That’s right, you heard me. The benefits of hunting are out, and WE WANT IN.

My headlamp dangled around my neck. It was still dark, an hour before sunrise. The nearly full moon illuminated the trail to my duck blind just fine. It was late October but it was warm, and I started sweating in my waders. Emilie unzipped her jacket. “We are almost there,” I said quietly. I pointed to a small side trail that dipped sharply downhill. Emilie had never hunted ducks, so I had invited her to join me.

We arrived at the blind – a structure with a wooden bench and primitive wooden roof. Early morning fog hovered above the Presumpscot River as we waded in and threw out half a dozen floating duck decoys. A beaver broke the silence by slapping his tail on the water, disapproving of our presence. The sky turned shades of lavender and amethyst. An eagle glided by, and an eastern kingbird sang his intricate dawn song. “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” I thought to myself. Argos, my Brittany, sat at my feet. His eyes focused intently on the river. I blew softly on the duck call hanging around my neck and his ears perked with anticipation.

Emilie and I were acquaintances, not yet friends. We met through the Facebook group Maine Women Hunters. The group has social meetups, and organizes hunts that are aimed toward beginners. It is a place where women share their successes, ask questions and empower each other. I wish the group had been around when I first started hunting. Hunting is very male-dominated, which can be intimidating. It’s hard to try something new when you’re surrounded by experts, none of whom look like you.

I was born and raised in Machias, in a family that doesn’t hunt, fish or own guns. I was a goody two-shoes who never spoke up, always called home and got straight A’s. I didn’t start hunting until after college. I was disappointed by the conditions of livestock and America’s factory farming practices. It is too easy to not take responsibility when buying dyed red meat that barely resembles the animal it once was. Hunting forces me to face head on the serious impact of eating meat­ ­– of taking a life.

Hunting allows me to embrace my wild side, which I stifled while growing up. Little girls are taught to be quiet, polite and obey the rules. We are told to be careful when holding a pocket knife, but never told to be careful when holding a kitchen knife. In the woods, I can be what my ancestors were – hunters. Modern life can be sterile and full of comforts – warmth, cleanliness and convenience. We are divorced from nature. Hunting causes some suffering – you’re cold, bored, hungry and often discouraged. It makes you feel alive. It teaches you grit, discipline, humility, perseverance and resourcefulness. It also teaches you to slow down and live in the moment. Listen to the woodpecker working and watch the squirrel scamper in the leaves.

Humans have a profound impact on wildlife, and until we give their land back to them, we owe it to them to manage our co-existence properly. Hunters pay to extract the renewable resource (wildlife) and then eat the meat. Without hunters, wildlife management would be left to Mother Nature, who is very nonchalant about death. Starvation, disease and an increase in vehicle-wildlife collisions would likely be the result. An increase in nuisance wildlife conflicts would result in many homeowners hiring a contractor to kill the nuisance animal and the meat would be wasted.

Women are the fastest-growing demographic in hunting, and Maine is no stranger to women hunters. In fact, Maine’s first Registered Guide, Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, was a woman. If you’re a woman who would like to try hunting, check out Maine Women Hunters. If you’re a man, search for the New England Backcountry Hunters and Anglers apprenticeship program.

And if you’re still reading this, go for a walk in the woods. Just do it.

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