Shotgun Lives

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Ann Kercheville

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.

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Ken Hartshorn

Ken is a technical writer and has spent the majority of his career documenting storage hardware and software products for start-up companies. Although start-ups demand long hours, he always finds time to get to the club and break some clays. Ken is not a shooting instructor and he is not a professional shooter. He’s part of the majority of people who love to shoot clays just for the sheer fun of it.

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Lars Jacob

Unless Lars Jacob is running dogs, wetting a fly line or turkey hunting, everything he does revolves around shotgunning. Jacob has been teaching the finer art of wingshooting for over 30 years. He has run programs and gun rooms for the Dutch River Club, Covey & Nye and Orvis Company to name a few. Jacob is the founder and CEO of Lars Jacob Wingshooting, LLC and LJW Roving Syndicate. In addition to instruction, Jacob is recognized as one of the country’s finest gun fitters and recently worked with Perazzi’s Al Kondak to develop the Perazzi Ladies Sporter. He has a soft spot for side-by-sides and has introduced thousands of shooters to the nuances associated with shooting such shotguns. For more information visit www.larsjacobwingshooting.com.

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As the co-founder and president of a hunting resort with 22 upland bird and deer hunting seasons under my belt, this question should be easy to answer, right?  And when answered literally, the solution really is quite simple….when hunting season ends, you work to prepare for the next hunting season.  That’s it, that’s the primary off-season objective. This easy answer works especially well if you’ve got a reliable source of funding to cover all the expenses associated with the six months “off-season.”

Learning to shoot and hunt at the age of 41 was such a revelation to me that I find myself constantly offering to help other women get into the shooting sports. Often, all it takes is the mere mention that I hunt to pique other women’s interest. Over and over, I’ve watched their eyes light up as the mental calculation leads them to the obvious: “If she can do it, I can do it too.”

Introduction

When an unsolicited email crossed our desk, we felt compelled to publish it (of course with permission from the author). The email, originally sent to NSCA Level II instructor, Elizabeth Lanier, captures the spirit of a unique all-woman upland hunt – basically giving the rest of us a rare glimpse into the camaraderie and exhilaration that women can enjoy when they decide to leave the guys behind and head out into the fields with guns and dogs.

What's wonderful about being of the female gender these days (and really for at least the last 40 years) is that it’s okay to be whatever you want to be. Truly, there are no professional or social limitations on whatever you choose to do, at least not in America. You can be a career professional, a stay-at-home mom, a politician, a lady of leisure (it helps to be independently wealthy), a volunteer for charitable causes, a homemaker/ gardener/chef/Martha Stewart want-to-be, etc., and by any standard of measure, any option you choose is okay. Each is respected and quite acceptable across all segments of our society.

The same goes for gals in the outdoors. We can have as much or as little involvement in it as we want and whatever we choose is okay. But in my opinion, more is better especially after seeing all the fun the guys have been having for 22+ years at Joshua Creek Ranch where there’s wingshooting, sporting clays, fly fishing, and deer and turkey hunting. For more than just my own business reasons, I’m an advocate of women getting more involved in the outdoors, especially the sporting life. Women deserve to enjoy the exhilaration and gratification of breaking that target and bagging that bird and hooking that fish…and they possess all the natural instincts to quickly develop the skills to be successful at it.

But I want to regress a moment to the idea that whatever level of involvement we ladies want is okay. We may just want to walk along on the upland hunt, watching the dogs work and applauding the shooter who bags a double; or lounge in the shade observing the quiet concentration of the fly fisherman casting his line to the trout held up behind a boulder; or keep score for the sporting clays shooters competing for who’ll buy the beer at the end of the round.  Just to be out there observing/absorbing/adoring the great outdoors at any level of participation is rewarding. 

The level of comfort we have participating in sporting activities really depends on how much opportunity we’ve had to practice. Like swimming or riding a bike, it helps to start when you’re young so it’s practically automatic as an adult. But whenever you start, some expert coaching along the way and plenty of practice can bring those skills to a very high level. BUT it’s okay for us gals to settle for a mediocre skill set and measure our success in fun. We’ll always be welcome with an “acceptable” level of competence so long as we bring along a good sporting attitude. Besides, ladies, you may not want to outperform the host who invited you. It could put future invitations in jeopardy, especially if that host is your boyfriend or husband.

3-12-jcr-girl-hunter-weekenOne of the lady food bloggers tries her hand at sporting clays at Joshua Creek Ranch.

Just recently we had the perfect group of ladies demonstrating “FUN” as the prevailing factor in the outdoors when a group of lady food bloggers was brought together at Joshua Creek Ranch by huntress and chef, Georgia Pellegrini. The purpose of the weekend was to introduce these guests to wild game cooking, with a sideline course in shotgun shooting and fly fishing. Most of the gals had never shot a shotgun and many had never been on a ranch. You’ve never seen such whimsy and delight among a group of highly skilled professional women. The best part was their footwear of choice on a Texas hunting ranch. Follow this link to see the stories they wrote and the phenomenal photos they took: www.joshuacreek.com/about/news-media/news.

In April another group of ladies will come for a retreat called Casting for Recovery. Their outdoor experience at the Ranch will be to teach them to fly fish. But while they’re here, volunteers skilled in much more than fly fishing will lead them through sessions aimed at fostering their recovery, restoration, and resolution as they journey through their experience with breast cancer.

3-12-casting forrecovery001Women experience the joy of fishing at the Casting for Recovery breast-cancer retreat at Joshua Creek Ranch.


Throughout the summer from mid-June through mid-August, young ladies ages 8-15 will be among the participants in the Youth Outdoor Adventure Program (YOAP) at Joshua Creek Ranch. Although their numbers are in the minority within the group, their mastery of the skills taught is consistently on the superior end of the rating spectrum. It’s not that unusual for us to see a girl win the overall Best Camper award. It’s been fun to see some of these outgoing young women grow int enthusiastic shooters and hunters as adults. I’ve even had a few girls come back to confirm a truth I told them when they were as young as 8 years old: “Guys do love a girl who can shoot!”

The opportunities to enjoy something in the outdoors are as vast as the outdoors themselves. The important thing is not so much what you’re doing or how well you’re doing it, but that you’re sharing the experience and creating memories with people who are important in your life. So get out there this spring and summer and have some fun.

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.

For two months now, I’ve been slogging through the long, dark tunnel that is Not Duck Season. I feel actual anguish at having been ripped away from my marsh. The cast of winged characters – game and non-game – that made me laugh, curse and shout for joy has been replaced with the relentless torment of humans who exasperate and aggravate me.

The end of duck season always comes like a hard slap in the face. You can see it coming, almost in slow motion, but you’re still taken aback by its abrupt, stinging finality.

So when you get an unexpected shot at a post-season hunt – not just any post-season hunt, but one of epic potential – it feels like a dream.

March 1, 2012 is the beginning of the final month of the upland bird hunting season at Joshua Creek Ranch (JCR). In my mind, I picture the calendar as twelve monthly segments arranged in a circle. October through March segments appear smaller than the other months, and if my circular calendar were placed over the face of a clock, those six months of October through March would be all jammed up between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock.  That’s how fast the hunting season seems to go compared to the rest of the year.

The other day I received a call at my Joshua Creek Ranch office from the wife of a wingshooting client. She asked if I remembered a newsletter we’d sent out several years ago that had a piece in it comparing the benefits of men having dogs rather than wives. She was in hopes of getting a copy of it to share with friends. I did vaguely remember it, but to tell the truth, searching for that particular newsletter rated about minus two on my scale of things I needed to do at this particularly busy time of the hunting season. 

I remember so vividly the day I went to buy my first shotgun.

My boyfriend Hank and I drove a couple miles down the main drag of our dilapidated 1960s-era suburb to our local hook-n-bullet store, an utterly charmless building with windows boarded over and painted, and not so much as a sprig of greenery anywhere in the parking lot. It was ugly even compared with already-low neighborhood standards.

My husband Joe and I just finished a delightful late lunch at the top of Aspen Mountain in Colorado with our good friends Toby and Liz from Cincinnati, Ohio. We had met them in Scotland several years ago when we went on a driven pheasant shooting trip in the beautiful Port Patrick area.