A few months ago, columnist Jo Deering wrote an article about the six things you shouldn’t do as a woman in hunting camp. The piece is enjoyable and replete with excellent advice, and yet somehow (once again) I am feeling just a little defensive. You see, there’s a lot of pressure on women hunters to conform to the “right way” of doing things. Trouble is, as any veteran hunter can tell you, there are just as many “right ways” of doing things as there are “right ways” to tick off our fellow hunters. Here are three things that I did as a woman in hunting camp … and the one that I didn’t.
Put on my warpaint in the morning
Why yes, I did spend half an hour spackling over my pores before I so much as set a boot outside. And yes, it will no doubt require another half hour—and perhaps a sandblaster—to remove all that makeup tonight. Why did I do that?
Because when I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and checked the mirror, Scarlett Johansson was not looking back at me. Scarlett may look wonderful in a high-definition photograph without her makeup on, but I don’t. If I’m successful today, I’m going to want a picture with my game animal, and I’d like to look nice in that photo. Either I put the makeup on now before we head out, or I have to haul my whole supply out in the field with me to apply after the shot. This is not the best idea, for a number of reasons. (Number one: Did you know that most makeup is made with animal fats, and it attracts bears? Well, now you do.)
Yes, absolutely, Deering is correct: It’s rude to hog the bathroom. But as long as I’m not making anyone wait while I’m painting a whole different face onto mine? Eat your heart out, Tammy Faye Bakker.
Didn’t help with the nasty tasks
I had just taken my shot on a very nice buck. The Savage 110 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor had done its job admirably; the deer traveled only 20 yards before piling up. Now it was time to get that buck unzipped, field-dressed and onto the truck. Sure enough, there I was, standing there useless as a brass monkey, watching other people do all the dirty work. Why did I do that?
Because I wasn’t hunting on my own or with a group of friends; I was on a guided hunt with an outfitter. That means that I paid for a service, and that service includes more than taking me to a likely spot where game animals are known to congregate. Specifically, I’m paying for the luxury of not having to clean and pack out my own animal. Of course the guide would have let me gut that deer if I had really wanted to …
So, show of hands: Who enjoys field-dressing so much they’ll do it when someone else has been paid to do it for you? That’s what I thought.
Then acted like “one of the guys” anyway
Deering is 100 percent correct that you should feel no obligation to act like “one of the guys” while you’re in camp. If vulgar jokes make you uncomfortable, by all means, feel free to bow out—no one will think any less of you. That said, some of us have been collecting off-color stories and jests for a whole calendar year (two, if COVID kept you from traveling last fall) and simply cannot hold them back any longer. Some of us find the campfire-slash-locker-room talk hilarious. Some of us don’t even mind being pranked a little; it makes us feel included.
Here’s an example. One early morning after a late night, I slipped into the lodge bathroom to take care of some business. However, all thoughts of business were forgotten the moment I made contact with the toilet seat: BANG! I had a millisecond of sheer panic before I realized what had happened. Well, more precisely, I smelled it … a snap-cap under the seat. When I emerged from the lodge to greet the hysterical laughter of the outfitter, guides and fellow hunters, I knew that they had accepted me as one of them. I was amused, yes, but I was also touched.
My point is simple: I wish my participation in rough talk, and enjoyment of harmless pranks, were as unremarkable as it is for male hunters.
What I didn’t do
As I mentioned earlier, there are almost as many ways to do hunting “right” as there are hunters; the same applies when we’re talking about doing it “wrong.” However, the majority of them—like showing up unprepared, or not pulling your weight around camp—can be chalked up to a learning process and forgiven.
There is, however, one thing that is universal in hunting camps. It is one of the only things you can do while hunting that will make you unwelcome: being unsafe with your firearm. Most outfitters and fellow hunters will overlook a great deal, as long as they’re not looking down the barrel of your shotgun and wondering why they can hear the ocean all of a sudden.
Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire, and keep your gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot. Listen to your guide and stay alert, and you’ll always be welcome back in camp … even if you are That Girl.