Monday, February 13, 2012

Scenes from the Marsh: Ladies, you're gonna love this

Me, with short hair in 2010
It was the second-to-last day of duck season, and I was done. I'd been hunting all day long, I was exhausted, and my friend Alison and I had just finished the quarter-mile slog through the marsh to get back to the parking lot, working up a fresh sweat in our already-damp waders.

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...
"...Two girls!?!"

Oh, yes he did.

Dead silence.

"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."

Dead silence.

... OK, that's not what I said. Let me start over again:

"Two girls!?!"

Dead silence.

"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."

Dead silence.

... OK, OK, I didn't really say that either. Let's try this again:

"Two girls!?!"

Dead silence.

"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


burntloafer said...


Marian Ann Love said...

Well written Holly! :)

Lily Raff McCaulou said...

Ha! It's still surprising to meet men who are surprised to see women hunting. These guys must not get out much.

Sarah Swenty said...


Anonymous said...

Awesome post Holly!

Your first two scenarios had me in stitches and I won't lie, I've often though of saying things very similar to both when dealing with the same kind of situations. The way you really handled it though, made me proud. It was a great representation of what women who are truly hunters are all about. We're just out there doing what we do because we love it! Plain and simple.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks! But one day, I would like to work up the guts to respond in one of the first two ways, just to see what happens. OK, probably not the second way, though I've found that telling my students I'm feeling menopausal can be highly effective.

Alison said...

Hah I'm glad he said something to you other than just "TWO GIRLS!" By the time I walked by him all he could say was "TWO GIRLS!" again. I think I said something along the lines of "It's not that weird, get into it."

Holly Heyser said...

Hank's first response was, of course, " cup!"

Anonymous said...

Well, he was civil in his aghast state. I give the man credit for that. I wonder what the conversation between him and his son was like after meeting you two (GASP!)girls.

Your first two responses have been in the back of my mind too.


Kevin said...

lolz to Hank's response. Whatever you do, don't google that folks.

Maybe he meant that as a complement but it just came out ~'weird'. Us men are not the best communicators according to what I have been told. But strangely I can mutter a ~three word sentence to a fellow male and he will almost always know exactly what I'm conveying<--slight exaggeration

But, in complementing you females as accomplished huntressessss, is it, in a reverse kind of way, offensive as well?

Holly Heyser said...

Or if you Google it, only click on the ones labeled "response video" - they're freakin' AWESOME (especially the grandma).

I don't think this guy meant any harm at all, and I'm truly not offended.

I also understand the reality: I am the ONLY female who hunts that wild west section of free roam regularly, and one of the few (if the only one?) who will go out there alone at 0-dark-30. When you're an oddity like that, you can either accept that people are going to gawk, or spend your whole life being indignant. I don't have time for the latter.

Rich Mellott said...

Hi Holly,
I really enjoyed this, considering that I'm probably older than the guy you were talking to, and had no problem hunting with you, watching you get your limit by 11, and haul your stuff out by yourself. I guess, as a former Hippie, I got over being surprised by what women can do a long time ago. I'm just glad I got to hunt with you, and never even thought about trying to find the original two cups video...I've searched, but they've hidden it well. The reaction tapes are absolutely hilarious! Oops, did I say that out loud? Can't trust a guy with ADD.

Holly Heyser said...

The original's gone? Wow, that's a viral classic.

Anyway, thanks Rich! I'm pretty sure that was the ONLY day I got my limit that early. And thanks for sharing your resi that day too :-)

Anonymous said...

Holly did this right.

Fifteen years ago, I was usually the only woman at the range. The comments I got were 99percent good to great. In my not so humble opinion, the way to handle all comments is to be gracious, willing to learn, and competent. It does not matter what is said. It is our part in the dance that matters.
I also got to learn and share and even teach. All in all, a wonderful way to spend time. (Now you know part of why I am a gun nut.)

Now I see many women at the range on the weekends. I like to think I helped that along a tiny bit.

Holly, you keep doing what you been doing.


Eric C. Nuse said...

Back in 1996 when we started the Becoming an Outdoors woman program here in Vermont, I told my commissioner that the goal was to make this program unnecessary. We're not quite there but getting close.
One of the best things for improving hunter behavior is to have more women hunting. Funny thing how some guys grow up when there is a woman nearby.

Holly Heyser said...

LOL, I don't seem to have that effect on male hunters.

In all seriousness, I think women feel much more welcome to try hunting with every passing year. One of the big hurdles I'm seeing is retention. But I admit I don't know that the retention rate is any lower for women than for men because most of the new hunters I work with are women.

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