Our latest installment from the Devilgirl is the practical application of our strength and conditioning training we do at Raw Fitness Performance. One of my favorite sayings is “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” I have been drilling this quote into my client’s heads lately, to be strong is to be useful. Being strong “will prepare you for almost anything life could throw at you, from carrying a piano upstairs or holding your own in a street fight.” Those may be extreme examples, so what about everyday activities like moving furniture, carrying groceries up or down stairs, shoveling snow, or in Dargus’s case, schlepping through knee high grass carrying a 12 gauge shotgun weighing about 20 lbs for hours on end hunting pheasant? Yup, strength is the basis of all good things in life. It unlocks such potential; no other mode of training can equal its incredible benefits. At least that’s what I know to be true. I ask you this, Wouldn’t you rather be harder to kill AND more useful?
A-hunting we will go….
This year I spent the Thanksgiving holiday tromping through farmland in Miller, South Dakota, for some world-renown pheasant hunting and bonding with my pops and little brother. Relearning to shoot, an activity I’d probably done twice in the last decade, despite coming from a hunting family and learning to do so by age 5, was disheartening and exhilarating simultaneously. I had naively thought I’d be a hot shot from day one; show those boys a thing or two. Ha! While I managed to bag the second highest number of birds in our party, I did so on day five of the hunt and several hundreds of dollars’ worth of ammo later, as my father made clear.
Photo of suspicious origin
My dad shot a bird on our first excursion out together. I had gleefully posed with its carcass and sent the pic off to my boyfriend, to which I received an “atta girl” in response. In my crazy optimism, I’d justified sending the falsified evidence in that I’d have my own by nightfall… And I recommitted myself to that same task for the next two days straight, until I finally came clean that it hadn’t in fact been my kill. By the time I actually shot a pheasant, I was as surprised as anyone, having resigned myself to going home empty-handed, in an effort to minimize expectations and enjoy myself without a looming sense of failure.
You see, I do not handle learning curves gracefully, so my first morning of slaying only two clay pigeons in a skeet-shoot of probably 20+ was especially aggravating. Papa had to remind me that I was learning a new skill from scratch (I had only ever shot rifles prior, without the heft and buck of a 12-gauge over under Browning). Also, despite Dad’s coaching on where to properly mount the gun on my shoulder/pec to best absorb the gun’s kick, it was near impossible for me to align it without grazing the oh-so-delicate skin of my inner upper arms. Why? Because: boobs and extra padding in the affected area. Well, that, and my admitted tendency toward panic during flushes.
Me and the real huntresses, Tara and Katie!
Some basic mechanics of our operation: We would spread out lengthwise across a slough filled with anywhere from knee- to waist-high grass and send the dogs ahead to root the nesting pheasants out and get ‘em in the air. By the second set of birds flushed, I’d only managed to take off the gun’s safety. The flurry of activity—birds fleeing, dogs going apeshit, shouts of “rooster” to delineate the males from their off-limits counterparts, Dad shooting—was all not something I’d not steeled myself against. The frenzy was unsettling, but it did help me determine a need to practice from a neutral stance, not aimed and at the ready as I had been in the a.m. I was glad my little brother had yet to arrive, so I could flail with a little dignity. But I had to limit my skeet shooting so I wouldn’t develop a flinch. I didn’t want to psych myself out of a competitive stance when there were actual birds to be had, after all. So while I would have doubled down my efforts and practiced incessantly prior to Danny’s arrival, I couldn’t. Besides, as Jane taught me, it doesn’t pay to practice poor form.
Why Amazonians were known for self-mutilation.
When we had gone into town to finally retrieve little bro and apply for his hunting license, I sought out a recoil harness as a last resort to mitigate some of the buck my arm was absorbing with purpling results. Dad had already generously offered his less jarring Benelli semi automatic for my use; however, as a left-eyed shot, its right-handed safety configuration was not ideal. Never fear, Cabella’s had one shotgun harness in-stock! …But wouldn’t you know they don’t carry the lefties in-store? Best suck it up, Dargus.
The day before I got my birds, I was physically beat. One of my last shots had hit me square in my bruise, which had been growing steadily. I cried. (There’s no crying in hunting!) Hot damn, did it sting. I was overtired, my hamstrings and hip flexors were sore from wading through the grass, and my arms ached from schlepping the shotgun for hours. So that night I resolved to shower up, do some yoga, and head to bed early. Unsurprisingly, I woke up limber and a much happier camper in general. And then I shot two pheasants for the first time ever. Self care, kids, it’s no joke.
Not messing around!
A huge part of my self care was training with Jano prior to the trip. That shotgun, very nearly the same length as my person, was heavy. And, it only got heavier entering our fourth slough of the day. I couldn’t rest it in such a way that hindered me from drawing it quickly, as the birds only stayed within range for a matter of seconds. And I couldn’t tire my arms so that I was unable to aim proper and brace for the recoil, either. For that, I was thankful to Raw Fitness Performance and Jane. Whereas my trunk was fine, albeit tired, from all the walking, carrying the gun was admittedly challenging the first few days.
I wish I remembered more about my actual kills. I do remember that I was doubtful either were mine, before receiving verbal confirmation from the fam. All the fun was in learning how to hunt, turns out. That and the excited anticipation for what an untouched slough may hold. Sure, my ego was assuaged when I got my first and then second bird. And yeah, it was satisfying to check my frozen pheasants in the girliest cooler bag I could find for the flight home. But I learned something new and useful while proving to myself I was capable of doing so; and both are better souvenirs than the “Big Cock Country” hat I snagged at the Sioux Falls airport.