Friday, February 29, 2008

Good news for California huntresses

Last month when I wrote about the First Lady of Waterfowling, Ellie Sharp, I mentioned that the California Waterfowl Association was starting a Women's Outdoor Connections initiative.

This week, I found out what exactly this group will be doing in the coming year: a women's shooting clinic in August, a photography contest this fall and one of the coolest things of all, a daddy-daughter dinner and dance sometime around Valentine's Day.

The reason I know about all this is that I have an inside source: me. I was invited to join the WOC committee earlier this month, so now I actually get to be involved in developing these programs. This of course means that I'm gonna be pretty biased about the virtue of the WOC initiative, but hello! What's not to love?

I think all three events will be fun, and I'll be involved one way or another in each of them. But I'm really excited about the daddy-daughter dinner in particular. Why? I've heard a lot in the hunting forums about dads (and granddads) taking their girls hunting, and I know that this represents the true future of women in hunting.

Plus, it will just be adorable seeing all those proud papas with their little huntresses.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Colorado huntress: the case for pink camo

I have to start this by saying I've always hated the color pink. It is the enemy of all tomboys.

Or so I thought. A story by Charlie Meyers in the Denver Post (click here to read it) may give me reason to grudgingly accept pink.

Meyers writes about Keli Van Cleave, a goddess of bowhunting whose entire persona is infused with pink. If you click on the link or the photo here, you'll see that even her arrows are pink.

An excerpt from the story: "It may sound crazy," she says of the seeming incongruity of pink camouflage, "but it works because animals are colorblind. Camo is just a breakup."

I'm guessing she's not a waterfowler - ducks see colors perfectly well. But that's fine. The point is, here's another huntress showing that women don't have to sacrifice their particular affinities to become hunters. "I've shown you can be in the outdoors and still look good," she tells Meyers.

Meyers reports that Van Cleave has a company, Pink Outdoors, that has a pink camo clothing line. I searched for it online and found a website that says "coming soon," so I can't see what she's got to offer. But I'll be sure to check it out and report back once she goes live.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hunters don't eat what they kill? Oh my.

Oh boy.

San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle posted a blog item Saturday about the fact that Barack Obama doesn't kill ducks. (In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton recently told Dems in the blaze-orange state of Wisconsin that she killed a duck once.) LaSalle criticizes politicians who pander to the hunting community, and declares that hunting is "at best, weird."

To each his own - I don't really expect any pro-hunting commentary out of San Francisco (though my friends who live there accept and respect what I do).

But some of the comments that followed were just crazy:

Who's eating those ducks? Nobody. It's not about food. It's about bonding through slaughter. Why pretend this is a good thing?


"Sport" hunting and slaughterhouses are two ends of the same moral cesspool. My credo is: Don't kill what you're not willing to clean and eat; don't eat what you're not prepared to kill.


What percentage of hunters actually eat what they kill?

Oh really?

You really think I'm going to spend tons of money on gun, camo, ammunition, target practice, licenses and fees, then get up at 2 a.m., spend eight hours in a marsh freezing my butt off, working like crazy to get some ducks in range, only to throw away the ducks at the end of the day? Puh-lease!

I agree with LaSalle's point that the political pandering is irritating and silly. It makes me giggle.

And I don't mind that there are people out there who oppose killing and eating animals. We all have the right to consider the facts, make our choices and live by those choices.

But people who make stuff up to make their case against hunting are just ridiculous. If only they knew how silly they've made themselves look.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Best guacamole recipe - by special request

I'm generally not given to bragging about my cooking, but if there's one thing I'm pretty proud of, it's my guacamole.

I mentioned it the other day when I wrote about how I am (or used to be) scared to death of cooking wild ducks, and that prompted my friend Albert at The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles to request the recipe. While I don't, as a rule, write about non-hunting subjects, I figured this would be a good exception to the rule. Who doesn't love guacamole?

You may wonder why I've chosen the photo above to illustrate this post. Wouldn't an avocado be better? But it is this bizarre little item that is most essential for good guacamole.

It's called a molcajete, pronounced mole-cah-HAY-tay. Say it a couple times with a fierce Samurai growl - you'll be surprised how much you like it. It is carved from basalt, endowed with the charming face of a pig and painted for good measure. Totally cheesy.

It is a mortar and pestle, but its particular features make it better than the marble version you might find at Pier 1, or the the clay suribachi used in Japanese cooking - the one with scratch marks in the clay that make it look like a permanent zen garden.

Here's a closeup of the important part of the molcajete:

The rough pitting of the bowl is the magic behind good guacamole. It grinds ingredients without pureeing them, so they still have texture, and it brings out the juices of each ingredient, infusing them together far better than you would using a blender, or my mom's old method, two forks.

So how do you find a molcajete? If you live anyplace with any substantial Mexican population at all, you probably have a Mexican market near you. (I bought this one in Richmond, Virginia - not a city known for its Mexican population - so it's easier than you may think to find them.) Most Mexican markets carry molcajetes of varying quality. The one shown here is one of the best and usually goes for $20; others with a rougher grain aren't as good, but will suffice. Read to the end if you plan to buy one of these, because you need to know how to "cure" it.

One final note before I get to the good part: I didn't invent this recipe. It's pure Diana Kennedy, the goddess of Mexican cooking, who developed it by traveling extensively throughout Mexico.



> Three ripe avocados
> One-half onion, chopped
> One ripe Roma tomato, chopped
> 2-3 serrano chilis, or jalapenos if you prefer something milder, chopped
> A small handful of cilantro, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
> 2-3 ripe limes
> Salt to taste (I prefer kosher salt, or margarita salt - anything with a large grain)


Place chopped onions and chilis into the molcajete and grind them until they've been reduced to pulpy bits and released much of their juices. Add cilantro and do the same. Add tomato and do the same (it doesn't take much).

Now, slice the avocados in half and remove the pits. Don't worry about pulling the pit out carefully to preserve the flesh of the fruit - that's how guacamole accidents happen. Using a spoon, scoop out a few spoonsful of avocado flesh at a time and grind it into the mixture in the molcajete. Don't do all your avocados at once or it'll be difficult, and you'll miss big chunks. As each batch gets thoroughly mushed, add another few spoonsful.

Now, add lime and salt to taste. There truly is no single acceptable measurement for this. I come from a long line of people genetically predisposed to crave salts and acids, so in my family, we use a lot. The amount of lime you'll need also depends on the particular alkalinity of your avocados. So just squeeze in some juice and sprinkle in some salt and keep testing it on a tortilla chip until you're happy with it.

Kennedy will tell you to save the pit and put it into the dip to keep it from going brown. In my experience, the dip never lasts long enough to go brown, so I don't bother.

That's it!


Q: I noticed your molcajete looks stained. Don't you ever wash it?

A: Yep, I do, but avocados contain a lot of fat. Healthy fat, but fat nonetheless, and it stains the stone. Nothing to worry about.

Q: So how do you clean it?

A: Easy: I put it in the sink, run hot water in it and add a little dish soap, then use a scrub brush to get into all the pits and pores. You won't be able to get out all the green bits - they really stick in there. But it's OK. No one has died from eating guac out of my molcajete. After scrubbing, rinse thoroughly to get out all the soap, then turn it upside down to drain. It takes a while to dry out completely, because it's a big stone sponge.

Alternate method: Rinse it out and stick it in the dishwasher.

Q: You mentioned something about curing the molcajete. What's up with that?

A: The molcajete is made of stone, and if you just start using it straight off the shelf, you're going to get bits of stone in your food. Not so good for your teeth!

To cure it, you dump in a handful of uncooked rice, grind it down, rinse it out, and repeat 3-5 times until the rice no longer looks gray at the end of the grinding. I won't lie - this process is a total pain in the butt. But it's worth it when you make your guac and all the people who eat it tell you it's the best guac they've ever had. Your big fat head will make you forget all about the torture you endured.

Q: Any more advice?

A: Yes, when you find your molcajete on the store's shelf, you'll often find the pestle missing. It's not really missing - they often store them behind the counter to keep people from stealing them. Just ask for one. And if the store carries more than one kind of molcajete, make sure to get a pestle that matches - sometimes they'll accidentally hand you the lesser large-grained pestle, and you definitely want matching quality mortar and pestle.

One more thing: Be careful with it - if you drop it, it'll break. But if you handle it carefully, it'll be fine. Mine has survived a move from Virginia to Minnesota, and then from Minnesota to California, and one I got for a friend survived a move to Afhanistan. The biggest problem she has is finding avocados to put into it.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kitchen confessions of a huntress

Dinner is servedHave I mentioned that I’m terrified of cooking ducks?

You wouldn’t know it when you read here how much I love the great food that hunting puts on the dinner table. But here’s the deal: Boyfriend’s the one doing the cooking. And his game cookery is immaculate, so I eat well (see photo above).

It’s not that I can’t cook. Before Boyfriend started feeding me, I cooked all the time. And I can make some mean Mexican food, baby – homemade tortillas, fresh-ground spice mixes, intricate moles (that’s MOW-lay – the chili sauce with chocolate in it) and pretty much the best guacamole anyone has ever had.

But that’s stuff you make with storebought ingredients. Now I have this sacred bond with my meat. I saw it fly, I took it down, I watched it die, I plucked it and gutted it and I am terrified that I will dishonor it with incompetence in the kitchen.

Boyfriend has been gentle about this. He never nags me. He just informs me when there’s a teal I could cook, or lets me know when the kitchen will be free for a few hours here or there on a weekend. It reminds me of the time when I was a freshman in high school and my Mom came into my room to let me know the new Reader’s Digest was in, her index finger coincidentally underlining a headline about the dangers of marijuana. Hint hint hint.

And I usually respond to him the same way I responded to Mom: “Thanks.”

But this week I was forced to cook a duck.

We had some leftovers from our big duck hunters dinner earlier this month – some teal brought by one of our guests. We were going to eat them during the week, but we just got too busy, so Boyfriend put them in a brine to preserve them. Then we were supposed to eat them Sunday, but we were all pooped after sturgeon fishing.

On Wednesday, we were approaching a dangerous point: If it's wicked to dishonor a duck by cooking it badly, then it's undoubtedly a mortal sin to let it go to waste. Something had to be done.

So I did it. I set out to cook the duck, following Boyfriend's very simple, very foolproof recipe for roasted whole duck:

> Preheat oven to 450 or 500 degrees.
> Pat dry and salt a whole duck with skin on.
> Brown the duck in a cast iron pan, preferably using duck fat, but oil will do.
> Turn off the burner, then set two celery stalks in the pan and rest the duck on them, breast side up.
> Pop the whole shebang into the oven for at least 10 minutes (more for bigger birds, but we're talking teal here)
> Start checking it with a meat thermometer at 10 minutes. When it hits 135 degrees, pull it out of the oven.
> Serve, ideally with yummy green things. Or whatever.

I followed the recipe, except for the salt part. This duck didn't need any more of that. After the bird had been in the oven for 10 minutes, I dutifully poked it with the meat thermometer and watched it hit 165 degrees. Yikes! I pulled it out, let it rest for a few minutes, then plunked it on a plate to see how I'd done.

It sure wasn't as rare as I like it. And after all that time in brine, it was saltier than bacon. But it was actually good! I like salt anyway. And I was so emboldened by the experience that I cooked two more of them tonight, and they came out even better.

I'm feeling good about this!

OK, I'm feeling guilty that I couldn't work up the guts to cook a duck until it was someone else's duck that I might screw up, and there was a high likelihood it would taste funky anyway from its long soak in the brine. Talk about playing it safe!

But I did it. And I'm no longer afraid.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Washington company announces a new line of hunting apparel for women

Looks like another company is jumping into the women's hunting clothing business: Seattle-based Filson.

Seattle Times reporter Amy Martinez writes this morning that the 111-year-old company will include 40 items in its new line, which will hit stores in March. Here's an excerpt from the story:

"Women already are Filson customers — they've just altered the clothing to make it fit, (Chief Executive Bill Kulczyckis) said. 'I believe Filson should have been in the women's market 10 years ago. We're just not quick to catch onto trends.' "

Well, thank goodness they've caught on.

Unfortunately, I can't find any photos of the women's clothing on the company's website - in fact, when I search for the word "women" I come up with zero. But I plan to get in touch with the company to see what it has to offer.

After visiting the SHOT Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, I came home with contacts from three companies that manufacture only women's hunting clothing (SHE Safari, Foxy Huntress and Prois Hunting Apparel) and a new determination to patronize these businesses so they'll continue to make clothing that fits our figures.

I plan to review items from each of their clothing lines for Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors, where I'm a member of the ProStaff. If Filson's new product line is ready in time, I'll try to add an item or two from its collection to the review as well. I'll post a link here when that review is online.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sturgeon fishing in the Delta

The essence of sturgeon fishing
In the background: the Pittsburg Power Plant

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one could potentially save me a lot of time, because this is all that happened Sunday when I went sturgeon fishing with Boyfriend, his sister Suzanne from New Jersey and two total strangers from Ohio, Edie and her son Ethan.

For 10-year-old Ethan, who's accustomed to actually catching fish, the day appeared to be agonizingly empty.

The captain - Diana Canevaro of Fish Hookers Sport Fishing - baited the enormous hooks with all the disgusting delights a sturgeon could ever desire, and she did all the casting too. Our job was just to watch the tips of the rods for the telltale gentle tug of the dinosaur-like fish we were hunting.

The water in the delta had warmed up after a couple weeks of nice warm sunshine, so the fishing was supposed to be good. But it was dismal. As we listened to the fishermen's radio traffic, we heard one young guide with anger management issues tell the story of another boat squatting on "his spot" far more times than we heard anyone talk about actually catching any fish.

Poor Ethan kept walking up to the gently bobbing rods, picking them up to see if there was perhaps some weight on the lines that no one had noticed, setting them back down quietly. He didn't look bored; he looked frustrated.

But I was not troubled by this state of affairs.

First, I knew sturgeon fishing could be tough. When Boyfriend once told my boss that he caught a sturgeon on his very first sturgeon fishing trip, Boss - a hardcore fisherman - was irritated as hell. He's been trying for ages and still hasn't caught one.

Second - and this is the important one - I was out on the water, 90 miles from school work that needed to be graded, watching ducks zoom across the water all around our boat, soaking up the sunshine, and napping from time to time.

I love duck hunting. I really do. I can't wait until October, when the next season begins. I'm already making plans.

But duck hunting is a lot of work: placing decoys just right, hiding, calling, straining your eyes and ears, shivering, shooting and chasing - and all the better if it takes place in a wet and windy storm.

Fishing, on the other hand, involves sunshine and beer and the gentle rocking of a boat.

To everything there is a season, and I am glad that my season for fishing has begun - even if I come home with nothing more than photos.

Setting out on the sturgeon boat

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Midwestern huntress insulted by troglodyte conservation employee

Oh joyous day! Today's the day I picked up my 2008 California sport fishing license at my local hunting and fishing store.

I love the experience of getting my license - I get as excited as a little kid thinking about all the places I'll go with that little piece of paper. And after a long season of hiding from ducks in often miserable conditions, the idea of kicking back on a boat with some beer in the cooler and a line in the water sounds pretty good.

Unfortunately, my huntress-blogger friend Blessed did not have such a pleasant experience when she picked up 2008 licenses for herself and her husband this week.

Get this: She goes up to the counter of her local conservation office and says she needs to get licenses, and the conservation employee tells her, "I'm sure it's not for you - do you have their Social Security number so that I can look them up in the system?"

When she tells him that in fact one of the licenses is for her, the guy ... well, you should go check out her post on it, because I don't want to steal the story. But I pretty much guarantee you that you'll wish you'd been there to smack the guy for her - at least verbally.

Blessed was especially offended because she went straight to her state agency to buy the licenses. Not to Wally World, but to the state agency that is really trying to promote women hunting.

I guess I've been pretty lucky - the insults have been far and few between for me. About the worst lately was when I went to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas earlier this month and had to visit the Duck Commander booth three times before anyone there took notice of me. Was it that hard to imagine that a chick staring intently at duck hunting products might actually be a duck hunter? Duh.

The silly thing is that there's no harm and plenty of good to be achieved in these situations by treating every woman as though she might be a hunter. Even if she's not, showing her a little respect is bound to make her feel better about the sport her husband, boyfriend and/or sons love.

And assuming that she might be a hunter could just make her feel welcome enough to try it.

Reminds me of what happened to me 12 years ago when I signed up at a tae kwon do school. I was just foolin' around, having fun taking classes, when one day another student said, "You're going to make a great black belt." It hadn't occurred to me before that I might take it to that level - but that was the day I decided I'd do it. Within three years, I had my black belt.

Ain't it amazing, the power that words have?

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is it with women and bowhunting?

This question has been on my mind for quite a while: Why are women so drawn to bowhunting?

The question has been weighing on me for a number of reasons. One is an imminent visit from my sister-in-law Suzanne, who's a bowhuntress in New Jersey. Another is women I've met recently who are bowhunters, including Kirstie Pike - founder of Prois Hunting Apparel - and Julie Kreuter of the Outdoor Channel show Dream Season.

The big one is a statistic I found last fall. While the number of women who hunt with firearms is holding roughly steady, the number of women who hunt with bow and arrow has increased substantially in recent years.

Data source: National Sporting Goods Association. Click to enlarge.

Boyfriend isn't remotely interested in bowhunting, but this is one place where I'm certain our paths will diverge.

When I was a little kid, my parents bought me a toystore longbow, and I absolutely loved it. We lived on five acres of undeveloped land - part of it covered with weeds, part of it an excavation project where sand removal left giant pits and mountains - and I was out playing with that thing all the time. It's the closest I ever got to hunting as a kid, though I just had target arrows and never aimed them at any critters.

When I was in college and hadn't yet figured out a way to dodge P.E., archery was going to be the class I took.

And as a fan of postapocalyptic fiction, it's always on my mind: If civilization collapses and we can't run down to the supermarket for our dinner, how would I gather my food after the ammunition runs out? You can make a longbow with readily available materials (go Tred Barta!); guns and ammo, however, will not last forever.

But that's just me. I really would love to hear from other bowhuntresses out there about why you love it. And at some point, of course, I'll be asking for tips. It's inevitable.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Duck season is over, but the season of great food has just begun

The Boyfriend and I celebrated a great waterfowl season last night with our first-ever Duck Hunters Dinner. The concept was simple: A bunch of our hunting buddies and their spouses joined us - with ducks and wine in hand - for a veritable orgy of fine duck dining.

It was amazing.

I knew it was going to be a great evening when Hellen and I stood on our back porch and watched a mallard pair circle our neighborhood several times. Hellen's not hunting yet, but she had the classic post-season hunter's reaction - the little gasp, then freeze to watch 'em work.

If only those ducks knew what was going on inside. The first course was my brainchild: a mallard tasting.

Boyfriend roasted four different mallards: an acorn-fed duck from Amador County, a rice-fed duck from the Sacramento Valley, a grass-fed duck from the San Joaquin Valley and a corn-fed Delta duck from boyfriend's colleague Pete - an outdoors writer who's taken Boyfriend out to his club a few times. Everyone grabbed a slice from each and chose favorites without being told which was which.

Our friend Evan - who'd contributed the acorn-fed mallard - couldn't be with us last night, and that's a shame. He'd sworn that acorn-fed mallards taste bitter, but this one was really good. Strong, yes, but really good.

But the hands-down favorite? The grass-fed mallard I got in December on my first girls-only duck hunt with my friend Dana down in the San Joaquin Valley.

That was just the beginning - Boyfriend really got cooking after that. We feasted on some fantastic duck-liver ravioli he made 100 percent from scratch - the payoff from our painstaking dressing of every bird we get, collecting every usable part.

Pile o' duck livers; et voila! Duck liver ravioli

Then there was homemade duck sausage with sauerkraut and homemade mustard. And the piece de la resistance? A whole grilled teal for each of us. I've got no pictures of that, though, because quite frankly, we all just fell on our plates like savages, biting and tearing and licking our lips as our enormous cat Paka circled the table like a shark. She ended up well-fed for her troubles, and I'm quite certain she was a pound heavier this morning.

One of the coolest things about the whole evening was just bringing together friends who hunt to enjoy the food they hunted. We had Matt, our buddy who joined us on many occasions at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area; Tom, who joined us on the last day of season, and his wife Ann Marie, Boyfriend's colleague Pete and his wife Lexie; and huntress-in-training Hellen and her husband Derek.

It's really easy to let your hunting friendships lie fallow when the season ends, and this was a great way to keep that from happening. I'm quite certain that we all had just as much fun together at the dinner table as we've had in the marsh.


Oh, no, I'm not doing the recipes. That's Boyfriend's gig. Check his blog - Hunter Angler Gardener Cook - Finding the Forgotten Feast - later today for his account of the evening. Give him a while though - he's busy tending to the garden that we both ignored for the whole duck season. And me? I've got to go wash all that marsh mud off our cars. Finally.

Postscript: For Hellen's take on the dinner, click here.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Speaking of gear for women

Having written a lot in the past week about women's hunting apparel, I was especially interested this morning to find a story out of Tuscaloosa about a woman who's designed a line of women's fishing apparel.

Click here to read the full story.

The quote that stood out for me? “You can still look like a lady and bass fish,” (Dana) Beavers said. “It’s not about chewing tobacco and getting red worm dirt under your fingernails.”

Personally, I'm not a girlie girl, but I think it's really important for women who enjoy being ladylike to know that it's OK to look nice in the field (or in this case, on the water). You don't have to be a man, look like a man or act like a man to hunt or fish.

Where this really matters is with the kids. A lot of dads (and a few moms) are taking their daughters hunting these days, but I've heard stories of girls hitting puberty and pulling out of the field. Perhaps if they knew they could still be as girlie as they want, we wouldn't lose them at this stage of their lives.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A new ethic for huntresses - or at least for this huntress

From the time I was a little kid, my mom raised me to "shop local." Support your local merchants, she told me. Make sure your tax money goes into local coffers.

I've tried to live up to that ideal my whole life, and when I started hunting, I applied the same standard, always aiming to shop at my local, independently owned hunting store unless it didn't carry something pretty close to I was looking for.

Going to the SHOT Show this weekend, however, changed that equation. From here on out, if there's a company that make women's hunting clothing that meets my needs, I resolve never to settle for the man's version of the clothing just because it's what my local store carries. And fellow huntresses, I really hope you'll make the same pledge.

Here's why:

When I was at the SHOT Show, I asked reps from a lot of clothing companies what they made for women - for hunting, not lingerie - and the answer was typically little or nothing. We already knew that, though, right?

But when I talked to the folks at Columbia, they told me they used to make a line of women's hunting clothing, and their retailers even did a great job of stocking it and promoting it, but women just didn't buy it. So Columbia pulled back - the company's not making women's hunting clothes anymore.

If I didn't know the statistics, I might've been taken aback by that. But I already knew that women hunters spend far less than the national average on hunting gear, according to the latest available stats on the matter from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Click to enlarge.

I already blogged in December about the need for huntresses to spend money if they want manufacturers to meet our needs.

But this weekend, I met the resistance: Pam Zaitz from SHE Safari. Shelah Zmigrosky from Foxy Huntress. Kirstie Pike from Prois. These are women just like us who went looking for hunting clothes, came up empty-handed and decided to do something about it and design their own clothing lines.

God bless 'em!

For Columbia, it doesn't pencil out to cater to our needs. Do you think it will be any easier for Pam, Shelah and Kirstie? Do you think they'll be in it for the long haul if we don't buy what they're selling?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting you buy anything that doesn't work for you. For me, the big test is how well pants fit, and how much of a pain in the pants it will be to return anything that doesn't work, because I know I'm going to have to buy this stuff online or over the phone. In the end (sorry, didn't mean to continue the pun), if their products don't work for me, I won't buy them. This ain't charity; it's commerce.

But we have options. And if we continue buying and wearing men's clothes and complaining about the dismal fit all the while, whose fault is it that there's not much on the market for us?

In case you're wondering, no, I'm not on the payroll of any of these companies. I'm just acting on the ethic my mom taught me: Support the merchants who support me.

L-R: The hunting apparel of SHE Safari, Foxy Huntress, Prois Hunting Apparel

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

Prois Hunting Apparel - just for huntresses

And now for something a little different!

I loved what Foxy Huntress and SHE Safari brought to the SHOT Show, but today I found something really cool: Prois Hunting Apparel - "Serious Huntwear for Real Women."

This is not to detract from what Foxy Huntress and SHE Safari are doing at all, because I love both of their clothing lines.

But Kirstie Pike, president of Colorado-based Prois (pronounced PRO-iss), is producing gear strictly for the huntress - not for hunting wives on safari, not for street wear. I totally respect that.

Kirstie is a fellow tomboy who sympathizes about the kinds of body proportions that make finding the perfect pair of pants difficult (though if you ask me, she is rail thin). And as she went through the features of her clothing line, it was clear that functionality is of utmost importance.

The company's jackets are lined with nylon that doesn't get caught up on whatever clothing you wear underneath them. The pants have elastic and an adjustable strap on the sides of the waistband, and a side zipper and a drawstring on the hem of the pantlegs.

Click to enlarge detail.

The long-sleeved shirts - made with the same wicking fabric you get in running apparel - include thumbholes, which Kirstie assured me come in handy when bowhunting because they allow you to keep the sleeve taught and out of the way. "Do you bowhunt ... yet?" she asked. Man, she's got me pegged. I'm sure it'll happen.

And the jackets? They've got pockets in the lining - one right between your shoulder blades, one on your lower back - where you can put a heat pack to stay warm. Nice! I tried one on with a heat pack in the "scapular" pocket (between the shoulder blades) and got to thinking how nice that would feel out in a marsh in the middle of a storm.

Which brings me to camo. The current Prois lineup does not include waterfowling wear, but if the jackets were done in a waterfowling camo pattern, they'd be almost perfect with little or no additional modification. Kirstie said the company's looking into it, but can't promise anything for the duck huntress just yet. She's pretty adamant about not releasing it until she's been able to field test it thoroughly, so she won't rush to market.

Interestingly enough, Kirstie's website popped up a few weeks ago in my Google alerts, which notify me of anything new online that has to do with women hunting. So it was very cool not only to meet her, but to see her product line.

Kirstie Pike, president of Prois Hunting Apparel, with blaze hoodie

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Foxy Huntress - best of both worlds?

On Saturday, I found the beautiful feather-based camo pattern of Feather Flage - pretty, but not made for women. Then I found SHE Safari - a feminine take on traditional upland and big game hunting clothing.

And just when I was about ready to call it quits for the day Sunday, I saw it: gorgeous feather-based camo patterns on women's hunting clothing. I had found Foxy Huntress!

I had heard of Foxy Huntress before and hadn't given it much thought because I'm not too worried about being foxy out in the field - I just want to be comfortable. (And personally, if I had a women's hunting clothing company, I'd call it something obnoxious, like "Chicks with Guns." But the Foxy Huntress line is beautiful, and when I talked to owner Shelah Zmigrosky, I found out one of the reasons why: Italian fabrics.

Ooooooh. If there's two things the Italians do well, it's shotguns and couture. This could be a match made in heaven.

Just like Feather Flage, Foxy's camo pattern looks like it will work well while looking beautiful. And because the clothing is made of great fabrics and designed nicely for a woman, I could wear this to work and no one would know I was in my hunting clothes. In fact, Shelah said, she had to do that once herself - had to go to a business meeting and didn't have time to change, and she said she got loads of compliments.

As SHE Safari does, Foxy Huntress also produces clothes for the non-hunting women who like to look good when they go on safari with their husbands. Gotta love her take on leopard skin in these pants.

But Shelah has the huntress in mind in her gear designed for the field. The pants pictured above include a Velcro-latch crotch (with a soft lining, of course) so the wearer can take care of business out in the field without baring all.

That's what I'm talking about! Men have had front openings in their boxers and briefs for eternity, but it takes women hunting apparel designers to come up with something for us. It's about damn time.

One thing worth noting: Foxy Huntress is definitely on the higher end of the price scale, particularly compared with SHE Safari - many items list at more than $100.

Shelah doesn't want to go cheap, either. "Quality is my No. 1 thing," she said. "I don't want it to look homemade. I want clothes that look like they come from a couture shop."

But she told me on Sunday that she is lowering prices. Always music to shoppers' ears.

Aside from the beautiful clothing, the other great thing about Shelah's booth at the SHOT Show was that she had a dressing room. Ding ding ding ding ding! Like many women, I have to try things on to know if they're cut for me. As Sir Mix-A-Lot says, baby got back! (Translation: Padunkadunk! Booty!) Even if you have the best return policy in the world, I don't like buying clothes online and getting all excited about it if I think I might be disappointed.

So I dived into that dressing room and started trying things on, and walked out with a great pair of pants that convert to shorts and a hunting shirt, both in the green feather pattern. Spring turkey hunting is coming up, and that is the tiny window in which green camo is actually useful in California, so I can't wait to check it out.

The other camo color I saw at Shelah's booth was absolutely gorgeous, but I'm not sure where the rusts would fit in in my landscape. They'd look fantastic in a state where the indigenous forest breaks out into glorious fall colors, but that ain't California.

Now, if I can just convince her to come out with something in the gold that prevails on Califoania hillsides throughout most of the time I'll be hunting wild boar... And yes, she has some traditional safari colors. But I love that feather look.

Shelah Zmigrosky

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Confessions of a huntress - and karma!

There was something I didn't tell you about this morning's SHE Safari press conference. Yes, I was impressed by the incredible lineup of huntresses and the cool clothing line and the new TV show.

But I'll admit it: The thing that really took my breath away was when Jim Shockey walked into the room.

Being a chick, I don't watch hunting TV to see hot guys. Ladies, you know what I mean. But Jim Shockey is definitely the sexiest guy in hunting television.

So what did I do when I saw him? Averted my eyes and did pretty much everything but introduce myself to him. I'm not an autograph-seeking kind of girl. I texted Phillip - editor of the JHO Journal and the author of The Hog Blog - to tell him that I was swooning over Shockey. Later, I even called the Boyfriend, who's aware of my Shockey crush, to tell him about it. The Super Bowl was going to be on soon, so he didn't really care. And that was it.

So, a couple hours later, I was back on the exhibit floor again, making a beeline toward the Gamehide booth to see what they might have for women, and who do I see there but Julie Kreuter from the Outdoor Channel's "Dream Season" TV show. She happens to be Boyfriend's very favorite hunting TV chick, which is saying something, because there are plenty of cuties out there.

Julie is just as adorable in person as she is on TV. And she was safe! I could introduce myself to her without a scintilla of embarrassment, tell her about my boyfriend's appreciation of her incredible beauty and even assure her husband that my boyfriend was safely 1,300 miles away.

Could I take her picture - for my boyfriend? No, her husband would take a picture of us together!

Thanks, Julie and Rick!

Julie Kreuter and me

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

SHE Safari: Clothes AND TV for Huntresses

If there was one event I had to attend at the SHOT Show, it was SHE Safari’s press conference this morning.

After a gazillion years in the newspaper business, I shouldn’t get excited about a mere press conference. But SHE Safari is one of the very few companies out there making hunting clothing for women. Yes, stuff you can hunt in, not the camo lingerie I’ve passed by in several booths today.

Question No. 1 for Pam and Brian Zaitz (the SHE Safari president and vice president, respectively), was what do you have for duck hunters? How about some women's waders, built for our hips, not men's guts?

It’s a brutal question, because there are only about 131,000 women in the U.S. who hunt migratory waterfowl, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service data. As Brian explained, a company has to be assured a substantial majority of the market to make the venture worthwhile.

But while it doesn't sound like SHE Safari will have waders anytime soon, Brian said the company will have some waterfowling gear in its 2009 collection, which will be designed by May and unveiled at the 2009 SHOT Show.

The Zaitzes already have plenty of nice women’s gear for big game and upland game hunting, and they've doubled the size of their clothing line this year, in part with today's introduction of a line of women’s technical shooting clothing named for Olympic shooter Kim Rhode.

Pam Zaitz models quite a bit of what they sell, and being fabulously gorgeous, it looks great on her. I hope to check out SHE Safari's brush pants - which look well built - to see if they'll fit my somewhat thicker proportions as nicely as they fit Pam. Even if I can't look like she does, it's nice to know I have the option of actually looking like a woman while wearing appropriate gear.

The other great news today was that the company is working on a new program, "She's Outdoors" television, so us huntresses will have one more program on hunting TV with role models instead of lingerie models. Three cheers for that!

The show will feature hunts all over the world, and the excerpts today featured Pam just hammering a variety of game. I didn't see any duck hunting in the preview, but the company does have a waterfowler on its Pro Team - Beth Ann Amico - so there's always hope.

And I know, I know, I need to get over the end of waterfowl season. I just need time.

The SHE Safari Pro Team is a pantheon of hunting goddesses. Left to right, they are Louise Shockey, Jodi Clark, Brenda Potts, Kandi Kisky, Pam Zaitz, Vicki Cianciarulo, Kim Rhode, Irlene Mandrell and Beth Ann Amico.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

SHOT Show Find No. 1: Pretty Duck Camo

Brian Frederick is a duck hunter from Louisiana, and back near the end of the last century, he was getting sick and tired of losing mallard hens. He didn't have a dog to fetch the birds for him, and you know how it goes: Once a hen makes it to cover, she becomes invisible.

Then it dawned on him: That's perfect camo!

So he and his wife started a company called Feather Flage, and now they make a line of clothing that uses natural feather patterns as camo.

I found these folks Saturday during my first foray into the SHOT Show, which is the gargantuan trade show of the hunting and firearms industry. I'm not exaggerating - there are about 40,000 people here in Las Vegas for the show.

I'm here with Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors, which added me to its ProStaff in December. My main mission is to find any new gear that's made for women hunters.

Now, Feather Flage is not made for women, but it did appeal to me for two reasons: One, I love beautiful fabric patterns. My mom is a textile artist, and her passion for lovely fabrics rubbed off on me. Two, I'm not a big fan of looking like everyone else, and this company makes some clothing that says "I'm a hunter" without saying, "I'm a typical hunter."

I left the company's exhibitor booth Saturday with a long-sleeved T-shirt that could be good for early-season duck hunting when - in California, at least - you don't need a jacket. The T-shirt fabric is thinner than I like, but the label promises "new fade-free dyes," so I'm going to put it through the washer quite a few times between now and the beginning of the next duck season ... in ... in ... in October ... oh, I could cry. Yeah, anyway, I'm going to check out the fade-free claim.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of their products. I don't think the fish will be fooled by the fish shirt - but that's not the point, is it?

I don't care who you are - this is pretty!

I totally dig this shirt. After three-plus years back in California, I'm missing Minnesota white.

Check out the detail! It gives me flashbacks to that delightful snow goose-plucking marathon.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hunters represent!

In the language of my students, that means we stood tall and strong for what we're all about in that story about women hunters in Thursday's Sacramento Bee.

The interesting thing about the 41 comments on that story so far is this: While there were definitely a few shrill anti-hunting comments about the barbarity of our sport, they were not well received. The Bee allows readers to rate the usefulness of comments, and the antis got very low ratings, while the pro-hunting comments were typically rated very useful.

What that tells me is there are probably two things going on: First, you all came out in force. I know you did because I recognized some of your names! Second, while the antis' comments scare the heck out of us because we're afraid the general public will take them seriously, they're really a small minority - and they're not as credible as we think.

Even so, here's one comment that I hated, because I fear it is a widely held belief: "I suppose it is prudent to draw a line between the conscientious hunter and the poacher. I know conscientious responsible hunters exist. I'm just not yet convinced it makes up the majority of hunters."

I am convinced the majority of hunters bend over backwards to follow the rules, if not for moral reasons, than at least for the pocketbook, because breaking hunting laws carries far more serious penalties than breaking most motor vehicle laws.

This is an area where we in the hunting community have a lot of work to do, in terms of getting the word out. And our response to this story was a good start. Thanks, everyone!

© Holly A. Heyser 2008