In the spirit of a new year, I jumped on the resolution bandwagon. The results thus far have been mixed… One resolution I had is to run my first marathon. Granted, I’ve been training since November so that one has been pretty simple and I’ve held up my end of the resolution. Then the COVID-19 Pandemic truly took grip of our world and life came to a halt. So, I did train but still have not successfully completed a marathon but, there’s still time in 2020.
My other resolution, bringing back my blog with one post per month has fallen a little flat… I started 2020 thinking, “I can put it off just a little later in the month and get something posted by the 31st!” Then, I got a new job, finished my certification as an HR Professional, got new waders, ran, the global crisis became our new reality, turkey season has come and gone, and the list goes on.
Now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s May and writing about what happened in 2019 feels like it was decades away… I still remain hopeful that this post does kick off many more posts for 2020!
In January of 2019 I was training for my second half marathon within 4 months of running my first. My first half was awesome but ended in injury that slowed my hunting down and landed me in the scooter cart at the grocery store. Once my pride recovered and I picked a goal race I started running with Danny Dryer creator of Chi Running/Chi Living. This experience introduced me to trail running.
I was hesitant at first of trail running. Although I love hiking, hunting, and being out in the woods, I’m also painfully aware of how clumsy I can be. But a few weeks in I found that I loved trail running because it was merging two things that I loved into one awesome experience.
January also brought change to how I was shooting my bow. That month I purchased a hand held release. Up until this time I had been shooting a wrist release while attempting to practice back tension with a spare hand held release that Tyler had. The hand held was challenging but I felt that I was shooting better with it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the release Tyler had and wanted my own. I landed on the Stanislawski PerfeX thumb release because of its flexibility in adjustment features and how nicely it fit my small hands.
February started strong with bow tuning. My d-loop had to be extended because I switched releases, Tyler helped me yolk tune my bow, and generally guided me in my shooting. At this point my bow wasn’t sighted in. I was more concerned about the feel of shooting it with my new release practicing back tension as best I could.
Tyler and I hit the field with friends to do a few 3-D target shoots. We weren’t competitive but enjoyed spending the day with friends while shooting at targets, which was made more challenging by not having my bow sighted in. I do think this experience gave me more confidence in myself as a shooter. I was even the only person to get a 12 on one of the targets and the only person in our group to hit that circle that day!
S. 47 the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act passed the House and Senate in February marking a huge milestone for conservation groups who lobbied, organized communication campaign to congressional representatives, and continued funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This bill, now law, set forth provisions regarding various programs, projects and studies for the management and conservation of natural resources on federal lands including but not limited to national parks, monuments, memorials, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, historic and heritage sites, and more!
March saw continued momentum on S.47 and it was signed into Public Law! This had monumental impacts but where it hit close to home was providing funding to the management of a lake just down the road from me as well as providing continued funding to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We shot at the bow range more and Tyler got really into his traditional bow. This was a big month for archery as our Parks and Recreation Department asked if I would be a scorekeeper for the local Senior Games archery tournament. I immersed myself in the rules and even tested the targets to make sure they could withstand shots from compound bows, since they’re primarily used with long bows in introductory archery programming put on buy the Outdoor Recreation staff.
March was jammed packed with travel adventure as well! My sister and I travelled to Knoxville to see Lucy Negro Redux, an amazing production by the Nashville Ballet that merged the writings of Caroline Randall Williams and music of Rhiannon Giddeons and Francesco Turrisi.
At the end of March, Tyler and I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for the goal race I had been training for. This half marathon was monumental for me as I set a PR with a sub two hour half marathon and spent the rest of the trip eating amazing food and drinking bourbon with Tyler. Truly the perfect way to end the month.
April started with turkey season preparations. I had to clean my shotgun, make sure everything was still sighted in with the shells I was planning on shooting, and getting out hunting clothes. Additionally, we did some scouting as well to decide where we wanted to hunt on opening day.
My work month was kicked off by scoring the local Senior Games archery event. Getting to watch folks that I don’t think should be called “seniors” shoot compound and traditional for 900 rounds was amazing and it got me out of the office for half a day! We had a beautiful day of shooting, minus a brief rain storm, and learned a lot from the event that we anticipate modifying for the 2021 event since the 2020 event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I also went through the Citizens Fire Academy to get a better understanding of our City’s Fire Department and the roles they play in protecting our community.
Turkey season opened just days before Tyler’s birthday. Naturally we hit the woods opening weekend and on his birthday to hunt gobblers. We didn’t kill anything on his birthday hunt but he did find a deer shed laying in the middle of a field we were hunting. Turkey season in 2019 felt futile. Birds were vocal on the roost, would fly down and… silence. I quickly lost patience with turkey season but was still able to find some enjoyment looking at the beautiful blooming dogwoods and searching for morel mushrooms.
May was the month we learned about fly fishing. Through work connection turned friend, we were blessed to get to try our hand at tight line fishing and caught trout on flies! This started a journey I plan to talk about more in a later post but will leave a few pictures here as a teaser for now! The rest of the month, whenever we had any time we hit whatever water we could!
June was running and fishing filled.
When a half marathon falls on your birthday you have to run it, right? Well, that’s what I did for my birthday at least. I had continued to run with folks I met over my winter training season and found a true friend in this half marathon. We cheered each other on, quoted the amazing comedy show Parks & Rec, and just shared in the general misery of this half marathon on the most humid day of the year. After was food and beer fueled birthday celebrations, definitely one for the books.
Tyler and I hit popular hiking areas with our fly rods in June. We fished for native Brook trout off the parkway and got to talk fishing with a few families that passed us on their hikes. We also hit DuPont State park to fish the waterways below the waterfalls. It was so much fun to explore areas I was familiar with from my years of hiking, as a fisher.
July can be summarized quickly as more running, fishing, and learning how to tie flies.
Tyler started tagging along on my long trail runs and fishing around the trails where I was running on. He caught some beautiful trout too. On the trails, I saw a fair amount of turtles, snakes, and a few deer!
We started attending fly tying nights at a brewery near us. Tyler would get a head start on tying while I met up with the brewery’s run group. Tyler got into tying quickly and started making his own flies that I would test out fishing on flex days since I was working on the weekends. I also took these flex days to get outside and explore with Hazel and friends to scope out new fishing spots.
In July I became a member of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (NCBHA). I took on the role of the R3 Coordinator for the chapter after preparing a proposal on why I should be in the role, goals I had for the chapter, and a Board vote.
August was insane! Work hit at 100 MPH and I was preparing for a back-to-back 5K and half marathon.
I took time when I could to enjoy time outside between fishing and running. A fire was lit under me again as deer season was quickly approaching to pick up my bow, that I had been neglecting for a fishing rod, and finally got my bow sighted in.
We did some pre-season scouting and found excellent deer sign that would eventually lead to Tyler seeing several deer on his first hunt of the season in September. We spooked deer, found heavily used trails, and beds all on public game land. Tyler was plotting his plan for his first hunt of the season and was starting to get excited.
Because it was a busy time for me at work, and would be through the end of September, I had rationalized that I was fine not hunting early season and would do whatever I could do to support Tyler.
September is Public Lands Month! We did some scouting early season on public land but my focus was my races. I completed the Black Bear Double as a part of the Great Smoky Mountain Half Marathon, got three medals, and lots of hashbrown casserole.
Still in my mindset about hunting, I did continue to hit the archery range to keep loose for whenever I could get a chance to go hunt. I was feeling confident in my shooting. My groups were tight, my shoulder was feeling good, I could tell when I was punching my shots and when I had good form.
Tyler and I celebrated our anniversary closer to the end of the month and he proposed on our actual anniversary date! We’re finally going to get married y’all!
October was a busy travel month with work, NCBHA, and partnerships with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). I traveled to Chapel Hill at the beginning of the month for an Employment Law training and packed my hunting gear. I got some fun looks from the hotel staff carrying my bow case and crate of hunting clothes through the lobby but I didn’t care!
While in Chapel Hill I met my friend’s brother who showed me around his property that is adjacent to game lands. While looking around we found signs of scrapes, and scat. Unfortunately, I was never able to get out of my training early enough to get set up in the woods to hunt. I did see deer while I was in Chapel Hill though and I think Tyler and I will be back to hunt game lands in the future.
Quickly after I returned from my training, Tyler and I got in the car and drove to Gastonia for the first of two Getting Started Outdoors: Deer Hunting 101 (GSO) seminars we would be assisting with in the month.
The Gastonia GSO was put on in partnership with the NCWRC, Gaston County Piedmont Area Wildlife Stewards (PAWS), NCBHA members, and other conservation volunteers. This GSO was for folks who had completed the hunter safety course already. The group consisted of about 25 participants of varying ages, about a third were women, and there seemed to be a diversity in ethnicity/race as well.
The second GSO was conducted in a large partnership with NC State University as well as the other conservation groups listed above. This GSO is unique because it’s only open to NCSU students and the requirement to have completed Hunter Safety is waived. This group targets students who have had limited to no experience with hunting and may have little to no support when it comes to participating in hunting.
Both GSO is intended to give participants a crash course in hunting from prepping pre-season to the final kill and butchering. Additionally, in 2019 both seminars gave their participants an opportunity to participate in a mentored hunt to give the participants an opportunity to get into the field as well as build a support network for them.
This one day course brings in subject matter experts who talk with participants throughout the day in break out sessions. These experts bring their own gear, talk about their experiences in the field, and even offer opportunities for participants to practice the skills they’re learning. For example, my segment is on how to recover a deer once it’s been shot and we practice with an old foam target and Pepto mixed with red food coloring. This is also a unique course because participants are given the opportunity to shoot a rifle, some for the first time in their lives.
Aside from volunteering at these seminars, October was filled with hunting and fishing. Tyler killed a buck mid October on a piece of private land we have access to. We fished a mythical place we call “Land of Giants” and it exceeded the hype, and I started to prepare for hunting in November.
Our state chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers hosted an awesome Pint Night at Catawaba Brewing Company that united users of public lands. We had representatives from the off roading community, climbing community, mountain biking community, fishing community and hunting community who all showed up and participated in a panel discussion on the use and conservation of public lands. In addition, Catawaba released a Marzen beer that donated $1 for every pint sold to our chapter of BHA. The event was a great success, great conversations were had during and after the panel, and the cause of conservation were definitely furthered that evening.
November was a nice break from all of the excitement of October. I took time off of work to head to the coast with my mom for a half marathon she was running. I sprained my ankle mere weeks before I was set to start training for a marathon so I was taking time to rest so I could start training fresh.
I finally got to hit the woods and go on a few hunts in November. This was nice and refreshing and offered a nice reset for me. Mentally and physically to this point I had been stretching myself thin and the opportunity to sit in the woods being still and quiet was incredibly beneficial. I got to watch wildlife, no deer yet though, and found my mind finally starting to quiet.
December is when I hunted the hardest. This month I hunted public and private lands during archery and rifle seasons. All of my hunts were absolutely amazing. I feel like three seasons in and I’m finally starting to find a groove with different spots and become more confident as a hunter.
Some of my most memorable hunts were….
Attempting to still hunt on a morning when there was snow on the ground. I say “attempt” because I got so excited tracking a big buck in the snow I should have moved far slower than I did and seemed to push him away as the snow started to melt and I lost his tracks. This hunt was fun though because it’s a style of hunting I typically do not do, I found incredibly fresh scat and a bed, I spent the entire day in the woods, and I got to be more active than on other hunts.
I also got to hunt the spot of private land where Tyler killed his buck. All of my hunts here were magical! I did have to be very smart about when I hunted here and tracked the weather closely to make sure I had “good” wind for this spot, the pressure was good, or the conditions coming into the rut would mean time for likely deer movement. On these hunts I saw at least one deer on each hunt and on my final hunt of the season a neighborhood dog spooked half a dozen antlerless deer from a ravine below me. I thought the hunt was over at this point but after the dog trotted away, the deer came and browsed under me for over two hours. I got to watch these deer interact in such an intimate way, grooming each other, bedding down, browsing, and then meandering off back into the woods.
Aside from hunting we did a fair bit of fly fishing as well on Delayed Harvest waters, and spent lots of time with family and friends. It was a great way to end the year.