Pull!” I said with all the authority I could muster. I was standing in an open field with 11 other women, a firearms expert, and a 12-gauge shotgun.
I had brought the gun to eye level and made sure I could only see the bead, not the barrel itself. I had positioned my legs one ahead of the other and bent forward at the waist. The orange disk was sailing through the air. I needed to get the bead on it and fire before it was out of range. I put pressure on the trigger. With the butt of the rifle firmly against my cheek, I braced for the recoil. I squeezed a bit harder.
I sheepishly looked up at the instructor. Oops, I had forgotten to release the safety. I repeated the steps again, said “pull” with a little less authority, and this time squeezed off the shot and zapped the skeet from the sky. What empowerment!
Whether it’s the thrill of the kill out on a shooting range, in a New Hampshire pond or in a video game, it is just plain fun to bag your target. Here at a Become an Outdoors Woman (BOW) seminar at the Sandy Point Discovery Center in Stratham, women learned to play the games that men, by tradition, have enjoyed for centuries.
Men have always been the primary hunters and gatherers. And even now, when the gathering part has been sublimated to the supermarket, “game” hunting for deer, waterfowl or even fishing is by and large a man’s … er, game.
If you are a woman who wants in on the fun, BOW, sponsored by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, sponsors weekend and single-day events to give you a taste of the outdoor sports. And not all involve killing.
At this event, held in June, more than 70 woman gathered to learn a few basic skills in sea kayaking, coastal birding, striper fishing, gourmet seafood cooking or the event I attended, coastal waterfowl hunting.
My instructor, Brian Smith, was really three-quarters environmentalist and one-quarter duck hunter. He was into spotting the birds in their habitat, buying all the latest gear and then maybe “forgetting” to bring his shotgun. I was not the only one who had a little dilemma with the concept of “harvesting” the mallard duck with its glossy green head, white neck band, rusty colored breast with a blue wing-tip speculum: Is it a colorful model for Donald or fine cuisine, perfect for grilling? Serve with a full-bodied cabernet.
Smith gave us a rundown on the identifying characteristics of fowl that frequent our waters, gear that is necessary, gear that is nice but not necessary, and the rules of the game. For instance, “fair chase” laws say there should be only three shells in your shotgun at one time. Three shots and you are out; if you haven’t landed the bird, he gets to live another day.
As with most hobbies there seems to be no end to the level of commitment and price of equipment. A really fine “sneak” boat that puts its occupants in duck country, with the comfort of an RV but oblivious to the birds, costs upwards of $10,000.
On the other hand, a pair of Neoprene chest waders, a shotgun, a few plastic decoys and a buddy to flush out the birds on the edge of a pond might work, too. You could bring your bird dog — black Labs are best, but of course, the dog would need a jacket, too.
Shotgun instructor Tom Flynn, a Fish and Game employee, had shown us proper gun handling (lock, stock and barrel) as well as the gauges and types of “chokes” of shot available. The shot in the bullets is not lead anymore because the wildlife and fish were eating the spent shot and getting lead poisoning. With the wide spray pattern of the shot, most of us were able to make a hit. Clay pigeons were blasted into the hereafter one after the other. Each successful shot elicited a hearty round of applause by fellow hunters-to-be. We were a band of “brothers.”
The day was capped off by a lobster bake complemented by a full range of seafood dishes, courtesy of the gourmet seafood cooking class. They had been taught how to select, handle and prepare seafood whether purchased at the supermarket or caught on a line. From sushi to ceviche, they had learned their lessons well. A huge pile of oysters were ours for the shucking, along with steamers and mussels. Giant blocks of butter were melted and poured into coffee pots for serving, while the lobster man kept the cooked lobsters hot in a cooler (a good tip if you need to keep a large quantity of food hot).
A quick slide show of the day’s events gave everybody a taste of each of the classes. But the biggest cheers went out to the girls with the guns. I have the duck sauce ready and waiting. I wonder how it tastes with skeet?
This article appears in the September 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine