Women hunters are the fastest growing segment in the outdoors and shooting sports. Are you ready to join the journey? We want you to believe in yourself and have the confidence to go outdoors. Confidence is gained through action. At Sisterhood Outdoors we answer a lot of questions every day. Many are from first time hunters or women just thinking about trying hunting for the first time. As a mentor that makes me think hard about my own journey. Confidence is something that is built over time. The more you practice the more confident you will be. This is true in every sport or endeavor to learn in life. The journey from new hunter to experienced hunter never ends. Sharing our experience with others can help set proper expectations, help new women hunters not feel alone on the journey, and maybe impart some past wisdom from our own mistakes.
I was first a new shooter then I became a new hunter. So, I’ll start with the shooting part cause its full of humor. My sweet husband, my outdoor mentor, purchased me an off the shelf beginner rifle. It was a complete package with a scope, rifle sling, rifle case and box of ammunition. He chose a 30-06 rifle for my first deer hunt. I was so excited to head to the range and learn to shoot, I told all my friends and family our plans. The biggest piece of advice I received was don’t put your head to close to the scope, it will bite you. That was enough to start the nerves early!
At the range I got all set up, heart pounding, slightly shaky, nervous that people were watching me, the target in front of me at 50 yards, and bang! I pulled the trigger and nearly knocked myself out. I was way to close and didn’t understand the field of view in the scope part of the instruction. I ended up with a nice goose egg, and thankfully no blood. But hey, the new hunters that experience that first, get it out of the way and hopefully never let it happen again. See ladies, you are not alone!
My confidence improved the more rounds I shot. I specifically thrived on seeing the target hit or hearing the report on steel as I practiced at the range more and more. My advice for building confidence with shooting is to keep going to the range. The more you shoot the more confident you will become. Taking a friend to the range also helps ease nerves. And don’t be afraid to go to a shooting class.
Another fear I often get asked about is being scared walking in the woods alone. This particular issue is also related to where you are hunting. Hunting private land with little or no trespasser traffic can help with feelings of insecurity. Hunting public land or heavily trespassed land makes me nervous. This is when I choose to take a side arm with me in the woods for protection. I also always make sure I have a good headlamp if it is dark. I prefer the red or green lights for walking into hunting stands. I have had several encounters with others while hunting, some good and some not so good. But I stood my ground, called a game warden, or distanced myself without incident as needed. A good idea is to always know where you are going and please tell someone where you will be and a time you will be home. A great way to have a safety plan in place.
When I first started hunting on my own, I walked fast and took large steps working my way to my stands. I could feel my heavy breathing and heart pounding in my head. The word terrified comes to mind. And just like shooting and practicing at the range, the more I walked to the stands alone the more confident I become. As a mentor it is important to discuss these fears and learn what makes a new hunter feel fear. I try and remember that F.E.A.R is really just False Events Appearing Real.
Walking to a stand in the dark can be difficult for anyone who has never spent any time in the woods. And it can especially hard if you are in unfamiliar territory and walking to an unknown hunting stand. I tell any new hunters, the same thing that is in the woods during the day is still there at night. The only catch is the nocturnal animals and the noises they make. An armadillo or racoon scratching around the ground under you can be very frightening. My first night hog hunt I heard beaver slapping tails into a pond behind me. I had no idea they could be that loud, I was on high alert. Now I cherish those noises and wish I could spend more time hunting.
It is ok to feel a healthy amount of fear. A little fear creates a high level of situational awareness, which is never a bad thing. Just don’t let fear take over. The more you go hunting the more confident you will be. And remember as a new hunter, ask questions. You have an entire Sisterhood here to help you on your journey. It’s ok to talk about being scared. Talking about it will help you overcome fear and gain confidence. It is ok to talk about missing a shot. We all miss a shot sometimes. We just keep going and building skills and confidence along the way.
The next time you feel scared to take the shot or scared to walk in the woods, remember we are here for you. You can do this if you just take the leap of faith and start the journey. I always remember where I came from. I can think back to my beginning journey into the outdoors, and I feel my heart pounding. What makes me keep going and learning are the rewards. Not just the successes but the rewards of overcoming mistakes, overcoming misses and just completing a task I set out to do. It takes some courage to step of your comfort zone. Courage is much easier in a group than alone. That’s what makes Sisterhood Outdoors so special. We can all experience the outdoors together. We can encourage one another and help the next one at the beginning of their journey.
Ask me how many times I have missed? I lost count but I keep going and you can too.
Have the courage to take the first steps, confidence will follow. One shot at a time, one hunt at a time.