This post was originally posted on Audacious Women. http://andreamain.com/2011-a-very-good-year/
2011 marked my come back to hunting, following my recovery from a bilateral mastectomy due to breast cancer. I felt like I had 2 years to make up for, so I wanted to hunt everything, everywhere! Rifle hunting was fairly easy to pick back up, but archery eluded me for this year at least. Thank goodness for cross bows!
I started the year off hunting for whitetail deer on Anticosti Island in Canada. My husband and I hunted with Safari Anticosti, and enjoyed every minute of it. The first day, my husband spotted a really nice buck as I was being dropped off where I was to hunt. He told me to make sure I got him, I told him I would. I positioned myself on a steep bank overlooking the river, and waited. Eventually 2 doe come out to feed on the river banks, so I was hopeful that a buck would follow. They fed for a long time before I finally spotted the buck from earlier. I had to wait for him to cross the river, and come near the does, before I could get a good shot. I squeezed off my shot and watched him disappear into the tall grass. After waiting what seemed like forever, I went to track him. I found the blood trail easy enough that is until it he crossed the river. It took a few minutes of searching both sides before I found the trail again. When I finally walked up to him, I could not see his head. Any part of it! He must have died in mid leap, and took a header into the soft muck surrounding the river. I couldn’t move him, so I started to dig him out. Finally I could see his antlers, and excitement really settled in. I had to wait for my husband and guide to show up after dark to get him drug out. He was a huge bodied buck. When he was hung in the meat shed, his head was to the ceiling and he was almost sitting on the ground. By the end of the week, I knew I had the biggest buck in camp. When we got to the airport, it became obvious that I also had the biggest buck from the island! I had also taken a doe on the last day, to fill my tag with some good eating.
Our next hunt was for alligators with Deep South Outfitters in Florida. The temperature was only in the 40’s, not at all what you would want for gators. We went on a short boat ride before Billy started to call. Instantly we had a gator rushing toward the boat. In no time it was within a couple of yards of where I was standing, with the crossbow. I shot, and there was no splashing or action of any kind. While I feared I had missed, Kenny realized I had spined it. This was the most adrenaline packed hunt I think I have ever been on!
Immediately after getting home from Florida, I drove to Illinois with my daughter Shannon. We joined a Ladies Archery Hunt at Eagle Lakes Outfitters. Vicki Cianciarulo was trying to get to film footage for The Choice hunting show. I was using a crossbow with a handicapped designation, which I was not happy at all about. Hunting was really slow for the first couple of days, to hot, to windy. Finally I had a nice buck start down toward me, but a doe stomped her foot and snorted at him, so I place my bolt into her. She ran only 20 yards or so, but right into the lane that I would be picked up on. My kind of tracking and dragging! Eventually 3 doe were shot for the group, 1 was also lost to coyotes, and I had a buck that we could not locate the blood trail on.
I finally got to hunt at home, and took my granddaughters out in the stand with me. Sarah has been hunting for a couple of years, but this was Ginger’s first exposure to it. On the evening of the first day of rifle season, Ginger was with me when I took a doe. She was so excited; she is now intent on taking her hunter safety certifications so she can hunt with me next fall.
I happened upon a Ladies in Camo hunt at Racknine Outdoors in Alabama, at the last minute. I flew down for a buck, doe, hog, coyote hunt. My first morning, I was able to take a nice 8 point buck that was feeding about 80 yards out. He had come into the clearing and made a scrape right in front of me. I also had 2 young buck sparring and playing. After I shot, the young buck continued their play for another 15 minutes or so. I have never hunted anywhere that a gunshot didn’t clear the area of all deer. The blood trail on the 8 point was almost no existent, but we did locate him about 75 yards from where he was shot. The next day I was stalking hogs, when I located a group in the pines, they were about 75 yards out. I had a large sow cross an opening that I had, that was about the size of a coffee can. I took the shot, and watched as she only went 2 or 3 feet before she dropped. I tried to get on the hogs again, but they joined a group totaling over a hundred, and even with that many hogs, I could not get a clear shot at any others.
I know I title this 2011, but I am including the first half of 2012 also, since it all is part of the same license year. I joined another Ladies in Camo hunt at Mountain View Plantation in Alabama, in January. This was a tough hunt. Only one buck was shot, and that was by my cousin Eva. She is a new hunter, and I had taken her along to help her get experience. We also hunted quail, which is always a good time, and shot the 5 station they have.
February had me back at Racknine (My favorite place to hunt!). This time was a couple’s hunt for hogs and coyotes. What a wonderful group of people we had at this hunt. Alabama had had some severe weather, including tornados shortly before we arrived, and the hogs had made themselves scarce. By then end of the weekend only 1 hog was shot. We really had to work hard at this hunt.
Turkey season finally arrived, and we were off to Florida, to hunt with Deep South Outfitters again. I filled my 2 tags with Osceolas. The birds were not responding to calls, so I sat in wait near a well-used trail to a feeding area. Finally I had 3 toms come into view, and when my guide said they were shooters, I shot! This was my first Osceola ever!! I took another jake before I was done, but then I got to hog hunt while my husband tried to fill his tags. I had crept into a tree stand before light, listening to hogs not more than 30 feet away! By the time I could make out dark shadows, I had a dozen hogs in front of me. It was nerve racking to know the hogs were right there, and it was not light enough to shoot yet! I don’t think I waited more than a minute once the sun came up. I picked a big red sow with black spots. She was almost underneath my tree stand, not exactly the shot I would like to take. While the angle was extreme, she only went about 30 yards, before she piled up under the palmettos. What a great trip!!
The weather completely turned against us after that, so we headed to Racknine again for some more hog hunting! Ladies in Camo was having a couples hunt so we joined them. Dale and I were spot and stalking when I had a hog grunting and squealing, just as the hog was coming into view, Dale shot. I thought he had shot the hog, but he was facing the wrong direction when I turned to him. My first thought was that he was screwing around, until he showed me the dead coyote. From my angle I could not see the coyote approaching. Later that morning, we joined 2 other hunters to go after hogs in the palmettos. We had gone a couple of hundred yards into the woods, when you could hear hogs grunting and squealing. I climbed onto a leaning tree (about the only way I can climb a tree!) and scanned the area for the hogs. I could see for about 20 yards, and we now knew the hogs were further than that. We slowly made our way toward the herd and positioned ourselves to take a shot. Jeanne was trying to get a clear shot on a nice gray hog, but it never presented a good shot. Meanwhile I had a small black hog that I was going to shoot, when a much bigger hog crossed in front of it. I told everyone I had a shot, and took it. The hog dropped in her tracks! That was the easy part. We now had to drag that hog back to the HuntVe through swampy muck. We all worked hard to get it out. Dale and I were the only ones left to hunt the next morning, and Dale was able to take a big boar. This group of 5 hunters, at Racknine, had managed to take; 1 turkey, 1 coyote and 3 hogs.
Each hunt I am finding that I am getting stronger, and more like myself. I keep pushing myself to build back the muscle that was lost. This upcoming hunting year is pretty well filled already, I have 5 hunts scheduled, with hopes of more. My next hunting season starts in June when we are going bear hunting in Saskatchewan, and this fall I will be going on my first archery hunt with my compound bow since my surgery. I am already pulling 40 pounds on my bow, I would like to be built up to 45 lbs. before archery season begins. With work, I will be there! Sometime I feel like the 6 million dollar woman, I am getting faster, stronger, better!