By: Tricia Ricks
The buck stood quartering-to, distracted by his current love interest but fixated on my location ever since I had belly-crawled over the ridge. He was a handsome deer, with wide, evenly matched antlers that stood starkly against the snowy backdrop. Taking into account the wind and range, I slowly crushed the trigger and forever tied our two lives together. Standing in the echo of the shot, I reflected on the journey that led to this moment.
I grew up with two older brothers in the boreal forest of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Although the area is steeped in a rich hunting heritage, my family didn’t hunt. We barely fished. In fact, to this day one of my brothers still won’t touch a fish. Instead, like many families, mine bonded over competitive sports and I became a driven and focused young lady.
I met my future husband in 2002 and he quickly introduced me to fly-fishing. I loved learning about the many facets of the sport: reading the water, the varied casting techniques, entomology and fly selection. It all seemed so tantalizing and quickly became a passion. The quiet anticipation of a strike is so exciting; the steady pull of the current, so relaxing.
In 2006, we decided to move to Montana, to live our dream and one day raise a family in a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities. At the time, I still did not hunt. I’d tag along on backcountry elk hunts or assist in training our new puppy to become a hunting retriever but I still felt like an observer, not a participant.
One late December day, after watching our now grown retriever flush countless pheasants I realized that although I was present, the day’s events weren’t a story of my own and I was missing out on something special. With only one day left in the season, I purchased a bird license. The following day I found myself thankful no roosters flushed near me, as I was definitely not ready to take a shot! Nevertheless, as we relived the highlights at day’s end, I felt I had become a part of something; my soul now beat with a hunter’s heart.
When I first began hunting, I had no idea the opportunities it would afford to challenge myself physically, mentally and emotionally. What’s more, hunting has allowed me to become a participant in nature, not just an observer. There is no other activity like it and that is why I hunt.
Through hunting, I have become a better woman. To dedicate oneself to the pursuit of wild animals requires a certain skill set that has to be earned and there are no shortcuts. The mountains don’t care and will never offer an apology. The animals won’t always be where you think they should be and once you do find them, they probably won’t be what you’d hoped for but none of this matters. What matters is the fact that every day I try to better myself, to become smarter, stronger and more prepared.
Hunting and fishing are activities that can be enjoyed regardless of age, gender or skill level. They can be experienced solo or as a group and in a completely non-competitive arena. Fishing allows me to recharge. The peaceful concentration offers me a chance to connect with nature on my own timeline. There is no rush and the mesmerizing sound of the rivers distracts me from my daily grind. Conversely, there is something about the hunt that enriches my soul. It allows me to push myself to the limit in ways that no other activity can. There are times when I am scared, when I just want to give up but the respect for myself and the animals I pursue forces me onward. I wake up early, train vigorously and prepare myself in hopes that I will be ready when the time comes.
The animals I have taken are nowhere near record trophy size but they are constant reminders that I am smart, patient, persistent and strong. This is the only validation I need. I am proud to be a woman in this male-dominated industry. I am honored to share my story and help empower women to become better versions of themselves. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to live in beautiful country and enjoy the freedom that each day brings.
I am truly living the dream.