In the last several decades, there has been an increase in the number of women who have decided to participate in hunting. Many made the decision because they wanted to enjoy the sport with their husbands. Others, like myself, have been hunting for years and know what enjoyment the sport brings. Not only is the meat that’s harvested free of commercial additives, but just getting out of the rat race for a day and sitting quietly with one’s own thoughts is a surprisingly therapeutic activity. For me, it’s the latter that I enjoy the most. But bagging some game, after sitting in the woods all day, brings the satisfaction of knowing you are putting meat on the supper table.
In my area of the Blue Ridge, there is an abundance of women who know how to handle a gun and themselves while hunting. One morning while I was squirrel hunting, a man approached and asked if I was scared to be alone in the woods. When I pressed him further; he replied, “Well aren’t you afraid some man might try to bother you?” I burst out laughing and said, “What man in his right mind would accost a woman sitting under a tree with a loaded gun?” He moved on.
My parents were city folks with no exposure to firearms. My first experience with guns came in my high school agriculture class where all the rural boys had prior firearm knowledge. I begged them to let me try shooting tin cans they had lined up on a fence and that’s where I got my start. When I took aim and the tin cans flew into the air, I was hooked. I pleaded with the boys to take me hunting, and one insightful fellow realized that I was not going to be put off, so he patiently taught me gun safety before taking me hunting with him.
I started out rabbit hunting, then graduated to dove and quail, trying out new recipes from a game cookbook. I never shot an animal I didn’t intend to eat and never chanced a shot if it wasn’t clear, for fear of wounding it.
The first deer I killed was a whopper, weighing in at 187 pounds, field dressed. I was living alone at the time and was glad to have that much meat in the freezer. Venison is free of fat, steroids, and the additives that are commonly used as preservatives in store-bought meat.
But my favorite sport has always been squirrel hunting because the season opens in the fall when the weather isn’t as cold, and you are pretty much assured of coming home with some game. Plus, if you’ve never eaten squirrel and gravy over hot biscuits, you have not lived!
Here on the mountain, a lot of my girlfriends hunt. Charlotte Hodge is a seasoned turkey hunter like her husband John and has put more birds on the Thanksgiving table than most.
Rebecca Jones, who lived down the mountain from me, bought a rifle and killed a doe deer the first autumn that I knew her.
Kelsi Coffey, our neighbor here in Love, began to hunt with her dad, Mike, at an early age and has brought home her share of deer.
Jerry Lou Hanger got interested in hunting with a crossbow and has had good luck deer hunting with it over the years, with 14 deer to her credit.
Our granddaughter, Renea Alford, has also gotten interested into hunting the last few years. She hunts with her husband Derek at his family farm in Craigsville.
But the ultimate woman hunter in our area is Peggy Campbell. Peggy was raised up on Spruce Creek in Nelson County and as the only girl in the family, Peggy learned to handle a gun early in life as she hunted with her brothers, James and John Wade.
Peggy does it all: compound bow, rifle, longbow, muzzleloader, crossbow, shotgun, and anything in between. She knows exactly what she’s going after and usually comes home with it. She’s our main source of wild meat in the winter months, sharing venison and bear for our freezer whenever she gets something.
There are many more women who enjoy the pleasure of hunting, but these are just a few in and around the Love area that I know personally.