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Nail Polish and a Spikehorn

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

This isn’t about pheasant or quail. It’s not even really about deer although it starts with a deer hunt.

This past fall, Rachel Rackliff, 12 years old, shot a nice 132 lb. spikehorn just minutes before legal shooting ended. She took the deer as it moved slowly between the edge of our cornfield and a swamp that’s popular with our resident moose, resident bear, and a few dozen beavers.  Rachel and her father, Henry, had hiked their way down to the field in the dark both Saturday and Sunday mornings of youth weekend, back in later each afternoon. On Sunday, in between hunts, Rachel had a soccer game.

When they called to ask if we could bring the ATV to help haul the deer out, it was hard to tell who was more excited, Henry or Rachel. Then again, they’d done this before. Rachel got a doe last year down by the same swamp.

Lit by the floodlight over our garage, Henry swung the deer into the back of his truck, and we told Rachel to hop on the tailgate and lift its head. That’s when I saw an image that said it all. She tilted the heavy head into her lap and grasped the narrow horns in her hands, her glittery orange Halloween nail polish sparkling in celebration.

Many of us agree that the future of hunting lies in the next generation and in getting more women and girls involved. Too often I hear that kids don’t have time, that peer pressure and school sports make it too hard to spend time in the woods or fields. I don’t buy it. With the right role models and encouragement – be that from parents, older siblings, friends, teachers or outdoor mentors – one or two trips afield will ignite the passion that fuels an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman for life. Girls can wear flashy nail polish and still take down a deer with the best of hunters.

By the way, last year, when Rachel saw I had Photoshopped out some blood dripping from the doe’s mouth, she laughed. I explained that it seems more respectful when sharing photos of the game we kill to present it in a dignified way, like when we smooth the feathers on a downed pheasant’s back.

“But that’s the way it really was,” she replied. She was right. My editing sanitized the truth, in some ways like meat wrapped cleanly in supermarket plastic. Hunters accept the reality of killing and eating what we kill, the connection to our food source and what it means. Thanks, Rachel.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

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One Response to “Nail Polish and a Spikehorn”

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  1. Jacob D says:

    MIssed the mark with the puppy photo contest.

    When first aware of the contest my initial reaction was that of any PF hunter, an opportunity to show the world the best bird dog ever. In the end contemplating my membership.

    While I am as we all are bias towards my dogs thIs proved a popularity contest for the owner whose life Is consumed around the one obstacle other than the tv (a computer) contributing more to the decline of interest and participation in outdoor activities with not just our youths but people in general rather than it’s promoting the tradition of bird dogs , hunters and hunting that is the life and was the vision of those that founded Pheasant Forever for the truly sIncere as the hunters they are. The member who’s only purpose in life is to count the days between the end of last season til the start of next season. The member who fits a soccer game in between the morning and evening hunt rather than hunting only after soccer, that is unless we go shopping instead. The member that lives life through his/her dog in the endless pursuit and allure of every game bird. One that brags to who ever will listen how he’s/she’s the great hunter, who in reality was lucky enough to get a couple of bb’s to stick from the three shells unloaded blindly into the sky. Enough to bring the bird down though not enough to kill, forcing their dog to not only point the bird for his yoyo owner but havIng to chase the bird all over the field to retrieve as well, now forced to endure the endless accounting told of the encounter when even the dogs knows they did all the work and ironically without them there would be no story to remember.

    While I am confident the pictures I entered were worthy of publication, I concede there were few, only a few I felt maybe more so had it not been my dog. To allow face book to determine a grand prize was an injustice to all hunters, those of us who don’t know how nor care to use facebook. The contest was not about the puppy, it was about political correctness and not offend, to appease and entertain the non-hunting family whose life otherwise centers only around mainstream socialization. One who spends more time sitting at the computer in a week than in the field during the season. One who enlists their thirteen year old to enlist all her friends and family to enlist any and all else who were willing to like a photo. The plea’s, please please please vote for my dog so “I” can win a contest reassembling more a political campaign than the thousand words of a moment captured that is each photo.

    The pictures that actually made it in the magazine were your standard hunting breeds, cute I suppose, most showing some measure of character although in no way protraying the hunting companions of the hunters that are PF members. Hunting breeds though they may or may not hunt. The dog who may get out one weekend if the owner can get time away from the office. The orange bumper no different than the ordinary squeaky toy. Where’s the picture with a real bird. Pictures of the play ground rather than the field, pictures inside rather than out. The only acceptable indoor picture is that in a sixty year old cabin, the only light from the lantern next to the fireplace, the boots set to dry, the dog on the rug exhausted after a long hard day as the old timer cleans the double barrel preparing for tomorrow’s sunrise. Instead we see the family pet whose only exercise is in the backyard so he doesn’t poop in the house. While the contest a worthwhile and positive attempt, for me in the end missing the mark from a magazine about bird hunting for bird hunters.

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