Now Reading
A New Hunter’s Road from Skeet Shooting to the Dove Field

A New Hunter’s Road from Skeet Shooting to the Dove Field

Birds-eye view of a clay target shooting range

Hunting can become a passion when you least expect it, even if you have to overcome barriers and be persistent to find mentors and create opportunities

The sky was filled with gloomy, gray rain clouds that were ready to burst and shower us with their droplets. As I pulled up to meet my friend, Sebastian, and his brother, Wendell, a light drizzle began. While rain may be beneficial for a waterfowl hunter, it is not always the same situation for doves, especially in September in Texas where a cold front would not be joining the rain. Even though we knew the likelihood of limited wings, we slung our hunting bags on, packed some umbrellas (don’t laugh), grabbed our shotguns, and hiked out.

No birds were flying in the rain so we paused our hiking, sat in our chairs, and busted out the umbrellas to wait out the storm. After it finally let up, we continued to hike this private property when, out of nowhere, a dove flew over our heads. I shouldered my brand new 20-gauge Benelli, aimed, and fired! Wendell went to shoot in unison, but I beat him to it and dropped that dove right to the ground. I can still hear the surprise and excitement in Sebastian’s voice as he exclaimed, “Wendell, did you get that?!”

“No! Austin did,” Wendell replied in with matching excitement. Sebastian laughed with joy.

I was so proud of myself, beaming with exhilaration as I recognized that my skeet shooting practice had paid off. I could hear my heart racing as I walked towards the fallen dove I had visually marked and picked it up off the ground. That was my first bird I had ever shot and it was the only bird we shot that day.

My hunting journey began right there in that rain-soaked moment a little over two years ago. As a woman and a first-generation hunter, my journey thus far has included a handful of barriers I’ve had to overcome, not the least of which was battling cancer in my first hunting season. It was my determination, confidence, creativity, and a yearning to learn about this waterfowl and upland hunting passion that has brought me to where I am today. I’m forever a changed person and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


SUBSCRIBE to the AUDIO VERSION for FREE : Google  | Apple | Spotify


Skeet Shooting Leads to Hunting

I didn’t grow up hunting. Born in San Antonio and raised in Boerne, Texas, all I knew hunting to be was deer hunting, something that never crossed my path. My background was ballet and cheer-leading for 17 years, when I spent my week nights and Saturdays in dance rehearsal studios. I finished my college tenure as the Co-Director of the UT Dance Team at The University of Texas at Austin, cheering alongside the UT Basketball team and competing at Nationals. It wasn’t until about three years ago that hunting surfaced in my world and, in fact, it all started with skeet shooting.

A friend got to chatting one day about his competitive skeet shooting in college. My husband and I expressed interest in the sport, so he agreed to take us out one day and show us how. Our planned weekend arrived and an unexpected event came up that kept my husband from going, but I was so excited and committed that I still showed up solo. I think my friends were a bit surprised when I showed up with no husband at my side. They wanted to know where he was, to which I exclaimed, “Well I’m here! Show me how this is done!”

I learned to shoot while using my friend’s Beretta A400 Xplor 28-gauge. He knew good and well that if you start someone, let alone a female shooter, on a 12-gauge, there’s a good chance they may not return. Sure, I was going to miss starting out, but eventually I got the hang of it and had a blast leveraging what seemed to be good, natural, hand-eye coordination.

It wasn’t until the next summer that I found myself at the skeet range with the same group of guys, this time convincing them to show up weekend after weekend to show me the ropes. The guys would often speak of their annual dove and turkey hunts. Tom, the competitive college shooter, would put together a trip to Ford Ranch, a well-known ranch here in Texas, where 15-20 guys would go out and hunt dove the entire weekend. I loved hearing the stories, the camaraderie, the laughs, and the tales of these trips and only thought about how cool it would be to join them some day.

A Hunting Invitation from a Willing Friend

Months went by without an invite to go out hunting with my friends, until Sebastian offered me a chance to go with him and his brother, Wendell. “We hunt public land, so it’s nothing like the Ford Ranch, but we have a fun time doing it!”

I was so ecstatic that someone was willing to take me out hunting with them. Of course, it was now time to buy my very first shotgun. After browsing the internet to find the perfect shotgun, combing the hunting forums for perspective, and hearing advice from my fellow shooting friends, I decided to go with a Benelli Ethos 20-gauge semi-automatic. It featured Benelli’s Inertia Driven system, AA-grade satin walnut, engraved nickel-plated alloy receiver, and weighed in at about 5.5 lbs. She was a beauty!

My Benelli, while a beautiful gun, turned out to not be the best-suited gun for me. It got me through my first season, but it didn’t quite fit and because of the light weight of the gun and the inertia system, it kicked like a mule. Back to the drawing board. Through more research I came across Syren shotguns, a division of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm that designs shotguns specifically for women so that we don’t have to compromise on an ill-fitted shotgun. It was love at first shot.

From that very first dove hunt, my friend Sebastian continued to take me under his wing on public land duck hunts that same fall, where I fell in love with duck hunting. I truly appreciated that he and his brother didn’t mind teaching a new, female hunter what they had learned over the years.

First-Generation and Female Hunter

But I wanted more. That same Fall/Winter I grabbed the reins to pursue hunting opportunities where I could join guided hunts as a solo hunter. That waterfowl season I made it to four different hunts with guided outfitters: three duck hunts in Texas and a goose hunt in Colorado. I remember showing up to these hunts with a feeling in my stomach where I knew the old timers and young bucks would be wondering, “Who is this girl and where is her boyfriend?” And ask they did. Often shocked that I just kind of fell into this with no father, grandfather, husband, or boyfriend to teach me, they asked a lot of questions. I tried to not let their poking and prodding offend me as they meant well. I was a solo, female, novice hunter and I owned it. I was there to enjoy the hunt, learn from others, and knock down some birds.

Being a woman with absolutely no hunting background hasn’t stopped me, though. As a novice hunter over the last couple of years, I have hunted private and public lands with a mixture of birds—dove, duck, goose, sandhill cranes, pheasant, and chukar—mainly here in Texas but also traveling to Colorado, Arizona, Nebraska, and out of the States to Canada. I truly enjoy waterfowl hunting and wingshooting and it has quickly become the primary passion in my life. There is so much to learn—the different species, their habitat, conservation, how to carve and cook my game, the history, the dogs we hunt with… it’s a never-ending opportunity to learn. In fact, over the last few months I began to host a weekly #TuesdayTrivia on my Instagram stories (@henandhunt) where I provide my followers trivia questions to test their own knowledge of game birds and hunting subject, and perhaps learn a new thing or two!

I’ve rotated topics such as waterfowl facts, hybrid ducks, goose, waterfowl feathers, wood ducks, retrievers, and more. Thanks to the Hunting Dog Confidential podcast, I learned from co-hosts Jennifer Wapenski and author Craig Koshyk about the history and origins of the well-known Labrador Retriever, and via my Instagram trivia was able to teach many Lab owners that their beloved breed originated with the St. John’s Water Dog. It’s enriching that even as a novice hunter I have been able to share new knowledge with experienced hunters and we can create a dialogue to learn from one another.

As I look ahead to a new year, I’m excited about the many “firsts” that lie ahead, as well as meeting new people and learning from the community. I will be snow goose hunting in Kansas for the first time as well as turkey hunting, and may even try my hand at hunting for quail on public lands. I recently harvested my first wood duck with a fellow female hunter, Jennelle, that I had recently met via Instagram. I’ve been testing my hand in the kitchen to step up my wild game cooking by trying new recipes such as grilled chimichurri hearts, pasta bolognese with gizzards, and goose jerky and sausage. Whether it’s novice excitement for a new experience or the long-standing love from an experienced hunter, there’s always an exhilaration we know we can share together, and I hope you’ll join me in this journey.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


©2021 Northwoods Collective, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express permission of Northwoods Collective is strictly prohibited.

Scroll To Top