor bathroom was unproblematic, dismantling it at the end of the week — with four men and a lady, seven days later — was a less-than-glorious task. But I did it. And I didn’t complain.
And I held my own on the meat haul as well.
I’m not one for sitting still, waiting for the action to find me. So while the men took up their posts in the depths of the bush, patiently awaiting Bullwinkle’s appearance, I ventured out on my own, hunting for grouse.
As I slowly walked down the road, I couldn’t help but get lost in the serenity of it all. There was the sound of birds calling to each other and the road crunching beneath my boots, but nothing else. A calm breeze was blowing in my face and I had not a care in the world. Well, except one — I was not returning to camp empty-handed.
A rustle through the leaf-canopied ground broke the calm. I stopped moving and was at full alert. Those boys may be out there itching to land themselves a steak, but I was bringing home the bacon this time ... at least a grouse breast or two.
The birds seemed a bit more intelligent than in years past. They didn’t just stand on the road waiting for us to take them out. They actually ran away, ducked under trees and brush, and, heaven forbid, made us hunt them.
And hunt them I did. I saw five birds out on my first solo stroll. The good news is, I brought back two. The bad news is I only brought back two. But what’s a hunting trip without “the one that got away” stories.
It’s more than can be said for the moose. We didn’t even see one.
But give me a fishing rod, and look out, boys!
My dad and I spent an afternoon out on the lake, lines in the water, sun setting on the horizon. We were both having great luck with the walleye — but I had enjoyed a bit more success.
Not so for our neighbours, who met us out on the lake that afternoon. Even after setting them on top of the fish, telling them what we were fishing with and giving them a few of our worms, they still accomplished nothing more than cleaning their hooks.
“We can’t go back to camp empty-handed,” the man, who had asked me earlier if I actually hunted, said.
They offered us beer. They offered us their camp mates’ tackle — anything for a share of our fish-lined stringer.
“We don’t mind sharing,” I said to them, smiling again, “as long as you don’t mind that your fish were caught by a woman.”
I may not fit the mold of the typical hunter — my hair may be longer, my face less hairy, and my curves ... well, they’re different — but I know how to shoot a grouse, just like a lady.
Laurel Myers is the sports and lifestyle editor for Northern Life.
Posted by Laurel Myers