Everyone slips up and does something dumb, embarrassing or just plain silly on a hunt or in camp now and then. Those of us who have been doing this for ages aren’t immune, by any means. In this third installment of our Hunt Camp Blunders series (check out parts one and two), we get three more women to spill their guts about their biggest goofs on a hunting trip.
Remember the Basics
A Michigan hunter tells a story from her youth about a mistake many of us have made: “I was about 17, and my sister and I were hunting with my dad on opening day of firearm season. We were on top of a big hill overlooking a valley, and Dad has his back to us looking out over another valley. We sat for several hours without seeing anything, but we heard shots all around us. My sister was sound asleep in the chair next to me.
“Then, like a scene out of a Disney movie, I looked over and saw the biggest buck I have seen in the wild, standing majestically on a little flat spot about 30 yards down the hill from me. I was so shocked that I just sat there watching him for several seconds. When it darted behind an old foundation in the valley, I got Dad’s attention.
“I could see the buck’s antlers sticking up from behind the foundation as he slowed moved from one end to the other. My dad whispered instructions: Keep the gun in my lap until the buck was about three-quarters of the way to the end, then bring the gun up and wait for the deer to walk into the clearing. I did as instructed—but when the deer reached the point where I was about to bring up my gun, he shot like a rocket out from behind the foundation, across the clearing and toward the woods on the other side of the valley. It still wasn’t that far, so I thought I might have a shot if he stopped at the field edge.
“The whole time he was running, I was struggling to put my scope on him and couldn’t see a thing. When it was all over, and I was so frustrated that I had let the biggest deer in the area go, Dad asked me if I had dialed out my scope. I hadn’t even thought of that! I’d been so awestruck at seeing the buck that I had never even thought to check my scope. It was dialed in to the highest magnification it could go. No wonder I hadn’t been able to find the deer in it!”
Moral of the story: At the beginning of the hunt, turn your scope’s magnification all the way down to its lowest setting. You can always turn it up later if you want to dial in on a calm animal that’s standing still, but if you have to move quickly, you can shoot with the scope on its lowest setting and you won’t compromise your ability to find your target in it.
The Death March
One Southern hunter shares this painful tale: “I was going on a duck hunt sponsored by an apparel company and they wanted to send me some waders. I’m a plus-size gal and on the short side to boot, so waders aren’t the easiest thing to fit, but whatever, they’re stretchy. I’ll make it work. So I give them my boot size and they send the waders—breathables. Cool, never tried them but I hear great things. I pack my stuff, load the box of brand-new waders in the car and take off.
“I get to camp and it’s just me, an avid duck hunter who was a brand rep for the apparel company, and his two buddies, who both happen to be cops and former Marines. I’m clearly out of place, but that’s not unusual in the life of a female outdoor writer.
“Next morning, hours before dawn, we’re getting dressed to go hunt in flooded fields using layout blinds. The waders don’t fit. They’re not stretchy at all, and I can only pull them about halfway up my thighs before they’re too tight and won’t go up any further. I’m thoroughly embarrassed to go tell three buff dudes that I’m too chubby to wear my own waders, but what choice do I have? One of them has a pair of neoprene men’s waders I can borrow. They’re a size 13 boot.
“I can barely walk in them but I’m not about to wimp out, so a-hunting we go. The boots are six sizes too big and the waders are about a foot too tall, and my feet are slipping around all over the place inside the boots so I can’t get any traction. I fall six times walking through lumpy, bumpy flooded fields and crawling over levees—I’m soaked to the skin (fortunately it wasn’t very cold out) and dumping dirty water out of my shotgun, but we finally get set up and kill our limit of ducks.
“Time to go. The rep has mercy on me and tells me they’ll pack up the gear and I can head out a different way than we came in: ‘If you walk that way, you’ll get out of this field a lot sooner and hit a logging road. I’m almost positive it loops back around to where we parked the truck.’
“So I struggle over a few more levees and trip a couple more times before I finally get out of the flooded field and hit the road—only it turns out that it doesn’t loop back around at all. It dead-ends, and the only way back to the truck is to march through a dirt field or go back the way I came. I’m not about to trip and fall over all those levees again, and the field looks much easier.
“It isn’t. It’s only about 200 yards across the field, but it’s pure boot-sucking mud. I take a single step, get my giant wader boot stuck, lift my foot while trying to keep it from coming out of the boot entirely, hoist the boot out of the suction the mud had created, and plop it down in front of me. Every step is difficult, and with each step, more and more mud cakes onto the boots, making them heavier and heavier. It gets harder and harder and I get sweatier and sweatier in my floppy, non-breathable, neoprene prison. I’m not in great shape to begin with, but this is torture. I have to keep stopping to catch my breath and try to rub one foot against my other leg to scrape off the inches of sticky mud just so I can get going again, and it’s taking everything I have to keep going. Meanwhile, two of the guys have already made it to the truck by going back through the flooded field, so they’re watching my death march with amusement (the sympathetic kind, not the mean kind). The last guy, the toughest Marine, unwisely follows me, not realizing until it was too late for both of us what a miserable choice that would turn out to be.
“I’m sweating profusely, red-faced and exhausted—not to mention humiliated—by the time I get back to the truck. The last guy is in the middle of his own march of torment when he finally gets fed up, takes his waders and socks off in the field, and trudges through the mud in his bare feet the rest of the way back.
“He told me later that was by far the toughest hike he’d ever had outside the Marine Corps, so I felt a little less embarrassed.”
Moral of the story: Don’t take gear on a trip unless you’ve tried it on first! And also consider working on your fitness, because hunting can be a more physically demanding pursuit than you might expect.
A Series of Mishaps
Another hunter has a multitude of blunders to report: “I do all kinds of stupid stuff. Once I left the full choke in (for wing shooting) and blasted a bird’s head right off.
“Another time, I was in turkey camp with all guys. They take me out and we get on these birds. There are birds everywhere, it’s crazy—I held my gun up for 45 minutes and my arms are about dead. I finally shoot this bird and jump up and run over to it, but I catch my foot on a vine and hit the ground hard. I bounce up and keep running, but they caught my loud and ungraceful ‘Oof!’ on video and made a stupid remix I had to hear over and over for the rest of the week.
“Then there was the pee-pee gobbler. I was in the woods alone, and this bird is coming in but he’s being really slow. I had drunk a whole 22-oz. Mountain Dew and I really had to pee, and I was thinking I probably had time. I got a little way away on the side of a logging road and started taking care of business.
“So I was peeing away and I got that sixth-sense feeling, you know? I looked to my left and here came that gobbler just walking down the road toward me. I didn’t have my gun, of course—it was 15 yards away. I couldn’t stand up or I’d spook him, but what the heck, I was by myself and determined to make this happen. So I laid down backwards (to avoid the puddle), rolled over, and belly-crawled through the briars with my pants around my knees. I got set up—still pants-down, mind you—got the gun up, called the bird in and shot him.
“I jumped up, pants still undone, holding my gun in one hand and my pants in the other, and started running down the powerline, in a hurry to get to my bird. He was flopping around and I was trying to [finish the job], and of course I dropped my pants in the process. Then he got tangled in my boot laces and I was basically tripping through this chaos, naked from the waist down.
“Then I looked up and there were all these cars 60 yards away from me driving down the road.”
Moral of the story: Never leave your gun behind, even when nature calls. But also, be willing to do whatever it takes to get your game!