|Me, with short hair in 2010|
I pulled my decoy boat up the ramp and grabbed two items that I'd take to my car immediately: my gun, and my strap of ducks. The rest could wait until I'd changed into dry clothes.
Not far from the ramp, a man was standing with his son, who looked to be maybe 11 years old or so. The dad was watching me.
"How'd you do?" he asked.
"Well, it took all day, but I finally got my limit," I said, lifting my strap. It was bursting with drake spoonies - five, the most I'd ever gotten in one hunt - and I'd rounded it out to seven with a drake gadwall and a hen ruddy.
"Really?!?" he said.
Wait for it now... Read more...
Oh, yes he did.
"Yeah!" I responded.
"Hell, we were surprised too, because having vajayjays makes it so freakin' hard to kill ducks. I mean, who knew that such a low-profile body part could cause so much trouble?
"And boobs! Dear God, the boobs! Count your blessings, man," I told him, shaking my head. "Boobs are the worst - all that jiggling really flares the ducks."
... OK, that's not what I said. Let me start over again:
"Hey pal," I said. "I'm not a girl. I'm a woman, old enough to be your brat's grandma. And I'm not some two-bit poser pretending to like hunting to get attention. I'm a hunter. I'm dead serious. And frankly, I'm menopausal, so if I were you, I'd shut the f*** up and get out of my way."
... OK, OK, I didn't really say that either. Let's try this again:
"Yeah," I said.
"How'd you do?"
"Oh, we're not hunting today," he said. "My son got the No. 2 draw for the junior hunt next weekend. We've never been here before. Where would you recommend we go?"
I told him what the hunting was like where I'd come from - free roam, the Wild West of the refuge - and told him my next favorite spots on the refuge, places you go if you don't want to compete with other hunters for the best spot.
"Yeah, that's what that guy over there said, too," he said, motioning to another hunter in the parking lot.
"Well, good luck next weekend," I said.
Truth is, while it was a ridiculous question - "Two girls!?!" - I couldn't bring myself to feel remotely indignant. The only thing I had to suppress was my laughter.
And to be completely honest, it's not an empty gesture when I carry that strap of ducks from water's edge to my car. When I do that, I am saying to any stranger who wants to know, "Yeah, I can kill ducks," because I know there actually are people out there who find that surprising.
Hell, sometimes I find it surprising, but not because of my gender. My surprise stems from a lifetime of athletic inadequacy and a crushing lack of confidence.
So, I can't well display that strap of bravado and take offense when someone rises to the bait, right?
The truth is, this dad was probably just another duck hunter who'd never met a female duck hunter before, and that's not his fault.
Let's just hope his son grows up thinking of women like me as just another part of the hunting landscape. That'd be good enough for me.
© Holly A. Heyser 2012