Tips for Getting Better Sleep When Camping

Many women tell me that one of the biggest reasons they don’t like camping is the poor night’s sleep they get. Women like the comforts of home and don’t want to give those up for the great outdoors. But, I’m here to say that it is possible to be more comfortable at night and make your sleeping situation feel much more like what you have at home if you just make a few adjustments.

My Tips

Bring an air mattress or a cot.

One that can be plugged into your car to inflate. Or, bring a large cot. If you have kids, my sis-in-law recommends getting an extra-large cot, because kids almost never stay on their own cot the whole night. She loves the Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Camping Cot (<–Amazon). Cots don’t get holes like air mattresses do, which kids will undoubtedly break with their jumping.

Consider getting a mattress pad.

Cut it to fit your cot or air mattress. Suggestion: Rolyan Egg Crate Mattress Topper. (<– Amazon link.)

Bring extra blankets.

A large down blanket is our favorite to camp with! Even if you have a sleeping bag, a blanket is always essential when it’s cold.

Bring sheets, IF you have a thick mattress pad.

Sheets are more comfortable, however: if it is cold, the sheets won’t hold in your body heat and the air mattress will wick away every shred of warmth, leaving you shivering. The solution is to put down a thick mattress pad and make sure you have lots of blankets on top. But if you’re camping in warm weather, you’re golden!

Make sure there is good air circulation on warm nights.

Leave part some of your windows unzipped so air can get in, or bring a battery powered fan.

Do not leave any food out.

What does this have to do with sleeping? Well, critters will come along and make racket trying to snatch whatever food you have left out, and it will wake you up. Make sure everything is locked up tight in a plastic bin or your car. Or if you’re camping in bear country, put it in a bear proof locker or bin. (Those campsites will notify you if bear lockers are provided.) Not a problem for most parts of Texas.

On that note…

Try not to stress about the noises in the middle of the night.

I have a lot of friends who say that the sounds of the forest keep them up at night, and freak them out. Unless you’re camping in bear country, then you don’t have anything to be afraid of. At most, there are only a few raccoons here and there and they won’t harm you.

Make sure your tent and rain fly are staked down really well.

One thing that has given me many a sleepless night has been a flapping rain fly that the wind keeps whipping about. It can really drive you nuts. Stake it all down tightly, and you reduce the chance of this happening.

Check your sleeping bag and tent before you get in.

Make sure no spiders or other tickly critters made their way into your tent. I’ve never had this happen, but it will give you peace of mind. Then make sure your tent’s zippers are all closed tightly when you’re ready to go to bed. You won’t have to worry about a big spider (or whatever bug related fears you may have) attacking you in your sleep.

Do not put your head close to the tent wall.

Condensation can accumulate on the wall and you might get a tiny bit wet. It won’t be too bad–only a few drops–but still, it can disrupt a good night’s sleep. Condensation doesn’t mean your tent is leaking, it just means the laws of physics still apply.

Pick even ground for your tent and remove any rocks underneath.

Get a lot of physical activity during the day.

Remind yourself when climbing up a steep hill–the more I do, the more tired I will be and the easier it will be to sleep!

Take my advice for middle-of-the-night restroom runs.

Don’t go camping during rainy or extremely cold weather.

A drizzle here and there is okay, but a lot of rain can ruin your trip and prevent you from sleeping.

Bring ear plugs.

“For when a family of 6 pulls up right next to your campsite at 8:30 pm right after you got your baby to sleep and she’s up for the next 2 hours because they want to blast the radio,” my sis-in-law adds. (Why do people do that?!)

Extra Tips for Backpacking Trip Nights

Backpacking through the wilderness to your camp site (as opposed to driving up to it) means you can’t take an air mattress or cot, but it does mean you are so tired you won’t care what’s on the ground as long as you get to lay down!

Pack a Thermarest.

If you want to sleep well when camping, never go anywhere without your Thermarest. It’s a thin inflatable mattress that is ultra-light. (Amazon link to the one I have here.)

  • Don’t buy a 3/4 length one. Backpacking stores might try to sell you this because it is weighs less than a full size thermarest. However warning, you will feel like your feet are hanging off the bed all night long and I found it very uncomfortable.
  • Get one with a soft fabric-like surface. Some are made with a slick rayon-like surface and I DON’T recommend these. They will make a “swish! swish!” noise every time you move a muscle and it is so obnoxious. It’s worth going to the backpacking store and looking at them in person.

Invest in an inflatable pillow.

Therm-a-rest Inflating Camping Pillow. (<– Amazon link.)

Many backpackers prefer to just roll up a jacket and use that as their pillow, but I personally like having a legit pillow to rest my head on. It won’t come unrolled in the middle of the night like a jacket does and it feels fresher and cleaner than the jacket I’ve been wearing all day.

 

Get a backpacking tent that has room near your head.

Backpacking tents are smaller than regular car camping tents because you have to carry them down a trail. Some backpacking tents have the peak in the middle, like over your waist when you’re laying down, but you want one that has the highest point of the ceiling over your head. This will allow you to sit up in bed, change easier, and prevent your head from hitting the tent wall in the middle of the night.

Hope this helps! If you have any tips feel free to share them in the comments.

PS. Don’t forget to bring a bed for your dog! 🙂

A Girl’s Guide to Using the Restroom in the Woods

Usually I avoid talking about using the restroom on this blog, but I think it’s time we address the topic of going to the bathroom outside. I hear way too many women say that the reason they won’t go camping is because they don’t like the idea of peeing in the woods. It makes them uncomfortable.

I get it, it’s not comfortable to hold a squat, going to the bathroom in the middle of the night isn’t enjoyable, and most of us aren’t used to not having a proper porcelain throne. But going to the bathroom outside should not be a reason to miss out on fun and scenic camping trips, okay? Especially if you follow some basic tips I’ll cover here.

In this post I’ll cover:

  • 3 most common bathroom options when camping
  • Tips for making your bathroom experience pleasant
  • Tips for midnight runs to the restroom

First,

The three most common bathroom options you’ll find when camping

The wild

It’s just you and beautiful nature. Think of it this way—you didn’t have to stand in line and there are no unsettling sights to shock you when you open a stall door.

All you have to worry about is not squatting over poison ivy. (See my poison ivy ID here.)

  • The key to comfort here is to hold onto a small tree with both hands, and plant your feet apart on either side.  Stick your hiney out behind you.  This is much more comfortable than squatting.
  • Avoid any tall grasses which might tickly your hiney. Whenever a blade of grass frisks me, it always gives me a shock! Stomp around on the grasses to make a flat, tickle-free zone.
  • Look around you to be sure you aren’t squatting near a thorny plant or a snake.

What to bring:

  • Toilet paper
  • Ziploc bag or grocery sack for storage (it’s probably not best to leave paper out in the woods, unless you’re in a really remote area).
  • Hand sanitizer

Campsite restrooms

Sometimes these can be really nice, actually. The bathroom at Pedernales Falls State Park and Bastrop State Park are good examples. There is really nothing to fear with these, except some scratchy toilet paper.

I like to bring my own hand towel and hand soap when I go just because the ones they provide aren’t very nice.

Optional: you could bring your own toilet seat covers if it gives you peace of mind.

Compost toilets

These are my least favorite. They are like giant port-o-potties that never get emptied. (Everything goes into a pit in the ground.) Because they don’t need running water or plumbing, you are more likely to see these in remote parts of parks or in areas that aren’t as developed. (Like Colorado Bend State Park.)

If this situation is unavoidable, I bring my own toilet seat covers and toilet paper. Call me high maintenance but these little things make me more comfortable!

Tips for making your bathroom experience pleasant

  • Before deciding what park to camp at, look at the website and find out what kind of restrooms are available. If your only option is compost toilet, and that makes you uncomfortable, choose a different park. Most of Texas’ popular parks have normal restrooms.
  • Bring your own disposable toilet seat covers.
  • Bring your own toilet paper. Always keep a little bit of TP in your day pack whenever you’re out hiking.
  • Bring a Ziploc or grocery sack to carry it back to a trashcan in. You can discreetly hide this in your daypack until you find a trashcan, and then toss this in the nearest bin.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or soap. If you don’t have access to a sink, you’ll want hand sani or some wet-ones wipes. (I prefer wet ones.) When you’re at a public restroom at a campsite, they don’t always provide soap.
  • Bring your own hand towel. When I’m camping at a park with restrooms, I also like to bring my own hand towel because it’s a nice little luxury from home, and it’s way better than the air dryers or brown thin paper towels provided. This obviously does not apply to backpacking—in which case, you won’t want to carry this.

Tips for midnight runs to the restroom

  • An hour before bed, stop drinking. Get your required daily dose of water, just do it with ample time before bed so you are less likely to need to pee in the middle of the night.
  • Use the buddy system. Make a deal with your tent buddy that you will accompany each other to the restroom if you have to go in the middle of the night.  Trust me, this makes the whole experience much more pleasant. Furthermore, it’s safer.
  • Dress in something for bed that you won’t mind walking to the restroom in later.
  • If you wear glasses, set those out somewhere that you can easily locate in the middle of the night.
  • If it’s cold, set out your warm pants, fleece, hat, and moccasins/tennies next to your sleeping bag so you can just easily put them on when you wake up and have to run to the potty.
  • Keep a flashlight handy.

I hope these tips help you feel a little more comfortable with this angle of camping. Take it from my many years of camping, it’s really not that bad and you will get used to it!

10 Annual Rituals for the Outdoorswoman

With warmer weather finally approaching, here are some things to do to get you ready for your outdoor activities this year. Some of these I do on a regular basis and some I do at the beginning of each year. Feel free to share your own rituals in the comments!

A version of this article first appeared in my monthly column in Texas Wildlife magazine.

Purge your gear closet.

It’s almost time for Spring cleaning! With adventures of the past 12 months fresh on your mind, now is the time to go through and get rid of those items that don’t work for you anymore. It’s also a good time to clean your gear and bags and get organized.

Plan outdoor adventures for the coming year.

If you don’t have an “Outdoor Bucket List”, you need to make one! Look at your nearby state parks and small towns and plan a camping trip, a day hike, or a hunt.

Most of the popular parks in this country require a reservation many months in advance. Some even require reservations YEARS in advance! (ugh!) Fear not, I created a list of all the places you need to book in advance: 10 Popular Outdoor Experiences You Have to Book Early.

*For Texas Parks, I recommend booking 8-10 months in advance (or more if you can swing it). A reservation fee of about $10 is nonrefundable if you cancel.*

Hike one trail a month.

Science proves exercise outdoors is better for you than going to a gym (but we already knew that.) The key to doing this successfully is picking out the trail or park in advance and putting it on your calendar with a time block of around 2-4 hours.

Sign up for an outdoor workshop.

A few of the ones I love:

Become a better shot.

Being a good shot makes you a more ethical hunter because your shots are more on target. Also, it’s important for gun safety that you are familiar with your firearm. And in addition to perfecting your aim, spending time out at the range is a lot of fun! If you prefer to shoot with a camera, sign up for photography lessons to develop that skill.

Push yourself to try something new.

Have you ever kayaked before? Have you ever fly fished the Guadalupe River? Gone on a challenging backpacking trip? What about cleared brush with a bulldozer? (TWA’s Advanced Women of the Land program will give you a dose of that!) If you love the outdoors—and I am pretty sure most of you do—you will probably relish the new perspective each activity will bring.

If you own property, set goals for your conserving the wildlife on your land.

Talk to your NRCS agent about programs in the coming year which can help you clear invasive brush, plant natives, improve rotational grazing, and conduct other measures to enhance wildlife habitat. You might also consider legacy and estate planning for your property and how you can conserve it for generations to come. Or, if you’ve ever considered inviting local schoolkids to your property for a day of learning, or volunteering your ranch for a youth hunt, Texas Wildlife Association can connect you with those opportunities.

Start a savings plan for your dream hunt or outdoor trip.

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to reassess your budget. It may be hard to say “no” to things, but just remember—all will be worth it when you’re on that dream safari!

Support wildlife conservation and outdoor education charities.

Set up a recurring monthly donation to an environmental charity that interests you. If you can’t give money, then give your time. A few of my favorite organizations:

Make an album of your favorite outdoor adventures from the past year.

I recommend taking your pictures off SD cards and storing them on a cloud server. Use one of the many free services online to make a memory book which you can look back on for years to come.

Best of luck sticking to whatever goals you have in mind, and here’s to a wonderful year ahead!

What to Wear Turkey Hunting

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Turkey Hunting. Find out all you need to know, from what gun to use to how to pick a hunting spot.

A Girl’s Guide on Whit’s Wilderness wouldn’t be complete without a post about what to wear! I’m a huge believer that you don’t have to sacrifice style just because you’re going hunting, and am sharing my favorite clothing and gear below.

Happy hunting, ladies!

A few things to know…

  • Turkeys have impeccable eyesight so unless you’re sitting in a pop up blind, you’ll need to be decked out in full camo.
  • Wear bug spray and tuck your pants into your boots to avoid chigger bites
  • Comfort is key, you will be sitting for long hours!

Camo Top

I recommend this Wild Rose Apparel camo top for turkey hunting in Texas. The fabric is so light and breezy, you won’t feel like you’re wearing anything.

Photo credit: @wildroseapparel

The pattern is made of roses, and looks so feminine in person.

Where to buy: 

Pants

I have two recommendations here: one is camo and the other is olive green. If you read this blog, you will hear me talk about prAna a LOT!

I have both of these, and I LOVE the prAna pants. They are incredibly comfortable and stretchy, but with enough structure to make them flattering. I like the Prois pants as well, though they are not as great for tucking into boots. They have a slight flare at the ankle and are best suited for hunting in colder weather.

You will want pants that tuck into your boots to keep the chiggers out!

Prana Meme Pants
Prois Pro-edition pants

 

Snake boots

Ordinary cowboy boots would be fine, but ideally if you’re tromping around in brush you should be in snake boots. That said, don’t let not having snake boots keep you from hunting! Just watch for snakes.

These Chippewa boots are really comfortable. I have a wide foot so had to order the men’s to be comfortable, so note they are a little narrow!

Bug Spray

I can’t emphasize this enough, wear bug spray. If you’re sitting on the ground for a while, the creepy crawly critters will make their way into your pants!

Face Paint

I like to do an upside-down antler design.

Hunting Bag

Baseball Hat

I also like to wear a baseball cap for extra camoflage, and think this one is super cute!! Texas Camo Hat from TexasHumor.com

I hope you feel super equipped for your next turkey hunting adventure! Be sure to check out my other posts on the topic of turkey hunting:

 

Affiliate links used (in other words, if you buy something on a few of the aforementioned sites, I may make a small commission. It covers a small fraction of the cost of running this blog!)

The Qualities That Define Texas Women

Happy Texas Independence Day! It was hard to decide what to write about in honor of one of my favorite holidays of the year. At first I thought about sharing what I loved about our state–Blue Bell, blue bonnets, barbecue–but plenty of other sites are already covering these things. I thought about sharing my favorite outdoor places in Texas, but I can write that any time.

Then I thought about YOU! My readers, Texas women. What makes a person a true Texas woman? Why are we different than other women? We come in all shapes and sizes but there are qualities that underpin each one of us.

Influential First Ladies, women on the frontier, women fortune 500 CEO’s, and so many others have set the bar high. Beyonce is from Texas, after all. The woman who invented liquid white-out is from Texas. It was Texas women who saved the Alamo from being torn down years after the battle. These women and many others paved the way for us to be who we are.

1. We have an independent streak.

We love to be part of teams and we love our husbands, but if forced to cut it on our own, we can manage. My great great great great aunt Amanda Burks had to take care of her cattle ranch back in the 1800’s when her husband was off on a cattle drive, and she eventually took over the cattle drives when he passed away. Such was the story of many Texas women in that era.

Texas is just so rich with characters. Women who live alone in a little house on a thousand acres with nothing but cattle and a pickup truck. And an airplane.

— Sissy Spacek

2. We are the ultimate DIY-ers.

Ever heard of the television sensation that is Joanna Gaines? She is a Texas woman. She embodies the do it yourself Texas spirit, seeing potential in what others would call a pile of rubble. During Texas’ frontier days, ingenuity like Joanna’s was a Texas woman’s greatest asset. It is how they carved out a life on the frontier. It is also what inspired them to preserve the Alamo. When we set our minds to something, though–be warned! We can’t be stopped.

I want to urge you to make waves.
I want to urge you to rock the boat.
I want to urge you to get off your duff.
I want you to speak out at whatever cost if it comes from your heart.
You’re going to build this country in which my six grandchildren will grow up. And when you see what you have done, I hope that you are proud of it.
~ Ann Richards, former Governor of Texas

3. We love the landscapes that make up our home state.

It’s no coincidence that the two First Ladies from Texas, Lady Bird Johnson and Laura Bush, have both had a heart for the outdoors and used their position to draw attention to the need for better stewardship.

The environment after all is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.

— Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States

Even those modern Texas women who prefer air conditioning would likely agree that Texas has truly majestic places within its borders, and that we must band together for their conservation.

4. We know and help our neighbors.

When I lived in Washington, DC, my neighbors looked at me like I was from another planet every time I introduced myself. To them, it was strange, almost a violation of privacy, for us to know each other. Here in Texas we operate a little differently. I know all of my neighbors and we help each other out. We share venison and take care of each others pets. We visit in the front yard.

5. We are a friendly bunch.

I can usually pick a Texas woman out of the crowd. She is a little more outgoing, a little more confident, and a little more likely to invite you over to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner if you have nowhere to go.

6. We have 99 different pairs of boots.

Snake boots, dancing boots, work boots, dress boots, red boots, brown boots…the list goes on. My favorite thing is when someone new to our state buys boots as an initiation ritual. I usually just tell them that’s their starter pair. We love our boots!

7. We may be tough but we like to get dolled up.

Even though we can rough it, we still like to get dressed up every now and then. The stereotypes here about women usually have to do with hairdos. We have a saying,

The higher the hair, the closer to God.

Amen.

What else would you add to this list?

I love so much about our state but it’s the women I meet here and read about in history books that truly inspire me! Keep up that Texas spark, ladies.

 

 

3 Hiking Shoes Perfect for Girl Hikers

SHOES. One of my favorite topics. (And literature, world affairs, and politics, of course.) One of the most common questions I get from girls who hike is what hiking shoes I recommend. The world of outdoor shoes is vast, and it’s hard to tell online or after 15 minutes in a store what will be comfortable over miles and miles of trail.

But this list is pretty bulletproof. I have tested these shoes and feel very confident recommending them to you! I own two of these and my mother owns the other, which I proceed to steal from her whenever I get the chance.

FYI my post How To Pick the Perfect Hiking Shoes is a helpful guide for sizing and selection.

Merrell Siren Sport Waterproof

Perfect for: day hikes

I love these Merrell’s so very much. They’ve seen me through a month backpacking through Europe and a week hiking in the Canadian Rockies, and many mountain and trail adventures that followed, and I’ve never been uncomfortable in them. The sole is very sturdy and has lasted for ages.

 

Merrell Siren Sport, Amazon.com (several colors available)

Waterproof version: Merrell Siren Sport Waterproof (<– Recommended for longer hikes/backpacking trips)

Salomon Ellipse GTX

Perfect for: day hikes

This is another one of my favorites. Holly wore these here, hiking in Peru. They are waterproof.

Salomon Ellipse GTX, Amazon.com

Another great Salomon option: X Ultra 2, Amazon.com

Lowa Renegate GTX

Perfect for: longer day hikes (over 5 miles), backpacking

These are my latest favorite purchase and they come in about 99 different colors, so it was hard to choose. (But those who know me well will not be surprised to learn I ended up with purple.) They are SO comfortable, I wore them all over the eastern Sierra mountains this summer backpacking with my brother and husband. My feet couldn’t have been happier, despite the long days and rocky terrain.

Lowa Renegade GTX Hiking Boot, Amazon.com

(A larger color selection can be found on their website.)

Highly recommend!!

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12 Beauty Products I Always Take Camping

One of the biggest misconceptions about women who like the outdoors is that we aren’t the “girly type.” I find that pretty amusing because most of the outdoorswomen I know wear make up on a regular basis (even if it’s minimal) and are just as in to fashion as their non-outdoorsy friends. Sure, there are women who don’t do those things. More power to them…I wish I looked that good naturally! But I can’t seem to shake my need for looking and feeling presentable even if I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Below I’ve listed some tips for how to look fresh while staying in the wild outdoors. This list is created with day hikes, overnight camp outs, and backpacking in the wilderness in mind.

Let me know if you have any tips others should hear about!

Skincare

  • Facial Wipes

Often campsites don’t have hot water, so washing your face is painfully uncomfortable. That is why I bring these fabulous Yes to Cucumber face wipes.

Yes to Cucumber Facial Towlettes

With these I can clean my face in my tent without having to go to the campsite bathroom or fetch water from the creek when backpacking. Plus after a long day of wearing sunscreen, it’s nice to freshen up with these when we get back to the campsite.

Also, you don’t have to pack an extra towel to dry your face, which makes life easier!

  • Tinted Moisturizer

This is a great time to use tinted moisturizer, since you won’t necessarily be going the full-on foundation route but will want some color. I love Oil of Olay because it has built in SPF.

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Oil of Olay Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer

  • Lotion

Unless you’re camping somewhere humid (and if so, bless your heart) your skin is going to get drier than it does in the city. I definitely recommend bringing a small bottle of lotion.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizer

  • Vaseline

Not only is air in the wilderness often dry but it’s often windy, and Vaseline is my favorite for protecting your lips from the elements.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

  • Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

This is natural looking color I love!

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Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

Make Up

  • Small Mirror

The first thing I would pack in your bag is your own mirror.

  • Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion – tinted

I’m a huge fan of this stuff and wear it every day, whether I’m doing eyeshadow or not. It makes your skin tone around your eyes look a lot more even, and it doesn’t require precision, which is nice when you’re doing your makeup in your tent. When I’m camping I usually just use this by itself or with a light eye shadow on top.

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Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

  • Light colored shadow

Applied evenly across your lids

Other essentials:

  • Mascara
  • Eyebrow brush so your eyebrows don’t look like they’ve spent all night in a sleeping bag! 🙂

Other Toiletries/Cosmetics to Pack

Aside from the usual toothbrush/toothpaste and other basic items I recommend packing:

  • Fingernail clippers
  • Tweezers – for removing splinters or thorns
  • Purell
  • Hand soap – there is no hand soap at most camp site restrooms
  • Hand towel – I would take a small hand towel that is saved exclusively for your makeup/skincare needs
  • Dry shampoo

I prefer to keep my time in the communal restroom to a minimum, so I do as much of this regime as possible at my camp site.

One note: if you’re traveling in bear country these items all need to go in your bear canister. Bears are attracted to the oil and scent in these products.

Hope this helps you feel a tad more glamorous on your next camp out! These products are also great for day hikes. Enjoy!

beauty-products

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A Girl’s Guide to Dove Hunting: What to Wear

The fun part of outdoor guidance for me, aside from the beautiful places I get to go, is always the fashion. Call me superficial, but I like gear! And gear matters when it comes to the outdoors, because it can make a huge difference in your comfort level and ability to execute the task at hand.

{This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Dove Hunting, so be sure to check out the rest of those posts here.}

When it comes to hunting, it can be difficult to find something feminine, but it’s not impossible. As the stylish ladies in the pic below show, it is possible to look cute while hunting.

Annlyn

A Few Basic Guidelines

Though you will see people dove hunting in camo, this is not required. Olive greens and browns work fine. The idea is that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb in the brush.

You’ll want to wear something you don’t mind getting a little bloody.

Opening weekend is usually pretty toasty still in Texas so try to wear something cool!

Tops

Recommendations

I love GameGaurd fabrics–so lightweight–and their cut–so feminine.

Prois is a great brand and these Sojourn tops are my favorite of theirs.

Alternatively, you can wear something tan or olive green from your closet.

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GameGaurd top

Pants

I recommend pants, not shorts. When you shoot a bird, you will have to go through the brush to get it (unless you have a bird dog) and your legs will get scraped in shorts.

I also prefer pants I can tuck into my boots, but that’s more personal preference than necessity!

On hot days, I prefer a lightweight material instead of denim.

Recommendations

If you read this blog and haven’t heard me talk about these pants yet then you are missing something! These are by far my favorite outdoor pants on earth…they look great on. They can be worn on day hikes, camping trips, and trips to the ranch. The material is so soft and stretchy yet sturdy.

These are skinny leg, so great for tucking into boots. I just got these and so far have been very pleased with them.

Shoes

You’ll want to wear boots dove hunting as opposed to tennis shoes. Tennis shoes don’t hold up well in the brush and you’ll spend the rest of your night getting stickerburrs out of your shoelaces.

Recommendations

Snake boots are an investment, but worth it if you spend a lot of time on a ranch.

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Ammo Pouch and Bird Bag on a Belt

This is not required, but definitely recommended for holding your ammo and birds. I like to keep my ammunition in a pouch on my belt so that if I leave my chair to pick up a bird or to go chat with a friend I’m hunting with, I have it with me in case the birds start flying nearby.

This can be used for skeet shooting as well!

Recommendations

  • Jon Hart bags hold up well and are monogrammable: Jon Hart Bird Bag, jonhartdesign.com
  • Academy has some inexpensive, and yet nice looking ones as well which you can find in the store in the hunting section.
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Jon Hart bag in action!

Hat

A hat is rather pointless, because if you’re hunting at sunset the sun will shine in your face regardless. However if you’re hunting mid afternoon you’ll want a ball cap or a wide brimmed hat.

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Eye Protection and Ear Plugs

  • Sunglasses are usually enough
  • You can usually pick up a pair of ear plugs at the gas station or CVS

Cold Weather Add Ons

Now all you need is a really nice gun, and life will be complete!

Happy hunting!

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A Girl’s Guide to Dove Hunting: the Basics

Dove season is around the corner and in case you were curious about joining in the fun, here is a basic guide to dove hunting in Texas! It’s possible you may find yourself with the opportunity to go dove hunting at some point in your life, whether it be with friends, a significant other, or a coworker. This is Texas, after all, so those opportunities do sometimes arise. (Did you know that Texas has more dove than any other state in the nation?)

I have spent many a pleasant evening hunting dove around the pond on our family farm. Not only does the meat taste fantastic, but dove hunting is something you can do with friends. Being completely silent is not required, unlike with deer hunting.

{This post is part of my Girl’s Guide to Dove Hunting and you can catch the other posts in that category–some yet to come–by clicking here.}

Why Go Dove Hunting?

The meat, the sunset, the challenge.

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That sunset though…

A Bit About Dove

They are migratory.

They are greyish brown and a hair smaller than a pigeon.

They taste delicious.

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There are three types to be aware of:

  • Mourning
  • White winged
  • White tipped

This is important because there are different bag limits for each. The difference is pictured clearly here: TPWD Know Your Doves.

Don’t stress about memorizing this–you can pull up pictures on your phone (be sure to save this link!) when you are hunting to see what kind you have and make sure you’re not over the limit.

First Steps

Take Hunter Education

You only have to do it once! This can be done online in a number of hours, and is fairly easy. This is to ensure we’re all safe and responsible when afield.

Do it online from the comfort of your living room. (Much more enjoyable than the class.)

Get a Hunting License

The next thing you must do is get a hunting license.

I love online shopping as much as the next girl but I recommend getting your hunting license at the store. They print it out for you, and you can pick up a paper copy of the Outdoor Annual which contains the rules and regulations.

*******DON’T FORGET THE OUTDOOR ANNUAL WHEN YOU GET YOUR LICENSE!!!*********

A Synopsis of the Rules and Regulations

These are set in place so that dove populations remain healthy and steady for years to come. Don’t you just love Texas Parks and Wildlife for that?! Towards the end of the 1800’s our game and fish resources were nearly depleted from over-fishing and over-hunting, and through the establishment of bag limits, hunting seasons, and the creation of game wardens, the species rebounded and now we have abundant wildlife, and more deer than our nation has ever had.

Dove Season

In short, this is when you can hunt dove. Generally this is September – November and December to January. (Specific dates change year to year and region to region, and can be found in the Outdoor Annual.)

Some animals in Texas are huntable, some are not, some have seasons, and some are “open season”, meaning you can hunt them anytime. Seasons are set by the government and are based on a number of factors, including migration patterns, when they mate, when they have their young, etc.

Feral hogs are open season. They are nonnative invasive animals that prey on native wildlife. Deer, dove, and ducks on the other hand have specific seasons and bag limits.

Zones

Regions of Texas that have different dove seasons.

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Bag Limit

How many dove you are allowed to shoot each day. (Usually around 15.)

Possession Limit

How many dove you are allowed to have in your possession. (Usually 3 days worth.)

Hunting Hours

You can hunt dove from one half hour before sunrise to sun down. I find 5pm to be the sweet spot but it depends on where you are, what the weather’s like, and which way you parted your hair.

Regulations change year to year so look at the the Outdoor Annual pamphlet, the Outdoor Annual App or Outdoor Annual Website for this year’s specific bag limits and other rules.

The Type of Gun and Ammunition to Use

Gun

  • Shotgun

You will use a shotgun for dove hunting, as opposed to a rifle, which is used for deer hunting. Shotgun shells contain multiple bb’s that spray out in a small circle (anywhere from inches to feet apart depending on the size of the ammo and the distance from the target), whereas a rifle fires a single bullet to a very specific point. If you shot at a piece of paper, a shotgun would create lots of little holes and a rifle would create one big hole.

woman shooting over and under dove hunting
This lady’s got a shotgun, and she knows how to use it!
  • 20 gauge or 28 gauge recommended

This is less of a kickback than a 12 gauge (which is larger than a 20 gauge) but more of a spread than a .410 (which is smaller than a 28 gauge). I do not recommend hunting with a .410.

Skeet shooting

Ammunition

Shotgun Shells

You will be using shotgun shells, not bullets or cartridges, for this sport.

dove hunting ammunition

Where to Purchase Shotgun Shells

  • Academy or Walmart

What Gauge to Buy

The shotgun shell you purchase will need to correspond to the gun you plan to hunt with. If you have a 20 gauge shotgun, you need to buy 20 gauge shells. Never put a shotgun shell in a gun that isn’t the same gauge.

What Shot to Buy

On the top of the package, you will see the word “SHOT” with a number above or beside it. 7 or 8 shot is good for dove hunting.

shotgun shells, what ammo to use dove hunting, what ammo to use hunting

How to Spot Dove in the Sky

When you are hunting, chances are you will see more than just dove flying about, and most of these birds are illegal to shoot! So you’ll want to pay attention before pulling the trigger.

  • Dove tend to flap their wings at an even pace. Other birds soar, or flap a bunch of times and then soar, whereas dove plug along pretty consistently.
  • Dove tend to look dark in the sky. Unless you’re close enough to them to see the grey, then they will look dark.
  • Dove are weighty in the middle. They don’t look sleek like field larks.
  • They don’t have a fancy tail. Lots of other birds have some flair to their tail which makes them easy to weed out.

Ultimately, if you can’t tell, don’t take the shot. Nothing will make you feel worse than shooting the wrong kind of bird. You will get the hang of identifying dove over time.

Dove on the left
Dove on the left
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Do NOT shoot these birds, they are not dove!

Never Shoot a Dove Sitting on a Fence, Tree, or the Ground

It’s not considered good sport.

Where to Go Dove Hunting

I explain this in How to Go Hunting if You Don’t Have a Ranch.

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How to Pick a Good Hunting Spot

Every person’s different, but here’s my recipe for a good hunting spot.

  • In the shade of a good tree–but on the very edge of the shade so I can see the sky around me
  • Good visibility of the sky; if I stretched out my arms in either direction I could see the sky all the way from one arm to the other
  • Near a cactus, brush, or tree that partially conceals me–though I don’t have to be completely concealed
  • In somewhat short grass–definitely not in the middle of a stand of brush or amid grass over my knee. If a snake pays me a visit, I want to see him coming.
  • Not facing another hunter…unless you want to get shot!

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Bring a chair.

Or a bucket you can turn upside down to sit on. I don’t know about you but I can’t stand for hours!

On that note, a small cooler never hurt any body…

Safety

  • Be sure there are no hunters in the direction you may be firing your gun
  • If other hunters are in the vicinity, be sure they know exactly where you are. Discuss where you each will be shooting.
  • Don’t load your gun until you are all set up and ready to hunt
  • When you are collecting your birds, be sure you aren’t walking in the line of the nearby hunter, and if you are, be sure he is aware you are walking there so he won’t shoot you accidentally.
  • Always keep your gun pointed up in the air. Some people point theirs at the ground but I was always taught you could shoot your foot this way. (I usually just choose to shoot myself in the foot figuratively. Hehe.)
  • Always treat your gun as if its loaded
  • Wear eye protection and ear plugs
  • Always check your ammunition before loading it into your gun to be sure it is the right gauge and there is nothing visibly wrong with it

Are there people who don’t abide by these rules? Sure. But don’t let peer pressure sway you.

Where to Park

We like to park a little ways away from where we’re hunting if possible.

While Hunting

  • I like to lean my gun on a tree while I get everything set up

dove hunting in south texas, what to take dove hunting in south texas

  • Set your ammunition out next to your chair
  • Once you get settled, get your ear plugs in and load your gun

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  • Then sit there and wait for them to fly within about 25 yards of you
  • Collect your birds immediately and pile them up near your chair

Enjoy the peace and quiet of a Texas evening.

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Cleaning Your Dove

I recommend cleaning the dove while in the field. Do it on the hood of your car or the tailgate of your truck.

Bring scissors, ziplocs, and a bin. Clip the wings, legs, and head off. Pull all of the feathers out. The rest is like taking the breast meat off a chicken. Remove the innerds (this part is gross, sorry), and then remove the breast meat. Some people keep the breast meat on the bone but I like to remove it.

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Then once you get home, rinse them off.

End product should look like this:

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Dove Recipes

#1 Thing to Remember: Don’t be discouraged.

You may miss a few birds. It’s OK to be new to the sport. It’s OK to look cute going hunting! If I had a dime for every time someone assumed that because I was a woman, I didn’t know the first thing about hunting, I would be blogging from a private jet right now.  Just last year I had a man say when he dropped me off at my dove hunting spot, “She’s not here to hunt, she only cares about looking like a model.” HA! Umm, thank you? Seriously though, how ridiculous. Don’t talk to a woman with a gun like that now, come on.

Stay tuned: What to Wear Dove Hunting is next! (Time for the fun part.)

Best of luck afield ladies.

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How to Go Hunting if You Don’t Have a Ranch

Over the last few years, a major food trend has been towards local, organic meats and vegetables. I think it’s great people are becoming more curious about where their food comes from and in many cases, wanting to be a part of the process. Women I know are asking for these kinds of foods, and incorporating them into their families’ diets whenever they come across them at the grocery store or in restaurants.

The great news is that as Texas women, we aren’t limited to the organic meat supply in the grocery store or restaurants! We can put quality local food on our tables by hunting some of Texas’ 142 million acres of working lands.

One of the top reasons I hear from women who don’t hunt is a lack of opportunity. However, as I share today, owning a piece of land is not a requirement for being able to harvest your own wild game. Full disclosure, it is more labor intensive than going to the grocery store, but it’s much more fun and something your whole family can be involved in. Today I will tell you how it can be done.

Once you go on one of these hunts, be sure to use one of the wild game recipes on my blog (see Chickwagon Cooking), and you will knock the socks off of anyone you cook for, I assure you. Even in this modern era, no one expects a woman to pull that kind of stunt. 🙂

Where the Hunt Takes Place in Texas

  • Private Ranches
  • Government managed lands: property owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, leased by the department from other agencies, forest product industries, and some private landowners who have given their consent to the state for the public hunting program.

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Basic Necessities

  • Valid Texas Hunting License
  • Hunter Education certification (can be done online)

Your Options for Hunting Grounds

1. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Drawn & E-Postcard Hunts

This is a traditional drawing system where you put your name in the “hat” and are drawn for various hunts.

The online system is found here: TPWD Drawn Hunts

How to Sign Up

  1. Browse for the animal you wish to hunt on the following page: TPWD Drawn Hunts. Antlerless means a doe, and a spike means a buck with only two individual antler spikes (not a traditional rack.) Antlerless/doe is a great option for those of you who are not interested in the antlers but want the meat for cooking. “Management” means a male deer with a small to average set of antlers–not a trophy buck, in other words.
  2. Choose General or Private lands–either are fine!
  3. When you click on the animal you want to hunt, then choose the location. Google will be your friend in finding out where each of the hunt locations is.
  4. Click “Apply Now” and fill out the necessary information.
  5. You will get an email notification if selected.

A Few Things to Know

  • Guided hunts are also great options for new hunters
  • I recommend gun hunts for new hunters, as opposed to archery.
  • Put your name in for more than one drawing.
  • With E-Postcard Hunts you will be required to purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit

This FAQ page is VERY helpful! Drawn Hunts FAQ

2. Corps of Engineers Properties

The US Army Corps of Engineers owns properties across Texas, and allows the public to hunt them during season. The list below is a small sampling.

Dallas/Fort Worth Area

North of Dallas

Waco Area

Austin Area

Central Texas

How to Sign Up

  1. Visit the Corps of Engineers page here: Corps Lakes Gateway Texas
  2. Select the lake near you.
  3. On the left hand side of the page, under Lake Information, click “Hunting” for specific hunting information
  4. Call the property where you wish to hunt and request a permit application. Some properties do not require permits, though most do. Don’t be shy about asking how the hunting system works on their site!

More helpful info on hunting Corps of Engineer land here: Corps of Engineers Public Hunting Guide

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Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

3. National Wildlife Refuges

We have 19 National Wildlife Refuges in Texas and you can hunt on 12 of them. Visit the National Wildlife Refuge System website for a detailed search of offered hunts: NWR Find the Perfect Hunt.

Dallas Area

Austin Area

See my post on the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge…(and pie!) here.

Houston Area

Near Rockport

4. National Forests

Public hunting is allowed in our national forests in Texas. These are mostly all in East Texas. Check out the following page for details and a list of available locations: National Forest Hunting.

5. TPWD Mentored Hunts

Select state parks and wildlife management areas offer mentored hunting workshops designed to introduce beginning hunters to the hunting experience. Expect an educational workshop followed by a guided hunt. This is a GREAT option for new hunters!! An added perk, the deer blinds are all very comfortable! They are all ADA accessible. More info here: TPWD mentored hunts

6. Paid Hunts on Private Lands

These take place on private lands and can be done by working with the ranch directly or with an outfitter. Note that you are going to pay more for this experience, but the perks will be much greater: you typically get a guide, lodging, food, and someone to clean your harvest for you (translation: you don’t have to do all of the field dressing.)

I definitely recommmend this option if you can afford it.

Recommendations

  • Wildlife Systems, a reputable hunting outfit, will pair you up with a good hunting ranch. I recommend starting your search on their website. They will direct you to an ethical, fair chase hunt at a beautiful property with comfortable accommodations.
    • The Yturria ranch, which you will see listed with them, is gorgeous! The Yturria family invests heavily in conserving the wildlife and improving habitat on their property, so your money is going to a great place.

7. Hunting Leases

If you want to hunt more than once or twice a year, you can lease a ranch for a hunting season. This can be great because it allows you more freedom with your schedule and gives you the chance to get to know a piece of property, instead of feeling rushed into a one or two day hunt. That said, it is more expensive and it doesn’t come with the luxuries like some of the private hunts mentioned in #5 above. If you’re a first time hunter I may not recommend this right off the bat. But after your first season, it could be a great option!

8. Ask a friend who owns property if you can trade your talents and labor for a hunt.

Bartering is the oldest currency on earth. Can you do graphic design? Maybe they want a logo designed for their ranch. Can you build a website? Maybe they want to upgrade their ranch or their business site. Do they need tasks done around the ranch? (As a landowner, let me tell you–the answer is YES! And it ain’t glamorous.) OR something in the air conditioning, preferably–What about accounting? Legal services? Mow their lawn for them, make them a home cooked meal. Just make the offer! Don’t ask to shoot a trophy buck but see if they have a doe or management buck they’d be willing to let you have. Most ranches have more deer than the habitat can hold, and would be willing to share. Or, if you don’t want to hunt but want the venison, barter for that.

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9. Last but not least, check out guided hunts offered by the Austin restaurant, Dai Due.

Attention gals, this is probably the most enticing option I’ve put on this list! Their hunting and fishing schools are simply drool worthy. They teach you everything from how to hunt and fish to how to process the meat, to how to cook it up like a professional chef. Be sure to get on their email list to hear about upcoming events. http://www.daidue.com/schedule/

Best of luck afield this hunting season!

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