A year before I had LJ, my Airstream, I was starting to get more confident traveling by myself for fun. It wasn’t something I had done without Andy often so it was really a step to stand up to my inner thoughts and give permission to myself to do this. I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina in a small farming community where hunting was not just a sport but a way of providing food for your family. Every year at the start of deer season, many of my guy friends would stay home from school excited to get out and hunt for the first big buck. I really wanted to go but my family weren’t into hunting and fishing although I remember my dad and brother going squirrel hunting when he was younger. The closest thing we got to having a deer one winter was when my brother accidentally hit one with his car and the state trooper said we could keep it. It was an experience to see my father and brother process a deer and then my mama cook up venison.
Now Andy grew up surfing with no desire to hunt so he must have thought I was crazy when I told him I wanted to learn how to hunt. He told me to go for it! I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t feel comfortable asking the men I knew in our town to take me so of course I went online and searched for “women who hunt” and “women who teach other women to hunt.” I found this wonderful woman, Anne Kania, and her husband. They run the Joy of Hunting in eastern Montana. I reached out to Anne and she was delightful to work with especially when I told her I didn’t know anything or even have a shotgun. We found a time in late January 2020 that worked for our schedules, and I flew out to Montana to learn pheasant hunting (best not to jump in hunting big game but to start small).
Anne was amazing and such a great teacher. She is an award-winning shooter in the state of Montana and had a couple of shotguns for me to choose from. I could test out those styles and see which one I felt more comfortable with. First, we started with her sport clays and I got used to my stance and shooting quickly. Then, we started walking and shooting. Anne was extremely patient with me and her dogs were so well trained. I especially liked watching the dogs work and how their spaniel would serve as pointer while their lab would flush and fetch once the bird was down. Not only did Anne and her husband take me on a pheasant hunt right on their property but I also got to participate in a dove hunt. And, I learned how to process the birds so I can one day try on my own and actually eat what I shoot. One fun fact about Anne, she’s from New Zealand and a former opera singer. Her voice is beautiful and her spaniel likes to sing with her.
While I was in Montana, we were blessed with amazing weather. It was in the sixties on Friday and Saturday and when I left on Sunday it snowed. I got to hunt in two different seasons in one weekend. I even shot a pheasant which we cooked that evening. It was delicious and Anne is a wonderful chef. I was honored to learn from such a well-versed woman and she taught me everything from the type of ammunition to use to even etiquette at a shooting club if I ever attended one.
I hope to take the Airstream back to see her and hunt again perhaps when I’m fulfilling a bucket list trip cross country to visit the National Parks I haven’t seen yet.