Sisterhood hunt in western Nebraska raises funds for a local breast health center.
by Jodi Stemler | Aug 20, 2020 | BIRD HUNTING, HUNTING
Sisterhood of the Outdoors field staffer Megan Beach organized and hosted the charity goose hunt at Cheyenne Ridge’s North Platte Outpost.
Sisterhood hunt in western Nebraska raises funds for a local breast health center.
Sitting in a pit blind has its drawbacks. The daily scenes of the outdoor world are the greatest thrill of hunting. It’s like a real-life nature film playing out in IMAX 3D right in front of you. On a waterfowl hunt last November, I watched otters playing on the ice edge and a bald eagle soaring over the brook. I would have missed these scenes entirely had I been in a pit.
However, a pit blind is far more scintillating, more akin to a peep show than a feature film. In the pit, there are brief glimpses of waterfowl in flight silhouetted on a cerulean canvas as their shapes move in between the gaps in the straw. As the soundtrack of goose calls reaches a crescendo, there is a provocative view of a flock turning in flight to come back to the call. With hearts pounding and anticipation rising, there is one last view of the birds’ approach, wings cupped and landing gear down as they rapidly lose altitude.
An experienced waterfowler and conservation officer, Jordan Humphrey of Mims, Florida wanted to experience the North Platte River and support a good cause, all while connecting with other women who love to hunt.
Just moments later, the guide’s “Take ‘em!” elicits a rapid leap to your feet as you pop through the top, raise your shotgun to shoulder, and try to quickly find, sight and shoot the birds as they reach their point of no return.
Hunting in a pit also allows for freer conversation, perhaps one of the best parts of hunting with other women. In the daily ritual of dropping kids off at school or heading to work, it’s rare to find other women who fully understand the draw of heading afield. At home, the response when we say we hunt may, if we’re lucky, elicit an interested, “Really?” followed by some polite questions and general interest. More likely the conversation is artfully turned away with very little effort to understand our passion.
To hunt with other women presents a chance to connect with others who understand what draws us to the sport. You don’t have to explain what it’s like to sit in a blind for hours or to hike miles simply with the faith that you may catch a glimpse of your quarry. You find others with a shared love of conservation and the outdoors, and a deep belief in being responsible for providing our own food. Conversations in the blind quickly progress to tales of the hunt as well as a fair number of silly stories or, perhaps, deeply personal experiences. To hunt with other women is to develop friendships built on our shared love for the outdoors.
This is what drew me to western Nebraska in early February—the chance to connect with other women who share my passion for hunting, and the opportunity to support a cause that has been deeply personal in my family.
This was the Sisterhood of the Outdoors’ first women’s charity hunt, and proceeds from the event would pay for breast cancer screenings for local women who couldn’t afford the tests. The fact that it was also being held at a world-class hunting lodge was simply the cherry on top.
Finley, who is also the High Adventure Company’s executive chef, told us before dinner that his staff prides itself on being a hospitality company that provides top-quality hunting and fishing opportunities. As a Beretta Trident Lodge, North Platte Outpost carries on the tradition of luxury outdoor experiences.
Meals at Cheyenne Ridge’s North Platte Outpost fulfill the lodge’s emphasis on hospitality. The night the hunters arrived, Executive Chef Sean Finley served roast quail with broccolini served on a bed of wild rice.
The women gathered this weekend had all participated in hunts with far less amenities, but no one was complaining about the incredible food and wine they were served. Meals like the USDA Prime New York Strip steak —from cattle raised by the lodge owners and aged in-house for more than two months—were cooked to perfection and delicious. These were meals befitting a five-star restaurant, and the fact that they were coming from a hunting lodge was remarkable. North Platte Outpost certainly knows how to take care of its clients.
But if hospitality comes first for High Adventure Company, generosity follows close behind. Megan Beach, who is dating one of the guides at North Platte Outpost, is on the field staff of Sisterhood of the Outdoors and spoke to Finley about hosting a women’s waterfowl hunt. Instead, Finley offered the opportunity to make it a charity event; the lodge donated the weekend’s lodging and meals to the Sisterhood of the Outdoors, allowing the organization to offer their first women’s charity hunt.
The cost of the hunt and donated funds raised by participants were dedicated to Shooting Sports for Cancer, a non-profit organization started by Carmen Neil who, in her early 30s, survived breast cancer twice. The mission of the organization, best known for the Ta Ta Bang! Bang! sporting clays shoot in Carmen’s home state of Georgia, is to help pay for diagnostic testing for women who cannot afford the cost of breast health screening.
Shooting Sports for Cancer turns the funds raised in event locations back to the breast cancer clinic closest to the event. For our hunt, the $5,000 raised was given to the Regional West Breast Health Center in nearby Scottsbluff, Nebraska, which services mostly rural communities in four states within a 100-mile radius. In March, the center began offering 3-D Tomography to patients, new technology that is more accurate in detecting breast cancer in women with dense tissue. While 3-D Tomography can be more costly— and some insurance may not pay for it—it can be a life-saver.
“Fundraisers like this can really make a difference for women who can’t afford to get tested,” commented Dr. Mike Yung, the radiologist at Regional West who urged the center to get the 3-D Tomography machine. “Catching breast cancer early enough in a younger woman can extend their life by 40 or more years.”
The Sisterhood of the Outdoors fundraiser will allow 30 to 50 local women to get screened.
Participating in the hunt was personal for all of us. Eleven women were in the blinds that weekend, and all of us had either a family member or friend who had experienced breast cancer. While a number of loved ones had succumbed to the disease, many had survived, thanks in part to early screening. The cause may have been the initial draw, but the opportunity to goose hunt on the storied North Platte River—and to spend some one-on-one time with Syren’s XLR5 Women’s Waterfowler shotgun— sealed the deal for us.
The women of the first Sisterhood of the Outdoors charity hunt.
The hunt was reasonably priced through Sisterhood of the Outdoors and the women had traveled from Kansas, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, Delaware and neighboring Colorado. In addition, North Platte Outpost’s staff, wives and girlfriends were able to join us in the blind. We came from very different places and represented a broad age range, and yet the camaraderie and connection were evident from the start.
Late-season goose hunting is always a challenge as the cagey birds are far less likely to be coaxed within gun range. The weekend’s unseasonably high temperatures, topping 60 degrees with bluebird skies, also played a role. Cheyenne Ridge guides Ross Juelfs and Scott Bodamer, along with Sisterhood pro-staff Victoria Jones, blew an alluring goose-calling serenade. However, even with thousands of birds flying around the area, only a few dozen were drawn into our sets.
On the first morning, a lone bird was called in to our blind about an hour after sunrise. First shot was given to a relatively new hunter from Winter Park, Colorado who had never been waterfowl hunting. Standing through the pit, Heather Ruth rolled the goose with just one shot. After a lull in the early morning, the action picked up for our blind as geese came back to the river to loaf and a few small groups were intrigued with our spread. By the end of the weekend, 16 birds were down and cleaned for the women to take home.
But the slow hunting was not a deterrent. As Sisterhood of the Outdoors owner Amy Ray said: “Our Sisterhood hunts are never about the kill. When we tag out or fill a limit, we all celebrate, but that’s not the point. Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for women to get out hunting with other women— whether you are a relative novice or have years of experience. We can all try something new, or simply realize what it’s like to share our passion for the outdoors with other women.”
For women to share a bond that is strengthened through early morning wakeup calls, hours together sitting quietly (or maybe not so quietly!) in the blind, or sharing in the opportunity to support other women facing breast health challenges—this was truly a goose hunt for the girls.