Pickles, Ice Cream and a Huntin' Fool
My husband is going to kill me, I thought as I crouched down behind a brush pile while streaks of lightning illuminated the cloud-darkened sky and sleet pelted my jacket. I was three-months pregnant with my second child and had just promised my husband, Brett, that I would use good sense and would stay inside where it was warm and dry if the weather turned bad. But I could hear the gobbler just over the hill.
Certainly he'll understand, I thought. I'll just give that bird a few more minutes.
As we waited out the bird, the thunder got louder and the sleet, which had become mixed with snow, began to fall more heavily around us.
Let's move a little closer to the bird, my guide Jerry Petersen, president of Woods Wise said.
I agreed, but as we left our hiding place and began our sneak across the sparse Texas terrain, the gobbler we'd been pursuing spotted us and flew off.
So much for that bird, Petersen said. The weather's getting bad anyway. Let's head back to camp for some lunch.
Upon returning to camp at Dove Creek Outfitters in San Angelo, I checked the voicemail on my cell phone and listened to a message from my husband who said, Certainly you're not out hunting in that horrible weather that I just saw reported on the news. Call me when you get back to camp.
I reluctantly made the call and began my defense as soon as he picked up the phone.
I'm so bundled up that I didn't even get cold, I claimed. I'll be fine, which I felt was the truth.
I had on so many layers of clothing that I looked more like I was carrying full term twins than just one little first trimester fetus. After talking to my husband, I headed to the dining room just in time for lunch. Throughout the first half of my pregnancy, I had a constant famished feeling that nothing but only the fattiest, most dense carbohydrates could remedy. I guess I wore my hunger on my sleeve as all the guys in camp made it a big joke to insist that I go first through the buffet line from fear that I'd run them over. I laughed and joked along with them, but was secretly thankful for the first dibs on food.
Even though I was the only female in camp and pregnant to boot, none of the guys coddled me as I feared they would. They all just treated me like another hunter and encouraged me to get out there and to have a good time. But this couldn't be said for my friends and family. While they all meant well, the folks back home tried to do all they could to keep me from going turkey hunting that season.
I often get funny looks from my girlfriends when I talk about my hunting trips. None of them grew up hunting, so they just don't understand why I enjoy such a sport. Well, when I told them of my plans to go on two different turkey hunts while pregnant, they couldn't believe it.
That's probably the last thing you need to do, one of them said. You don't need to be getting up at 4 in the morning traipsing around in the woods carrying a gun looking for turkeys. That just can't be good for you or the baby.
My parents echoed the sentiment. They worried about tick-borne diseases, what gunfire could do to the baby's hearing, and like my husband, they worried about the weather. Pregnancy seems to bring out the worry wart in everyone, and while I truly appreciate their concern, I got tired of defending my decision to hunt while pregnant. It's true, certain sports such as skiing, biking and horseback riding should be avoided throughout pregnancy, but hunting is not on the list of sports to shun. As long as the expectant mother uses common sense and is careful not to fall or over exert herself, then there's no reason she can't enjoy hunting.
No Place for a Pregnant Lady
To try to ease my parent's mind about the gunfire, I called my OBGYN and asked her if firing a gun while pregnant could hurt my baby's hearing. She assured me that it couldn't explaining that the baby was so well insulated within my womb that loud noises could not affect its hearing. After speaking with her, I immediately called my family and with an I-told-you-so attitude and reported her reply.
Of course, there are some precautions you must take when hunting while pregnant. For one, my husband did have a legitimate concern about the cold weather. If a pregnant woman gets sick, a high fever could put the fetus at risk. And falls are always a concern. For those reasons, I paid special attention to the ground in front of me as I walked with gun in hand, and I carried extra clothing on both trips to make sure I was dressed properly, no matter the weather conditions.
Pickles and Ice Cream
I'm glad that I continued on with my plans to hunt despite the misgivings of others. In fact, I felt better during my two turkey hunts than I did throughout my entire pregnancy. I think the fresh air, exercise and sunshine did me a world of good, and the success I experienced on both hunts definitely boosted my moral. In fact, during my Texas hunt I ended up bagging a four-bearded gobbler and during the Illinois hunt a month later, I tagged a whopping 24-pound bird—the biggest bird I've ever taken.
I laugh thinking about the day I took that Illinois bird. I hadn't slept well the night before because of pregnancy-induced back pain, so I decided to take a little rest during my hunt. I leaned back against the tree, stretched my legs out in front of me, placed my Benelli to my side and put my half-eaten Kit-Kat bar on my swollen belly. Just before I dozed off I decided to take one more look around, and there in the corner of the field I spotted a desperate looking gobbler running at a dead sprint right toward my decoy. I made a good shot and returned to camp at River's Bend Outfitters where a big tub of ice cream and a jar of pickles awaited my arrival—courtesy of the lodge owners. I grabbed up the ice cream and pickles and took the items outside to include in a few pictures with my turkey.
When I look back now, I'm glad I have those memories of hunting while pregnant. I can tell my boys Ethan and Ransom that they went on their first hunts when they were tiny babies inside my belly. Like my hunting counterparts, I too believe in the importance of passing on the hunting heritage to the next generation, I just believe in getting an early start.