There is something to be said about providing for yourself. Plant a few seeds and you can have a garden full of fresh produce. Tap a few trees and you have maple syrup. Keep a few bees and you get honey. Learn to hunt and, if you are lucky, you can fill a freezer or two.

My dad introduced me to fishing when I was young, but we do not have a hunting heritage. He was a military man, but not an outdoorsman. I never even touched a gun until a few years ago.

Developing a new heritage. Submitted photo

I developed an interest in hunting as an extension of my love for the outdoors, my passion for conservation and my desire to provide for myself. But, as a woman with no connection to that world, I thought I would never be welcome.

In fact, I was certain of it.

With no idea of how to break the barriers, I took a hunter safety course. I learned how to care for, respect and handle a firearm. When I thought I was ready, I purchased my hunting license and headed into the woods with a well-versed outdoorsman.

“You can teach someone how to shoot but you can’t really teach someone how to hunt. It’s just something you learn as you go,” he said to me.

Chris showed me how to walk, how to wait and what signs to look for.

By no fault of his, every helpful piece of advice came across as critical and I felt judged the entire time.

I didn’t realize until very recently, how wrong I was. And how that misperception was affecting how I was learning.

Last fall, I wrote a story about my experience with a basic handgun training course. I needed 50 rounds of ammo for a handgun I was not familiar with. My initial attempt to purchase the necessary rounds left me frustrated because I admittedly had no clue what I was doing.

I had to ask for help but ended up figuring out what I needed and took the class. I’m glad I did. It was the first step in breaking down my perceived walls of judgment.

“I learned a few things,” I said to a friend after the class. “Mostly, the judgment I feel comes from a lack of confidence.”

I needed to have that realization drilled into my head before I finally learned to embrace the advice passed on to me by marksmen.

We shoot skeet and still targets in the summer. I’m a great shot at a still target but horrible at hitting clay.

“You are aiming at the clay. Try aiming in front of it.” Wouldn’t you know, I managed to clip an orange disk as it flew across the sky.

“Now your aim is too far right. Try aiming a little to the left.” Woah! I actually hit one.

“Keep your feet shoulder length apart to help balance the weight of the shotgun.” Huh. It worked.

The icing on the cake was finally shooting a long gun built for me, a lefty – a left-handed shotgun. It was suggested I try one out a long time ago but I insisted I was comfortable with a right-handed gun since that is what I first learned to shoot with.

Left-handed shotgun in hand, I stepped up to the firing line. The clay was released. I took aim and hit the target. Not every time, but more often than I ever had before.

I now understand outdoorsmen are eager to share their heritage and, in my experience, the knowledge really has been passed along without judgment. The advice given to me was not sexist criticism. It was advice, plain and simple.

Last November, Chris persuaded me to head into the woods solo. I didn’t catch sight of a deer that day but as I quietly headed into the woods, I made a note of fresh antler rubs, fresh tracks, and fresh droppings.

Looking for animal signs is something that has become ingrained in my outdoor adventures, no matter the season. I examine tracks – and scat. I can differentiate between animals, and sometimes sexes, by the markings they leave behind. My friends often send me pictures of tracks and other signs asking for identification.

I’m not sure when I became the knowledgeable one but I happily share what little I’ve come to know in hopes of keeping my new-found heritage alive.

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