As a senior graphic designer for Shooting Sports USA, I hear my colleagues tell their hunting stories, and NRA Publications publishes articles from hunts all around the world. As time went by, I realized that I wanted to experience a hunt as well. One thing I noticed in all of these article, (besides the beautiful successful hunt photos!) is that the hunters did not look quite like me. As a Korean-American woman, I haven't seen many Asian women in the hunting culture. Growing up, my family believed that education was the key step to achieving the American dream. Studying, playing the violin and art was my lifestyle...while hunting was a foreign idea.
"Wait, what are you doing?"
"That sounds so cool!"
"Don't hurt Bambi!"
These were some of the responses I heard from my friends when I told them I was going on a deer hunt. I marveled at the range of responses from women who respected my choice, to others who thought that hunting was outdated and cruel. The common theme was that hunting was not a normal thing that Asian women do.
But where does a first-time hunter begin her journey? I talked with my colleagues, asking question after question. Since this would be my first deer hunt, I decided to hire an outfitter and guide.
I started researching outfitters through the Maryland Outfitters and Guides Association, Inc. After more research and phone calls, I made a deposit with Schrader's Outdoors, LLC. Schrader's provides a full range of facilities, such as a manor house with hotel-style rooms and hot meals, various shotgun sports, and experienced guides for hunting and fishing. I arrived with my friend and we met our guide, who took us to a range, went over the schedule, where to aim, offered some strategies, and answered a bunch of our questions.
By 5:15 the next morning, I was dressed in my camo and on my way out the door. Cabela's had graciously provided me with a full complement of hunting attire taken from their MTP base layer. I wore a women's 4-in-1 parka, OutfitHER Dry-Plus Insulated pants, Instinct Accelerator 9mm rubber boots, a fleece hat and gloves. I was overwhelmed and very thankful to Cabela's for how well the clothes kept me warm, especially when sitting outdoors in freezing December temperatures for several hours.
For my first hunt, I requested we use a ground blind instead of a tree stand. As we walked through the dark, my guide kept his flashlight low. He explained how the deer would be moving and where to expect them. As we watched and listened for hours, we kept hoping for those few seconds when a deer might appear. The morning passed and we only saw two deer that stayed under cover, then silently drifted away. Otherwise only birds and squirrels kept us company. At the end of the morning session, my hunting partner almost sighed with relief when we could talk normally and move about. That afternoon we were positioned at the edge of a tree line facing a field, but the deer we spotted were well out of range.
Hunting had a way of pulling me away from our modern instantaneous culture. Modern society is designed for our user interface, ordering things on Amazon or finding out what to watch on Netflix. Our mobile devices ensure that we are always connected to the latest e-mail,Tweet and social updates. All this social connectivity and constant entertainment came to a crashing halt as I waited and watched. With the passing hours my hunting partner struggled to stay alert and quiet. I soon realized that the deer were not at all interested in improving our user interface.
I didn't see any deer the next morning and our last hunt was that afternoon. Our guide took us back to the same blind by the tree line that faced the field. Fresh tracks were found in this location. Rain was falling steadily, and our guide asked if we still wanted to hunt. "Of course!" we replied. After waiting for a couple of hours, finally, a group of deer came to the field and they were close, really close! I was using a 20-gauge Mossberg 500 Super Bantam Slugster with Federal Premium Vital-Shok Sabot slugs, and I was confident in taking a shot out to 100 yards. This deer, however, was very close. I eased my gun to my shoulder and clicked off the safety. Even in the rain, the deer's head shot up when she heard the click. I aimed and fired. The deer stumbled, whirled around, and ran back to the woods. Our guide found the white fur where the deer had stumbled and began tracking the deer. After hours of diligent tracking, we could not find a recently deceased deer. Unfortunately, due to the rain, there was no blood trail. This experience taught me that hunting deer in the rain makes tracking much more difficult. Sadly, my first deer hunt did not have a Hollywood ending.
A few days later, I called up my friend who had joined me in the hunt. It turned out that we both kept thinking about that deer that got away, and we wanted another chance to have a successful hunt. So, we decided that the following weekend, with better-suited weather and moon phase, would be perfect for deer hunting. We called up Schrader's Outdoors. They were very happy to have us hunt on what was the final day in Maryland's 2014 shotgun deer-hunting season.
It was the first day of our second hunting session, and we quietly sat and watched throughout the early morning. My hunting partner commented that we were much better at keeping silent and quietly watching compared with our first noisy hunting adventure. Despite our muted diligence, no deer came our way that morning.
In the afternoon, we had asked to go back to the same blind where I had taken my shot. Although, this time, we hoped for a different outcome. We waited until the sun started to sink into the horizon...less than an hour remained in the hunting season. The minutes ticked away and my hunting partner tried to reassure me that it would be OK if no deer showed. Just as the sun almost disappeared, a group of deer appeared on our right. My hunting partner shoots left-handed and was seated on the right side, but the deer were well beyond my partner's range. Now was my chance! I had a Nikon Slugster scope mounted on my Mossberg so the deer was within my range. "Move over! Please." I firmly motioned. My partner saw the determined look on my face, and quietly moved over. Amazingly, the closest deer was working her way closer to feed on winter wheat, and she stood completely broadside. I positioned myself on the right side of the blind, clicked off the safety, aimed just behind the front shoulder, slowly exhaled, and squeezed the trigger. The deer buckled and fell without running a step! The Mossberg functioned perfectly. The slug hit the lungs and exited out the other side. I had taken my first deer within the final minutes of the season.
I look forward to cooking with venison from my deer hunt. While venison is not a traditional part of Korean cuisine, I plan to share my hunting experience with family and friends by using marinated and grilled venison in bibimbap, kimbap, or by itself with kimchi and rice. I don't know of any other Korean huntresses, but perhaps the awareness of venison as a lean and nutritious meat can help trigger interest among my generation of Asian-Americans in all the benefits of hunting.