“How do you lead these things!?” coworker Emy Marier, 26, called out in frustration last week through the doghair aspen after missing a speeding woodcock during a hunt in northern Minnesota.
“I miss them, too,” I told Marier as her father, Jim—of course—then nailed a woodcock on the rise just to our right. I walked over to Emy, held out my hands two or three feet apart, and said, “Lead them this much when they’re close and more if they’re farther out. Keep your gun up in front of you and look over, not at, your dog—you’ll see flushes quicker that way.”
Emy got it because just a half-hour later another lil’ russet feller flushed and she nailed it, bagging her first-ever woodcock. She was especially proud her flat-coated retriever, Lux, who she has trained, made both the flush and retrieve.
We paused for congratulations and photos of this epic moment in a young huntress’s life.
“Bagging my first woodcock was great. I am someone who wants to hunt as many species of upland gamebird as possible. Last year I got my first pheasant and duck. I’ve only hunted woodcock once before and ruffed grouse twice, but I haven’t bagged a grouse yet. I just saw my first one this September.”
I’ve known Emy three years, and in that time, she’s made a hunter of herself. Love of dogs was her entry into hunting, specifically the dogs her father hunted over.
“My family are pheasant hunters; my dad and uncles did that together,” she said. “My first pheasant hunt was in 2006. I was thrilled getting to watch the dogs work, and since then, I’ve wanted to hunt.”
Emy’s next goal for this season is to hunt with Lux by herself.
“I’ve never done a solo bird hunt,” Emy said. She also took an archery class and bagged her first deer last year, along with doing a mentored turkey hunt.
I admire the fact Emy didn’t need to be spoon-fed hunting to take a liking to it. No, she has gone for it on her own. In fact, she asked me to take her on this grouse/woodcock hunting trip, I guess, after listening to me and a neighboring coworker talk incessantly about hunting my place the last three years. A girl can only take so much before she has to speak up!
I’m glad I said yes to her request. I’m pleased to help mentor the next generation into hunting and conservation, and as another coworker said to me, “It’s our responsibility.” I was also glad Emy was interested in the conservation side of our hunt last week. She listened when I told her about the forest management I’ve done on my land to produce such good hunting, about the specific plants grouse and woodcock need.
I asked Emy if she had any advice for other young women interested in hunting who haven’t taken the first step yet.
“Yes, take the first step and stick with it. Avoid getting caught up in comparisons—it’s not easy for adult women to be the novice when the male hunters they often hunt with are in their prime. It’s unlikely you’re going to be a natural at the sport, so get at it early and practice.”
Her next hunting conquest?
“I’ve been invited on a bear hunt next spring in Montana. That would be a first. I have to look into getting a rifle for that.”
Emy didn’t get her first grouse that day in northern Minnesota last week, but she got a crack at two of the speedy forest kings. I doubt, however, that it will be long before she does bag the country’s toughest upland bird.
True to her enthusiastic nature, Emy asked me, “Can we come back?”
“We certainly can,” I said. The lady has to get her first grouse, after all.