“Did you see that Adam? She was like ‘Hey Manny, get out of the way there’s a fish!'”
Our fishing guide, Manny Martinez belly laughed after my quick reaction to grab the jerking rod had resulted in reeling in my last redfish of the day. While some people kick back and relax while fishing I am a bit of the opposite- intensely focused on the task at hand for fear I’ll miss my opportunity to reel in a fish. I am no expert fisher woman however, I was the first of our three man team to limit out.
If you have ever read an edition of Texas Outback magazine then you probably know all about Manny Martinez. Manny is a veteran fishing guide on Calaveras and Braunig lake where he has guided for 30 plus years. He even holds the record for redfish caught on Calaveras lake, tipping the scale at 30 pounds (Water Body Records). Manny isn’t just a fisherman though, he is a man of purpose. Right away he explained to us that though he guides fishing trips over 300 days of the year that his passion as a cancer survivor was giving back to the cancer community, in particular to children.
Though he has guided many celebrities and well to do members of the community, when you fish with Manny he quickly has a way to make you feel like it’s just another day on the lake with a good friend. Thanks to Stewards of the Wild- San Antonio chapter, on July 30th relatively one of the hottest weekends of the summer, Adam and I got the chance to fish with Manny on Calaveras lake and learn about it’s unique waters.
Stewards of the Wild (SOTW) is a program created to engage young professionals in the outdoors and wildlife conservation. From raising local and statewide awareness on wildlife issues, volunteering in the community to commiserating with other outdoor enthusiasts, Stewards of the Wild hosts an array of events for it’s members which hold chapters across Texas.
If you’re not familiar with Calaveras lake you might be scratching your head…redfish in a lake? Yes. Though traditionally redfish or red drum are salt water fish, since the stocking program created by Texas Parks & Wildlife millions of redfish fry have been stocked in the warm reservoirs of Calaveras and Braunig lakes owned by CPS energy over the years. And the fish flourish! The warm water and lack of predators make the redfish the top dog of the water in these lakes allowing them to grow rapidly along with catfish, largemouth bass a hybrid striped bass. The hybrid being redfish and striped bass. As the redfish spawn each year many of the bass will fertilize their eggs creating these hybrid fish. If that isn’t unique to fishing I don’t know what is!
Located twenty miles South of San Antonio, and not far from the Czech Out Ranch I might add, Calaveras lake is a great place for the serious fisherman or woman. By serious I mean that Calaveras Lake is one place dedicated and maintained specifically for fishing which also makes it unique. While there are public restrooms and picnic tables there is no recreational swimming allowed. Some folks do fish from its banks however, with a surface area of almost 4,00 acres. boats and kayaks are the main vessels used for getting closer to the action. Everyone on the lake is there to do one thing- fish.
Fish we did. Redfish put up a decent fight on the line and we even caught some doubles when things really got exciting. We cheered after each round of reeling like the dickens and enjoyed the hot afternoon.
I was never a big fish eater until I started fishing for myself. I got the bright idea one day that Adam and I should spend our two year anniversary fishing for Sturgeon on the Columbia river. I think I saw some guy on PBS do it and thought hey, why not? So we did! And then we did it again…and again. The amazing memories that sturgeon fishing brought us led us to other fishing adventures such as flounder gigging in Rockport and offshore fishing for snapper in California. Every year provides a new fishing experience it seems and 2017 was the year of the redfish.
Lemon caper redfish with pesto couscous
I still prefer to only eat fish that I or someone I know have caught. Texans love catching redfish as much as they like eating redfish. Visit just about any restaurant in Texas and they’ll be asking a pretty penny for a redfish dish on the menu. Now I know why! Which makes it worth every penny to catch redfish and cook it yourself in my opinion. Adam and I enjoyed our first redfish cooking experience by cast iron searing it and making our go to lemon caper sauce, served on a bed of pesto Israeli couscous (which I am currently obsessed with).
When it comes to fishing, Texas rarely dissapoints. Adam and I look forward to fishing again with Manny in the near future!
“Nature is an open book for those who care to read it. Each grass-covered hillside is a page in which is written the history of the past, conditions of the present, and predictions of the future.” -J.E. Weaver
My Silver Bullet.
If nature is an open book, we certainly read and re-read the pages. Working in the wildlife field I was called to serve as an adult “covey” leader at the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade camp. No prior wildlife knowledge required, at any Brigades camp an adult leader serves as a mentor, counselor, and guide for five or six teenagers as they progress through the five day, intense learning program. A week long summer camp for high achieving youth, the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade is a wildlife and natural resource focused leadership camp dependent on volunteers, staff and one little, important bird. The quail.
How many of you wake up in the morning and hear a quail call?
This was a question asked by a Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist during a discussion as the sun set on the last night at Brigades camp. My hand was one of few that shot up into the air. As I looked around at both kids and adults a like, it sunk in just how lucky I am to hear quail often at the Czech Out Ranch.
Before that week at camp I knew very little about quail, other then they were charismatic and beautiful little birds that are difficult to shoot with a shotgun when hunting. At our home in Oregon we had the pleasure to watch a covey of California quail in our backyard. The male, who I called Geronimo, would often perch on our fence and make his territorial call. One day, Adam even saved this boisterous quail from the hungry dinner plate of a resident cat. When we heard our first Bobwhite quail at the ranch we were happy, and when we flushed our first covey we were even more excited. Still, I knew little about the intricate needs of a quail.
There are four types of quail that call Texas home- Bobwhite, Scaled, Gambel’s & Montezuma. It turns out to know quail is to know Texas. I would venture to say it should have been the state bird (Sorry Northern Mockingbird fans). Virtually everything in Texas effects quail populations across the state. From overgrazing, to under-grazing livestock, predators, cover, open ground, rainfall, insects and human interaction. Point out a bush, a tree, an animal, a seed- it can almost always be related back to quail.
As a covey leader I didn’t know what to expect. My best friend Katie always raved about going to camp every summer as a kid. Me on the other hand, I went to Texas. She told me I would be responsible to break up things like hand holding, and excessive giggling after hours. While there was giggling it mainly came from activities like animal charades & habitat sit circles. All designed and developed to educate in a fun and very effective way. Yes, it’s true, Brigades camp is not the kumbaya camp that you or I are probably familiar with.
A camp that involves lessons on gun safety and skeet shooting…does it get much better?
During camp we learned about complex topics such as habitat management, plant identification, animal tracking, game laws, ethics, radio telemetry, gun safety, dog training, quail biology, calls, soil composition, predation and more. Each day we spent an extended period of time in the field as well as in the classroom. We learned from an array of wildlife instructors and enthusiasts, several of which were my very own coworkers. I think what most impressed me was the high level of curriculum which could easily have been used for adult education. So while we did play games, these kids were treated as the future adults they were becoming.
Carson, Joseph, Jake, Lacy, Molly, Brenntan and I made up the Bobwhite covey. I couldn’t have been more impressed with these kids who came from as far as Seminole and Nacagdoches (A 532 mile difference) and everywhere in between. This meant that they had willing parents who saw the benefit in an educational wildlife leadership camp to drive them there. Aside from quail, the kids from my covey are the real stars of this blog post. Carson kept our spirits up with his positivity and laughter, Joseph was our entomologist/photographer, Molly was our shotgun pro (No really, she won a national competition last year), Lacy was our fierce and unafraid spokeswoman, Jake was our call leader and one heck of a trivia whiz, and Brenntan kept us (mostly me) on track. All of them are smart, funny, talented and unique kids. By golly, they knew the words to Dolly Parton songs! I am thankful to have gotten to know each one of them. To shake the hands of their parents. They are all going to go far in life, and with them carry the torch of wildlife conservation in Texas.
I think often as a adults we forget to listen and learn from the youth around us. We’re so busy putting them down for being on their phones or latest fidget whatevers. We forget that we were once kids waiting for that one adult to take a little extra time to get to know us and inspire us. Brigades camp empowers Texas youth to think, learn and lead their peers. No matter how outgoing or reserved a kid is, they all find a moment to shine at Brigades camp. No matter where these kids go in life, whether they become doctors, chefs, travel bloggers, circus tumblers, famous singers or wildlife biologists- they will continue to be involved and inspired by the outdoors and the issues surrounding its conservation.
In addition, we forget to actually invest in our youth beyond our families as adults- and especially as millennial age adults. I talk to a lot of wildlife enthusiasts from across the nation that are my age. While some want to argue over products to promote themselves, superior hunting methods or antler size, I stop a midst the banter. I cannot fathom arguing over these trivial things when there are opportunities out there to continue our wildlife conservation and hunting heritage. I reflect on the opportunities I have been given in a short time to introduce adults and youth to hunting and the outdoors. And to support and encourage those youth who have already taken an interest, like my Brigades kids. To actually take the time away from the norms of life, and learn from them. A part of my life I never dreamed I would be so passionate about a decade ago.
The experience as a covey leader for the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade can’t really be explained in words. It was an experience that I will never be able to relive knowing what I know now. Yet I will always cherish and remember it whether I am given the opportunity to inspire more youth or am just walking around the Czech Out Ranch identifying plants crucial to quail livelihood. After all, because of Brigades camp I now can be found standing around outside eating Brasil berries or rattling off some facts about loafing cover to anyone within earshot.
I can’t get Chuck Norris out of my head or look at anyone from the Pearson family without genuinely smiling. All quail, until further notice shall be named George…because George lives on. I can’t talk to anyone named Jake without continuing the sentence in my head (from State Farm…). I am convinced everyone should have to “Hiney Write” as punishment for forgetting things. And if the game wardens from Live Oak county are reading this, mama told me to shoot the chicken. A few of my coworkers have seen me function on very little sleep yet still choose to talk to me. Thank God.
Yes, I am now one of those annoying people who has “you just had to be at camp to get it” stories. Poor Adam.
As the sun rose on my last day in McCoy, Texas there was an eerie stillness. I am not sure if it is the physical stillness of the outdoors or the stillness in my soul. I paused and quietly shut my lodge room door so as not to wake the other adults. I snapped a photo of the Texas sunrise, exhausted yet somehow revitalized by the thought of the day ahead…and the nearby coffee pot. I had thought I was coming to camp to help change and inspire kids however, that day I marched and graduated from the 20th Battalion of the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade camp alongside my youth cadets and I too, was changed.
“A fiery poet is nothing if not the fire that burns the fuel that runs the world.” -Anonymous
When it comes to the garden at the Czech Out Ranch I am the caretaker of all things growing. Don’t get me wrong, Adam helps me tremendously with preparation and planting, but I make the at least daily trip to water, weed, pick and admire our growing gifts.
The exception to this is when the habanero peppers start to ripen. All of the sudden there is a tall, bearded man wandering around the garden helping me by plucking tiny tomatoes and beautiful peppers with his large hands. A fan of spicy food, Adam enjoys eating these hot peppers raw with meals. While I am not that brave, I do love spicy food and enjoy them chopped or mixed into our meals in various ways.
Brushing back the plant’s leaves, one can count the numerous peppers that hide underneath. There is something invigorating about peering at the garden from afar and seeing a splash of orange amidst the sea of green. Habanero peppers were made for Texas heat. Starts planted into the ground in March, our peppers started appearing early in June and were darn well piling up on the kitchen counter by July.
Every time I see a habanero pepper I am reminded of our honeymoon at Coco Plum Island Resort in Belize. A small beautiful country in Central America, Belize shares (and often fights about) its border with Guatemala. Belize however, takes pride in this tiny orange pepper and it is often incorporated into each meal. During our stay we admired a wild version of the habanero growing in the jungles of the Mayflower Bocawina National park located on the edge of the Mayan Mountain range. The peppers were affectionately plucked and eaten raw by our guide, Byron.
Belize should be proud of the habanero pepper, it is home to one of the most famously exported habanero pepper sauces in the world, Marie Sharp’s. Each meal, aside from a breakfast of fresh fruit, is accompanied by this pepper sauce. Since our trip to Belize, Adam and I keep a bottle of Marie Sharp’s in the fridge 24/7.
When people see how many habanero pepper plants we plant each year they think we are crazy. What are you going to do with ALL those peppers? They ask. Inspired by our love for Belize we decided to preserve our Czech Out Ranch habanero peppers by making our own Belizian style habanero pepper sauce.
1 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup carrot chopped (about two whole carrots)
2 cups water
10-15 habanero peppers, seeded and fine chopped (wear gloves!!)
3-4 tablespoons lime juice (about two limes worth)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Saute garlic in cast iron skillet
Add the chopped onion, carrots, and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft. About 20 minutes.
Remove from heat; Add chopped habaneros, lime juice, salt and vinegar to carrot mixture.
Place in a blender or if you’re like us and only have a small chopper, place in chopper in batches and blend till desired texture. If you like a very smooth pepper sauce invest in a blender.
Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Keep refrigerated.
Ultimately food is a connection. Sometimes the smell, the taste or even just the sight of a certain food can bring back a memory. It is important to me to continue to remember and be inspired by those feel good moments. The habanero pepper is one of those foods that incites good memories of young love. Ultimately, that brings me back to my strong connection with Adam, our marriage and our dream to own property to do the things we do- like grow our own food.
We love habanero peppers so much that we named our recently adopted orange kitten, you guessed it, Habanero!
If you ever get the chance to visit Belize I highly recommend it. The Caribbean sea is crystal clear, fishing is out of this world and with a history as a British colony, it’s people are an exotic mix of races, languages and cultures. Prior to colonization of course, the Mayan people ruled the land which adds to it’s uniqueness.
Avid hikers (or so we thought), Adam and I were the only tourists at our premier island resort who insisted on going to the mainland to exercise during our stay. Byron, on his day off I might add, took us hiking despite his warnings that, “Nobody wants to do that!” Lots of sweat, tears (from me) probably near heat exhaustion later, Byron got the last laugh. Any steeper in places and we would need rock climbing equipment. Only around 4 miles round trip, the hike to Antelope falls was probably one of the hardest hikes I have ever completed in my life to date!
In the end we missed our scheduled private beach massages back at the resort while we were suffering on our hike but it was worth the experience. We got to see untouched Mayan ruins (as a historian I love seeing history preserved in such a way), leaf cutter ants, swam in the cool waters beneath Antelope Falls, green jungle covered mountains for miles, and a menagerie of birds and exotic flowers. I even saw my first wild tarantula! Which now of course, is a common sight at the ranch. Belize will always hold a special place in our hearts and we hope to return soon.
When asked what the wild Desert Hackberry fruit tastes like it is hard for me to describe. The only thing I can come up with is it tastes like a tiny Rainier cherry however, that could just be my Pacific Northwest background talking. Rainier cherries are what dreams are made out of. The only other taste description I found on the internet described it as tasting like sweet tea. So there you go, it doesn’t get much more Southern then sweet tea.
As Adam & I picked and tasted each bush for quality control we discovered that some bushes were more tart then others. It appeared that the more sparse the berries were on a bush the sweeter tasting or more ripe they were. We figured that perhaps the birds and critters at the ranch knew something we didn’t. Yes, it was time consuming and hot outside but it wasn’t anymore inconvenient then picking commercial berries. We had a portable radio with us and we enjoyed the time together.
Processing the picked berries did take some patience. We were sure to wash them as best we could by using a hose to flush the debris away from berries.
Our chickens took quite an interest in our task at hand and received the discarded berries as their prize for being persistent.
Desert Hackberry Dipping sauce (made a week in advance):
Place washed berries into cast iron deep casserole dish with enough water to cover the berries. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Once the skin has softened, use the back of a spoon or a masher to remove the pulp from the hard seed.
In batches, pour the water and berries through a sieve into another saucepan to strain out the seeds. Mash as much of the pulp through the sieve as you can. At this point, you might realize that a lot of the pulp and skin is still on the strainer. Don’t be worried if any pulp or skin makes it through.
Add 1/4 cup sugar and one Tbsp. of lemon juice for every cup of berries to the saucepan. Simmer and stir the liquid about 20 minutes. We poured ours into a mason jar for storage in the fridge once cooled.
The past month I have been playing Elmer Fudd with our local cottontail rabbit population. When I first saw “Peter” jump over our chicken wire barrier and out of the garden my jaw dropped. Until that moment, I honestly have never really wanted to harvest a cottontail on the ranch. They are abundant but I know the role they play in feeding the predators, coyote, bobcat, fox, snake, owl and hawk that we share our home with. To take away from their food source seemed unnecessary and part of the reason I believe they have never messed with our ducks or chickens (that I know of).
If you have consumed wild rabbit before you know it contains what foodie folks call the umami factor. It is a very lean, all natural white meat. Most people compare it to chicken however, that is an insult to the rabbit in my opinion. When I found Peter in the garden I told Adam I was ready to harvest my first rabbit on the ranch. I took a shot at Peter early one morning and missed. I had hesitated for too long. Adam enlisted his help and would text me as he left for work to tell me there were rabbits outside. In fact, a rather plump one would taunt him every morning as it took a cool nap under the bird feeder, having eaten its fill I am sure. My Peter HAD to be caught in the garden. I had to be certain it was Peter eating and enjoying my hard work.
Finally, late Tuesday night I had success and found Peter in my garden. Peter was actually a she. While I know more rabbits may find their way into the garden I am thankful to be able to harvest all natural lean meat right outside my door. For the recipe we followed for rabbit schnitzel follow the link to Edible Austin.
The merriment of wild rabbit and wild hackberries was immeasurable. Aside from my garden I can almost guarantee our rabbit had consumed the berries recently. Going with my gut, I created an idea in my head and Adam helped me execute it with his culinary skills. I love cooking with him.
It is rare opportunities like this, when I can take advantage of protein, vegetable & herbs from our garden and put them in one flavor packed meal that I feel most grateful for the life we live. A life four years ago I had dreamed of living but did not. Careful execution of one dish, inspired by the world around me, gives meaning to food in a world where we are constantly shoving junk into our mouths. Even though I remain a consumer I still feel grateful for being more connected to my food, the land & the wildlife around me.
Maybe I’ll harvest another cotton tail before then but come next year, when the desert hackberry bloom I’ll know it’s time.
Look who I found! Not the Peter I am after so this little juvenile cottontail got to bounce away happily into the brush. So many people think all hunters are killers. Those like me love & seek to live in balance with the game we pursue. As my friend Austin Morris said to me, ” Let them eat (in your garden), it will all become food eventually.”
I am naturally curious about everything. Because I didn’t grow up in anywhere remotely similar to South Texas I can often be found staring at what some Texans refer to as weeds or “trash” plants. Even the common mesquite tree is abhorred by many. I, on the other hand, admire the massive bull mesquites around our property. Drought tolerant and persevering, they are a symbol of life in South Texas if you ask me. If only the mesquite tree could talk. I would listen.
What kind of tree is this? Is this a native flower? Why does the cactus grow that way? How do you think the Native Americans used these?
I have so many unanswered questions. Over the years I have come to identify many wild edible plants on the ranch- prickly pear cactus, black persimmon, agarita, yucca, chili pequin & honey mesquite. I even remember reading that natives ate the fruit from the Tasajillo cactus which grow on our property. The Tasajillo is a long pencil-like cactus with small red fruit hidden among what seems like thousands of thorns. On the ranch we refer to them as the “Jumping cactus” because they’re small fragments seem to jump on to you. I am not that brave. I have identified other important non-edible plants as well. Most notably the Balsam Gourd which I call the “clown nose plant” because the gourd is bright red and perfectly round. The Balsam gourd is an excellent food source for quail and deer, adding a bright burst of color among the green & brown foliage. Many plants on the ranch still grow in a cloud of mystery.
Construction on the ranch house, life & rattlesnake mating season put extensive walking of the property on the back burner for a few months. Returning to the brush land, Adam and I replenished wildlife feeders, restored game cameras and maintained trails like park wardens. Spring was turning into Summer. I was disappointed to find I had missed the agarita harvest (My friend Morgan & I once made Agarita margaritas) but there were still Black Persimmons to ripen. On our walks I love to point them out- the female trees are the only ones who bare fruit. Adam probably rolls his eyes as I repeat the factoid over and over again. I was convinced this would be the year I would harvest a ton of persimmon fruit to whip into various concoctions.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed our property was covered in beautiful, small, glistening orange berries. I had probably seen them before but something struck me about them. Recently I had skimmed through Morgan’s wild edible book titled Wild Edible Plants of Texas on one of our cherished walks together. When I came to the small section about Hackberry trees I was surprised to read that three types of Hackberry were edible in Texas. I didn’t even know there was more than one type of Hackberry tree.
The light bulb went off a few days later when on a walk to the very back of the property I couldn’t help but notice plant after plant covered in the orange berries. I texted Morgan immediately pictures of my find and she confirmed- Desert Hackberry. We were all skeptical of our discovery however so we sought out the internet and nature prolific friends for affirmation.
It turns out the Czech Out Ranch is littered with Desert Hackberry which bare an edible fruit that is an excellent food source for all wildlife- birds, deer, raccoon and even coyote have been noted to eat the fruit. The tree itself, which is actually categorized as a bush, provides fantastic ground cover for Bobwhite quail. In addition, it is a good source of pollen for bees and is the host plant for the Snout Nose butterfly. This explains why last summer we had so many snout nose butterfly at the ranch it almost appeared like it was snowing.
It still amazes me that there is so much wild edible fruit that nobody wants to pick or try because it is inconvenient to do so. Heaven forbid you get poked, scratched or sweat in the hot Texas sun and work for a little bit for sustenance. For me it is the lack of convenience that is so rewarding. Picking fruit, no matter how difficult, takes me back to my Pacific Northwest childhood. My mom would often employ my brother and I to pick wild blackberries on the roadside or visit You-Pick farms for strawberries or blueberries. Something she still does to this day. We would help her pick and we would also gorge ourselves. Early in our relationship Adam and I visited a You-Pick cherry farm which required me to sit on his shoulders while he stood on a ladder to reach the ripe fruit. The year after that experience, they closed all You-Pick cherries in Oregon for reliability issues. Go figure. Why pick fruit when you can go to the grocery store right? Even HEB or the farmer’s market can’t source a more local fruit then the Desert Hackberry from our backyard.
When I bring up the Hackberry in conversation you can almost hear the noses crinkle with distaste. The reaction is visceral for most Texans, as if they’ve been trained over the years to hate the thorny plant with a rather unattractive name. The Hackberry is one of those many Texas plants with a bad reputation. It may be thorny and hard to remove, but it serves a multitude of purposes to the South Texas wildlife and landscape. I always find it interesting when I visit my local nursery where you can BUY Prickly Pear cactus. Is the Hackberry the new Prickly pear? Eradicated from backyards and Texas properties everywhere only to be bought at a nursery to be placed among other landscape ornamental plants. I sure hope not.
With the amount of Desert Hackberry at the ranch I don’t think it will be eradicated anytime soon. Birds will continue to spread the seeds and we will bask in nature’s free food for years to come. I will know it’s great importance and the role in plays on the property I cherish so much and can share that with others.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Desert Hackberry to see what Adam and I make with our harvest!
From this sudden silence,
Like death, that loved
The names of all words,
You raise me now in song.
-Silence, Bella Akhmadulina
Let’s face it, the majority of anti-firearms supporters are women. Or perhaps, men of power with binders of women following their anti-2nd amendment agenda. And by anti-firearms supporters I mean people that legitimately want to ban every last gun on the face of the planet. (Yes I do believe there should be laws in place and strict background checks). These women are the ones who proclaim their spewing hatred for any notion of the 2nd amendment without having ever come into a ten foot radius of a gun, that they know of. Things such as intimidating black “assault” weapons are patronized under a blanket of terms like “common sense” laws. Laws that limit law-abiding citizens and do no such thing for criminals.
Unfortunately, groups like Women Against Gun Violence exclude the pro-2nd amendment woman who is indeed, actually against gun violence. They claim to be in favor of the rights of responsible gun owners however, they bash the firearms industry for tailoring to a woman, making them feel empowered by learning how to safely handle a firearm. By golly, even creating firearms that make it easier and safer for women to do so for various reasons- self defense, sport shooting, hunting and more. It is ironic that a group started by a feminist would not be supportive of a heavily male dominated industry beginning to open it’s doors to women. Their biggest reason?
If a woman is more likely to be murdered with a gun as Women Against Gun Violence suggests, shouldn’t a woman also be able to become educated and decide how they want to defend themselves, legally and safely with a firearm, if needed? Shouldn’t we be able to pass that knowledge and empowerment to any woman who may find herself a victim of any type of violence? Or should we wait in the wings, remaining a target, until legislation and the government come to protect us? Why not suggest that some women, if they choose to purchase a firearm, get a CHL (Conceal Carry License) or join a gun club where they can take safety and situation courses? Even if you choose to not own a gun for self defense, suggesting to become familiar with the “threat” might be a good idea.
In one breath these groups state they support the rights of law abiding citizens to own firearms and in another state that a woman is more likely to be murdered by their husband with a firearm in the household. Or that a woman is more likely to have their gun used against them. So which one is it? Do you support women who choose to legally become comfortable with firearms or not? That’s the thing about feminist based groups, they’re only for some women’s rights. And the right to bare arms, legally, is not typically one of them.
“In being confronted by the reality that government cannot and will not guarantee my personal safety, I am infinitely thankful, both as a woman and an American, that the Bill of Rights still guarantees my right to defend myself with a gun. Any true feminist must support this position. Any woman who claims to be a feminist, but who supports disarmament of law-abiding citizens is simply a dangerous hypocrite.” -Katherine von Tour (Source: My Transformation from Anti-Gun Feminist to Armed Feminist)
This blog is not about my solution to the broad, complicated topic of gun violence in America. I am not a high and mighty know it all who has all the answers. As a supporter of certain gun rights, I have been judged and labeled a celebrator of gun violence before. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have had friends and classmates taken from this life in firearms related incidents. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think of them often when I pull out my pistol and run through my safety checklist. I have also been sitting in the comfort of my home at night when the front door handle rattled forcefully from a strange man attempting to enter, demanding I let him in, pounding on the door. I continue to enjoy the journey I have taken to lessen my consumption of factory raised meat in the pursuit of harvesting my own game, often with a firearm. Ultimately learning the benefits of hunting as a wildlife management tool and more.
What anti-firearms supporters refuse to admit or acknowledge is the fact that women are buying firearms in record numbers, especially handguns. In addition, it is noted that there has been a general upswing in firearms sales among minority women. I believe some women are tired of spewing words of hate under a faux blanket of love while marching alongside their girlfriends in protest. They are tired of being victims or potential targets and relying on others to protect them. They understand that choosing to legally own a firearm is not a political choice, and that one can certainly be against gun violence and yet still choose to protect their family.
As a historian, I do believe marches and protests involved in important movements played integral, beneficial roles. However, it is one thing to march for freedom or social equality (for example, gay rights) and an entirely different thing to march for environmental awareness while hypocritically leaving a trail of destruction and garbage in your path. All while getting into your car later to go to the grocery store to pick up your out of season “organic” vegetables and prepackaged hummus shipped from across the nation (in gas guzzling trucks I might add). I digress perhaps, but I used to be a protester in another life. I quickly realized that sitting outside a court house chanting didn’t personally make me feel like I was actually standing up for something. When was the last time you saw a Hunter’s Rights March? Men and women in bright orange vests, camouflage face paint, with their hound dogs and guns shouting witty slogans. You didn’t. Ever.
“We won’t live in fear, let us hunt our deer!”
Women of all races, religion and backgrounds support the 2nd amendment for various reasons. That is their legal right. Ultimately they want the chance to protect themselves and provide food for their families now more then ever. Some even find an interest in shooting sports. These women come from both left and right-wing political upbringings. Many, like me, prefer not to be labeled at all. Some of these women do the very opposite of raise their voice. These women choose to go a step further and support the 2nd amendment in silence.
For the record, I love hummus.
According to the American Suppressor Association, the suppressor market is the fastest growing segment of the firearm industry. I didn’t know anything about suppressors until my husband introduced me. Like most people, I assumed suppressors were reserved for people like James Bond to take out bad guys in casinos full of people. Or Mark Wahlberg in the movie Shooter when he puts the plastic soda bottle over his gun. I thought that was pretty cool. Suppressed guns for me though? I didn’t really think so. Unlike many people who fear what they do not know, I started doing my research instead.
If you have made it this far in article and haven’t jumped to conclusions, in order to purchase a suppressor there are many fees, paperwork and background checks involved. A NFA (National Firearms Association Trust) must be formed to legally own Class 3 weapons and items such as suppressors. It is a long, arduous process that I will not get into. My family went through it and I assure you, it’s legit. The suppressor is legal in 42 states, of which 40 allow hunting with one. The suppressor is gaining popularity among hunters and firearm supporters but it still remains a mystery to many.
I believe women do generally show more concern for either themselves or their loved ones when it comes to firearm safety and security. That is not to say that men don’t care about firearm safety, they do. Women are just more vocal about it. That concern can sometimes override any ability to even come near a gun, let alone look at or shoot one (No, no, women never overreact to the unknown). The best thing about suppressors, in my opinion, is that they address the top two concerns that put a woman on the fence about firearms- recoil and noise. Additionally, they aid women in home defense and hunting scenarios. Here’s why I think we need more supportive silent women.
How many times have you or someone you know complained about the constant shooting during dove season or the neighbor down the road who seems to be getting ready for WWIII. Noise complaints aren’t just in the city anymore. The obvious benefit of a suppressor is the reduction in noise. For more information on how a suppressor works to muffle noise visit How Stuff Works.
Noise reduction can come in handy in many ways however, one way is during a home defense situation. When your domain and safety is being compromised do you think you’ll have time to put on your hearing protection? The answer is simply, no. And you will suffer the damages because of it. Especially when the average woman probably has a gun in their household but has never practiced safely shooting it (I strongly advise against this. It doesn’t take long to safely learn about a firearm even if you plan on never shooting it). A suppressor can give you the comfort needed to protect yourself, your hearing and your family if needed.
Hunt Safe, Hunt Ethical
Working off this obvious principal, I cannot stress enough how much a suppressor aids in safer hunting practices. I will never forget the time I heard something rustling around in the brush at the Czech Out Ranch. We hadn’t lived there very long and I was always on the fence when I was alone, working on the ranch. My collie Jane was growling at the noise near the garden. I quickly ran inside the 5th wheel to retrieve my trusty shotgun. The little gun I affectionately talk about in many of my bird hunting posts. If there is one gun I know how to aim well, it’s my shotgun. I remembered my hearing protection but quickly found it difficult to hear the rustling with them on. What I could hear was the pounding in my chest as I walked with my giant ear muffs around the area, waiting for the biggest feral hog to come attack me at any moment. I turned a corner and there it was, the most ferocious animal in Texas. The nine-banded armadillo. I laughed but being able to hear your game is important and plays a crucial role in identification.
Being able to hear your game is just as important as being able to hear your hunting partner, should you decide to hunt with one. Having been a hunt guide for three years now, particularly with youth hunters, I can tell you that it is often hard to coach a hunter when hearing protection is involved. Hunting with a suppressor knocks this issue out and makes it significantly safer in the long run.
This past Fall when I hunted whitetail deer with a suppressed Savage .308 rifle I found this to be true. I wasn’t a first time deer hunter but I had never harvested one myself and needed Adam’s guidance to be successful during the adrenaline packed moment. Being able to hunt without earplugs and hear his guiding words was probably the reason why I was successful that day. He reminded me to be patient in order to make the most ethical shot I could. Had there been an unforeseen issue, he could have told me before I pulled the trigger. It worked. Thank you suppressors!
I believe for these reasons women and/or first time hunters would be more comfortable in the field. Not that we can’t get the job done ourselves, but game identification and ethical hunting are important to us.
Recoil & Accuracy
Aside from the obvious reduction in noise, I was surprised to find out that suppressors actually aid in the reduction of recoil. I think the number one complaint of any women with firearms is recoil. Second, would be noise. And what do you know, the suppressor addresses both of these issues. Not only is recoil uncomfortable, depending on your caliber, it can royally mess with your accuracy on hitting the target. This is not only frustrating to the shooter but can compromise safety as well.
Hearing Protection Act
I have never come across more people who suffer from hearing loss due to firearms then I have in Texas. While Texas has an outstanding hunter safety program (all hunters must take it before they can legally purchase a license) that emphasizes hearing protection it is often the biggest safety rule forgotten in the field.
I will admit that I don’t have a suppressor for my shotgun and when I am turkey hunting I leave my left earbud out (One furthest from my gun). This is so I can communicate with Adam and hear the game I seek as it moves closer into range. One might ask, well why not just put your other ear bud in before you shoot? Those folks have never been turkey hunting. Other then turkey hunting I am a strict hearing protection enforcer. Even so, I have witnessed countless times people forget, lose, leave behind or not use hearing protection whatsoever.
The Hearing Protection Act was first introduced in 2015 to bring all the benefits discussed above to light. In addition, it’s aim is to eliminate some of the hoops that are required to legally purchase a suppressor. A suppressor is merely a tool to reduce noise, not eliminate it. Protecting the hearing of Americans around the nation. To read more about the reintroduction of the bill in 2017 visit Congress.gov
Myths & Facts about Suppressors:
Originally I had no intention of writing about why folks dislike suppressors. While doing a little more research for the sake of this blog I discovered that there are a lot of myths and facts about suppressors that people don’t know, even in the hunting community. Here are some of the topics I ran across in my research and my thoughts.
Silent shooting means more poaching
While poaching wild game is a valid concern not to be taken lightly, I believe the argument that suppressors make it easier to poach has its fallacies. I will admit however, had I not researched suppressors I might have come to that conclusion myself. In all actuality, a suppressor is not a “silencer” as it is often referred to. There is still noise involved in the action of shooting any gun, a suppressor merely muffles it. Hearing protection is sometimes necessary depending on caliber and ammunition used. Often folks report hearing the bullet hit the object upon impact.
In addition, I would argue that it is highly unlikely that a person would put their NFA (National Firearms Association) Trust in jeopardy to poach. Unfortunately, poachers typically don’t follow any firearms or hunting laws and there are more silent and less expensive ways to illegally take game then with a suppressor. For example, illegal trapping, snaring and the quietest way- archery.
2. Europeans have strict suppressor laws
Yeah let’s be like Europe! They never have crime. I often hear people argue that Europe has stricter gun laws, and therefore less crime. Did you know that in England it is more difficult to purchase a handgun then it is to purchase a rifle or suppressor? I bet you didn’t. I had no idea until I did a little more research for this blog. Englishman Will Treadway responded to my post regarding suppressors, “(I) can’t own a handgun, but can own a .50 suppressed air rifle. Makes no sense to me. We literally have the same types of conversations about gun control here, as they do there (United States). In some ways, they are substantially less free than us. In other ways, not so much.” In England it seems a suppressor is merely a gun muffler. And when you say it like that, it makes sense. For more info. read An Englishman Asks About U.S. Suppressor Law.
3. “Class 3” Firearms (NFA regulated firearms)
If you are not familiar with firearms you might jump to the conclusion that you can walk into any sporting goods store and purchase a suppressor but that is not the case at all. Currently, in the United States a suppressor is categorized as a “Class 3” weapon. “Class 3” is a term often used to describe NFA regulated firearms. In order to legally sell these NFA regulated items an FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealer must have a Class 3 license, hence where the terminology comes from. Other “Class 3” weapons include fully automatic and select fire guns and short barrel rifles/shotguns. I repeat, a machine gun and a suppressor are in the same category.
I had every intention of writing about women who successfully use suppressors, reapin the benefits. I wanted to talk about the rise of the silent woman. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what didn’t exist. Am I an anomaly? I wondered. Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. If there are no other women who shoot suppressed, I thought, there should be! That’s when the idea to write about the “Rise in silent women” changed to “The benefits of being a silent woman.” Fortunately I did discover a few women who shoot/hunt suppressed or would like to, as well as many men who view suppressors as a valuable tools.
I had the opportunity to hunt suppressed in Nevada. With a .17hmr I didn’t think it would have much of an impact on noise or recoil. I just wanted to try it. I loved it. I didn’t use ear protection…it allowed me to hear the hits and misses. The noise reduction also gets less of a reaction from the wildlife and was considerate to the neighboring ranches at night. The recoil reduction allowed me to engage follow up shots much quicker. Useful for moving jackrabbits. -Melynda Dodds
I love shooting with suppressors because the need for ear protection is reduced. Ear protection should still be a priority, but when hunting with a suppressor, if you forget to put your ear protection on, the suppressor helps to reduce the noise enough to where you don’t get that same rattle in the eardrums that you would if you didn’t shoot suppressed. It can also help with noise complaints from those around you; you’re in and out with very little noise disturbance. One last awesome benefit is that it reduces recoil, which is always a plus. The benefits of a suppressor or numerous and those are just some of my reasons why I love ’em. -Morgan, Armed Rogue
I like shooting suppressed for the simple fact that it helps reduce noise and recoil. I already feel like I’m going def from listening to music too loud when I was younger so protecting my hearing is very important to me. While suppressors don’t eliminate all of the noise they help reduce it greatly.
And they also can help reduce recoil, which to me is especially important for women since we typically are smaller than men when it comes to our frame and build. While reduction in recoil isn’t that important in smaller caliber’s or rimfire rounds (like .22 LR or .17 HMR) it can make a difference in larger calibers like 7mm, 6.5 Creedmoor or even .308, just to name a few. Any reduction in recoil is a plus in my book. –Courtney Smith, Outdoorswoman
For more interesting articles about the rise of women and firearms, check out these articles:
For more information on ALL things suppressors visit:
The American Suppressor Association: “Since the ASA’s formation in 2011, thirty six pro-suppressor laws or regulations have been enacted. Eighteen states have legalized suppressor hunting, fifteen states have passed “Shall Sign” or “Shall Certify” legislation, and three states have legalized suppressor ownership.”
Some days I am more wolf than woman And I am still learning how to stop apologizing for my wild
-Nikita Gill “Wolf And Woman”
Imagine sitting in complete darkness. On the bare ground. Your back to a tree. That is, if you’re lucky enough to find a tree without a plethora of biting ants or sharp thorns. Cool air brushes your face and you scan the ground a second time with your flashlight for snakes. Your skin already begins to itch, you are certain you’ll leave with chigger bites to remind you of the morning. The nearby creaking of a working windmill can be heard as you imagine its blades whirling ferociously in the wind.
Creak. Creeeaaak. Creak.
The howl of a distant coyote wakes the sleep from your eyes. Quickly followed by the repeated gobble of a flock of Rio Grande turkey in a nearby cluster of oak and mesquite trees. In unison they alert each other of the threat nearby. The sun peaks over the tree tops and the wind slowly dies down. You check to make sure you remembered your ear buds and load your shotgun.
I don’t care how one with nature you are. You can scale the tallest mountain or camp under an open sky (all very wonderful and admiral things I might add) but you just don’t wake up on your days off from work to go sit among the wild things the way a hunter does. You don’t feel the grass tickle the back of your neck or the cold metal of a shotgun in your hands. You don’t sit and imagine the days events, watch the sunrise slowly, and hope for the perfect scenario of the game you seek the way a hunter does.
The first animal I ever hunted was the Rio Grande turkey almost as far away from the Rio Grande as one can get. That’s right, in Oregon. According to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife the Rio Grande turkey was imported to Oregon in 1975. Despite reported low bird density per square mile, the Rios run rampant in high numbers in the suburbs where I grew up. Nobody really hunts them there, and they virtually have no predators aside from a neighborhood dog or hybrid car. It seems it is a case of wildlife management gone wrong, or lack of management completely. A lure of hunting to me being that hunters keep wildlife numbers in balance.
Because of their sheer numbers in my suburban neighborhood, I thought the turkey would be a much easier target then a deer for a first time bow hunter like me. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions. Not once did I see a turkey on the public lands I was required to hunt. Low and behold mass quantities would walk by my house in the South hills of Eugene on their way to roost in the tall firs behind my quaint house. Just out of reach.
Fast forward to my life in Texas where wildlife management and land stewardship seem to be of higher importance to the hunter. I have continued my pursuit of the Rio. From bow hunting only to shotgun. Not all types of hunting provide such an alluring scenario as turkey hunting. I find that it is hard to describe to folks who don’t know what it is like.
Turkey hunting is like elk hunting for the bird nerd.
When a bull elk comes bugling into sight, or a herd of cow elk make their way down a hillside into view, the adrenaline and the patience needed by a hunter to make an ethical shot is indescribable. This is how I feel when a gobbler (tom turkey) comes strutting or running in to a decoy. Or when a flock of hens fly down from the roost and I patiently wait for a tom to follow. The moment I see him it takes every ounce of strength in my body NOT to move. The turkey may be awkward in the sky and on the ground but the one thing that they have going for them is impeccable eyesight.
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation:
Wild turkeys are one of the most challenging game species to hunt. Their keen eyesight and hearing help them hone in on sounds and movement from a distance, allowing them to locate flockmates and food while also avoiding predators. They can sense the slightest movements, which often results in a hunter going home empty handed…
…Hunters who choose wild turkeys as their quarry are adept at blending into their environment, remaining still for long periods of time, recognizing and mimicking the various sounds wild turkeys make and are the epitome of patience.
After many unsuccessful hunts and close calls, I harvested my first tom turkey in Live Oak county Spring of 2016. He weighed a whopping 17 pounds. This butterball did not come from the grocery store but was procured by my and my husband’s own efforts and actions. That is where the confidence and addiction to turkey hunting began.
While hunting larger game animals like deer, elk and feral hogs have their own draw I have always felt a unique attraction and allure to bird hunting. It may sound trivial but I think it is because before I ever took up hunting I was an avid bird watcher. Adam would laugh at me when I would visit Texas and get excited about seeing a Grackle or a Cara Cara, all very common birds. I still love watching large black vultures roost in the bull mesquites and I have been known to turn my car around to photograph them eating carrion on the side of the road. If it is a bird, there is a good chance I adore it, no matter the species.
So why hunt something you love?
Fellow blogger and hunter Mike Adams of Mike Adams Hunts discussed this question in a recent post about his love for waterfowl hunting:
Being able to communicate an efficient explanation to this question bugged me for weeks to come, and overtime I came face to face with a realization. The answer cannot be described in black and white terms, rather a complex blend of different variables come together to convey my relationship to waterfowl.
I have a lot of non-hunters in my life. I am totally OK with that. Throughout my short time as a hunter I have been asked that very question over and over again. How can you kill what you love? When I ponder the question, I would agree with Matt, it is a complex blend of many reasons. My initial answer is with a question itself.
Why does one pick flowers for a vase? Why not just leave them in nature to be photographed and admired?
I find that hunting birds provides me a higher comprehension of the game animals I love. Understanding the animal I seek makes me a better hunter and gives me more fulfillment as a “bird nerd”. For instance, the average person may say their favorite animal is the sloth but do they travel to Panama or Costa Rica to study them in their habitat? Not likely. I return to the third paragraph of this blog post to make my point. Not often will you find the average Joe, or even avid birder waking up before daylight to sit on the ground in the middle of cactus and mesquite brush to watch turkeys. It is different for the hunter. Touch. See. Taste. All the senses are involved. As a hunter I get to study turkey habitat, their behavior and revel in it. I feel a deeper connection with the birds I love by doing so. I get as much enjoyment watching a hen turkey guard her nest as I do hunting her tom counterpart. And should I harvest a bird for my and my family’s consumption, I know I am contributing to the management of the species.
The majority of the turkey I eat is field harvested. This means something to me. I dream of a day when my Easter or Thanksgiving dinner is put on my plate at the hands of my shotgun. I have become that annoying person at the holiday dinner table. I am OK with that. While I enjoy the taste of a good beef steak from our local meat market Pruski’s, wild game birds are so much different then their chicken or turkey counterparts. If you’ve never had the pleasure, don’t you dare let anyone tell you wild birds are dry and tasteless. After eating properly prepared wild game birds you can confidently tell those people they are terrible cooks. Unlike store bought chicken, you don’t have to cook the snot out of wild turkey, duck, dove or pheasant for it to be safe to consume. And no, you don’t need to wrap everything in bacon, cream cheese and jalapeno. In fact you need very little ingredients to enjoy their flavor instead of masking it. Wild turkey or pheasant piccata with a lemon, caper and white wine sauce is our go to favorite.
Ultimately, I don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for why I hunt turkey. Wild game is where it’s at and turkey hunting is my addiction. I may not be an expert turkey caller, have the latest gear or the most expensive shotgun but I do know I have the patience and perseverance it takes to get the job done. When I am turkey hunting I am a predator. I have learned a lot over the past five years of hunting turkey, and every time gives me more and more conviction about why I have been called into the field to become a hunter. Why knowing where my meat comes from is important and how hunting the animals I love plays a key role in their management. The only hunting related dreams I have at night are always of turkey hunting- not deer, not elk, not even duck. That must mean I am officially addicted.
I have now harvested dove, duck, pheasant and turkey with my 20 gauge Mossberg Super Bantam youth model shotgun (MSRP: $419).
What’s next? Quail? Crane? Goose?
Only time will tell. What I can be certain is come springtime the allure of turkey hunting will draw me back to the Texas brush country where I will sit and wait in silence, ravenously waiting.