eyes wide open...
Growing up my family didn’t have guns. It just wasn’t a part of our family make-up. We had golf clubs and other sports gear. I married into a family that has always had respect and knowledge for guns. A few years into our marriage my husband went on a few hunts. Needless to say, I didn’t understand it. I thought it was cruel and couldn’t get behind it, but it was something he loved and so I respected that and let him go. He has taught me everything I know about guns and how to use them. It started with wanting to learn how to use his handgun if I ever needed to. He is a first responder so I am often left without him with our kids at home. That reason aside, I needed to learn about guns so that I was no longer afraid of them. After taking a local women’s handgun course I became comfortable with a weapon and shooting it. Although, I never intended to aim at anything but a piece of paper 20-100 yards away. That all changed when my sister-in-law married into our family. Over the years we have bonded over anything Talley-related. Recently her increasingly popular persona of the giraffe hunter has shown me more of who she is. Tess Talley is an amazing woman. All I knew of her was her heart. I mean she also married a Talley, so that in itself means she is a badass. We bonded over girl things, beach, sand, drinks, the and ridiculousness of being a Talley wife. Months later I would read about her going on a hunt in South Africa and killing a giraffe bull. I knew she and my brother-in-law were avid hunters, but my understanding stopped there. After reading about her, yes I googled her and saw the other side of her life that had blown up in recent years. I realized there was so much more to hunting than I originally believed. To the outside world, hunting seems to be this thing where people go out and shoot animals and use their bodies as trophies. Or at least that was my assumption, now I see it more as a judgment. I continue to learn that hunters are so much more. This whole experience has opened my eyes in ways I never expected. I see myself, my husband, my family, and others in a different light. We all have parts of ourselves that are multifaceted. One’s reasoning to do or not do something is based on values and beliefs. Hunting is very much that. Acting on values and beliefs. I never knew how regulated hunting is until I began to learn about it. I also was ignorant to the ways in which hunters do things. When I completed the hunter’s education course I learned that conservation is at the forefront of why hunting is vital to our environment. I also learned that there are a number of rules and regulations that vary depending on the hunting location, season, and a game being hunted (see what I did there?).
My first hunt, wasn’t really a hunt in my opinion because nothing happened. I’m learning now that sitting and waiting for possibly nothing to happen is a part of the process. Being an athlete, I understand that logic. It’s more than just a means to an end, it is a process and an experience. Hunting with Tess Talley is definitely an experience. The second time out with Tess was for my birthday a year later. I had little expectation, based on my one and only previous experience, but I was excited to learn and experience something new, yet again. I even bought some gear thinking this was not going to be the last time I went on a hunt. Why not look at the part, right? Hunting day came, we went outsat and waited. As always Tess and I have a good time regardless of what happens. She is family, but like the family, you want to hang out with. I wanted to make her proud that day. She and Andrew(brother-in-law) had been scouting out the place the day before. One thing that struck me was how eager they were for me to get a buck. In my mind, I did not expect the comradery to be so strong. The encouragement and support were awesome. At that time I thought, “It’s just cause I’m family”. After a few hours in the blind, we saw some whitetail run by with a buck among them. It was during the rut, so he was likely trying to find a lady. They were running too fast to take one at that point. A few moments later they came back around and stopped by the feeder. I was surprisingly nervous, and excited. I recognized the intense unsettling feeling from pregame warmups after years of sporting activities. However, this was different. I couldn’t go work out my nerves to get settled. I had to sit in it and let it stay there. I also had to be quiet, which is hard for Tess and I when we get together. There was so much tension in the blind, and we were both anxious to have an opportunity to shoot. Once the buck stopped to feed, that was our chance. I had Tess’ giraffe cerakoted .30-06 rifle set up and ready to shoot but I was so nervous I didn’t even pay attention to how I had it positioned. Keep in mind at this point, I had just had a baby so it had been over a year since I held a gun of any kind. All I could think about was, “don’t make an ass of yourself Sarah.” Then I thought, “well if I miss, I miss. No big deal.” Right before I shot I remembered to take a deep breath then pull the trigger, and that was it. Tess said, “Oh my gosh Sarah, you dropped him!”
Now let’s be real if you’ve seen the video I did scope myself. At that moment I was so excited about the success of hitting a target I didn’t know what to do. All the feelings of remorse and joy were right there in the same place. It is hard to know what feeling to embrace. On one hand, I had taken the life of another animal. On the other, I had successfully provided meat for my family. So, it was a sense of nature and being a part of the life cycle. Natural and raw all at the same time. Until this moment, I had not experienced the hunting community. I knew it only from a distance and dabbled in shooting my husband’s weapons while trying not to look like an amateur. Once I took that shot, I entered a whole world of hunters I didn’t know existed. Scope bite and all. (side note: I just watched an episode where Jim Shockey scopes himself on a sheep hunt.) It was a family I never knew I wanted to be a part of. I realize now that hunters want the same thing we all do, to be seen and understood.
So not only do I see you and understand you, I am a part of you. Thank you for showing generosity and wisdom and respectfully educating me of this new world. It is one that I look forward to exploring every year with Tess Talley. By the way, if you go on a hunt with Tess she doesn’t make you feel ignorant or stupid. She educates and shares her passion for hunting and wildlife conservation. You don’t have to agree with her, but I do ask that you see her and understand her. In the end, isn’t that what we all want? Love you, sis.
If you aren’t a hunter and want to learn more about it, suspend your judgment and go experience a hunt. It will change the way you see hunters and conservation in general.