Black Eyes to Skyscrapers: The Tale of a First Hunt
November, 11 2016
Written by Bren Brown, President of Frontier Justice
When I was 8 years old, I had a pet cow. His name was Black Eye. It seems weird to start a blog about a hunting experience with a domesticated animal, but it is important so hang with me. I grew up on a farm, and as always, with farm animals, sometimes there is a rejected baby. The momma won’t claim it nor feed it. Black Eye, a Holstein named for the black ring around his eye, had a momma who wouldn’t claim him. Enter my 8-year-old self. Bottle feeding has been my game from this day forward.
The sweet baby would suck your fingers, take the bottle like a champ, and he became my very big dog. Until slaughter day. I guess my dad, a traditional farmer, thought I had clearly understood the path of all farm animals. Animals are food. We don’t keep them. I came home from school to find the feed lot empty. Black Eye had gone to slaughter. Such is the circle of life. To this day I remain perplexed by people who seem to have lost sight of the circle of life, but honestly, I would be right there with them had I not started on the farm.
After my experience with Black Eye, I didn’t eat meat for about a month, until a tasty cheeseburger won me over and the rest is history. However, I carried with me a clear understanding that we must kill to eat, but also that I really wasn’t cut out for the killing. I was cut out for bottle feeding and cheeseburgers. Someone else needed to complete the circle. And, so it was with hunting. I had been on multiple hunts in my lifetime, but never pulled the trigger. I took countless pictures, enjoyed hikes, ate snacks out of coolers, combed, washed and brushed dogs from the hunt – heck, I even did all the laundry, but was never the trigger girl. Until this year.
Several months ago, Hornady (a fantastic ammunition company we are proud to partner with) emailed me and asked me to go on an all-girls hunt with a group of ladies from the firearms industry. I met this email with great enthusiasm. I told Mike, my husband and the CEO of Frontier Justice, that this would be great. I would take my camera!
He shook his head and said, “No, Bren. You are the president of a firearms company. They are asking you to hunt.”
Wait, I’m not the trigger girl. You know this, right? (Despite a local paper erroneously reporting I’m a competitive shooter because it fit his narrative.) I am a decent shooter who practices just enough to support the conceal carry license I possess.
The idea of going on this hunt made me nervous. I felt so disingenuous. How would this work? Could I shoot big game? It was an antelope hunt. But as I do with most things, I decided to tackle this head on. Isn’t this what I tell female customers who have never shot who are nervous? You can do this! This is not just a male sport. I tell people continuously that we miss shooting for sport – it’s not just for self-defense. Time to walk the walk and talk the talk. And if I were to do this, it was time for the rubber to hit the road. I had work to do.
Jason, our COO at Frontier Justice, felt this was the proper time to outfit me for who I was – the president of the Midwest’s premier firearms destination. Enter a new 6.5 Creedmoor—on an AR platform built by D9 Firearms, and suppressed. If you know me, you know I suffer from noise aversion. It is important that it was suppressed because it would ultimately make a significant difference to my shooting.
To make my hunting journey a whole Frontier Justice family affair, next I went to Chuck, our 76-year-old Compliance Officer who everyone loves. Mike told Chuck his one job was to get me ready for this hunt; and Chuck took the job seriously. We started in our 50-yard bay and, honestly, I think I shocked Chuck with my ability. I mean I know how to shoot. I have just never pointed a gun to kill anything except paper, cans, and once a few pumpkins. I kept my targets from day one to the hunt, but there is not much of a story there because I was pretty accurate from the beginning.
Chuck taught me all that I needed to know to go on this trip, and a) not embarrass myself, b) not embarrass Frontier Justice and c) to be successful in harvesting an antelope. He even hornswoggled his friend Wilson into helping, and by the end of this process both gentlemen felt I was ready.
Finally, in the last days before leaving, my husband had me in the driveway with the AR pointed down our neighborhood street, teaching me all the things his Uncle Steve taught him about shot placement and using your scope at different distances. I was certain we would have complaints to the HOA that about having firearms on the street, but I’m reminded that this is still America and that it’s okay. It was comical. A few people even stopped to chat. A few drove nervously on. I’m pretty sure half the neighborhood feels safer that we are here and half think we are those crazy people.
I left a week later with butterflies in my stomach and anxiety as to what would come – especially at the airport. Let’s just say that I recently alarmed the TSA when I inadvertently brought jewelry back for the Boutique that had live rounds (cute bracelets, you really should check them out). The airport check-in went smoothly, but the funniest moment of this whole trip was probably the pick-up of my firearm in Utah.
I waited for my rifle where told in the company of three other men and a child. The large window in front of us opened and the actual trailer that hauls your luggage to the plane was aligned with the window. An elderly gentleman waiting with us quickly claimed his golf clubs and was off. This left a car seat and a large rifle case. The airline worker started to hand me the car seat. But I politely shook my head and the two men stepped up with their child and took the car seat from him. I smiled at the worker, who gave me a perplexed look and pulled his ear protection out.
“Is this yours?” he said.
To which I smiled, gave him the shrug and said, “Surprising, huh?”
He asked what I was doing. And when I told him I was hunting, he said, “No kidding?”
Nope, no kidding. Trust me dude, you have no idea how crazy this feels to me either.
The Deseret in Utah was beautiful. The first night I met four other women – who with varying stories are exactly what I love about the firearms industry. Strong women with varying degrees of enthusiasm for the sport of shooting. Our guides declared we would have a shooting competition the first night – one shot, closest to the bullseye wins. When I won, immediately gave great thanks to Chuck for being such a patient and devoted teacher. I was excited, but, really, it was still just paper. What would happen in the field?
I was assigned to a guide named Scott and I confessed even before the trip that I should be considered a beginner, which I think quickly was dismissed as if I were sand bagging when I won the shooting competition, but I still hadn’t shot an animal. I went to bed at midnight and was up at around 4 a.m. when the ladies who prepare breakfast for the hunters began their work that morning. I thought, today was the day.
Our guided hunt came upon a herd early that very morning. I think with the threat of snow for the rest of the time we were there, the guide felt somewhat pressured to locate a nice group early.
“There he is!” our guided exclaimed.
“Who?” I replied.
“I like to call him Skyscraper,” he said.
“You know his name and address?” I asked.
“I’ve seen him in this area a handful of times and his horns are tall.”
A vast 250,000 acres and within two hours we were setting up for a shot. It all happened so quickly that I barely had time to think or get nervous. I was looking through the scope at the animal and thinking of how Chuck had joked that they would all have targets printed on their sides. Snicker. I was thinking of Mike’s voice telling me that Steve always said to imagine a tennis ball behind the front shoulder and aim for that. For several moments, I thought I could shoot, but was shaking more than I thought I might. The guide told me to wait for him to turn broadside. He turned. I breathed in, pulled slowly on the trigger and breathed out. And, then like the girl I am, I left my scope and turned around.
You see, this was the moment of reckoning. My very worst fear was for the first shot to not be a “kill shot” and I would have to stalk him and shoot again.
I kept asking, “Is he down?”
And, Katie (with Hornady) and Scott kept saying, “It was the perfect shot! He is down. He is down.”
Two hundred and fifty yards up a small incline we hiked. I wasn’t sad. I was happy. I was happy that I genuinely trained for a challenge and was successful. I had pride for every woman who has ever tried to conquer her fears and succeeded. I had succeeded. The guide wasn’t wrong. Skyscraper’s horns were high, and my goal of claiming a prize even one millimeter bigger than the best one my husband had ever shot was met. Sweet victory.
The guide cleaned the antelope and told me he was probably six years old which is am antelope’s life expectancy. I had likely spared the animal from starving this winter. Even better. The circle of life continues. Black Eye served his purpose and Skyscraper sits in my freezer awaiting his purpose. Now ladies, when you come in and I tell you that you can do it. Believe me because you CAN do it. But more importantly, believe in yourself, because I promise you that if I can do it, then any one of you can too.