Prepping year-round, Felicia Helms has been an avid hunter of all game with her father and brothers since she was a little tyke. “Growing up, I started field trailing, fox hunting, running dogs and running deer with dogs,” Helms said.
Moving from running dogs to harvesting deer from a deer stand, Helms’ passion for still hunting, the use of a deer stand, became an all-year motivation after her brother introduced her to deer leases in her early 20s.
“My first deer I recall that was ‘the special moment’ was when I was still hunting in my early 20s. I was in the stand by myself on a deer lease. As soon as I recognized that way of hunting, it was pretty much over for me,” Helms said.
Though accustomed to using a rifle or muzzleloader, Helms sought out a compound bow about six years ago. After cramming two months of bow practice in before opening day of bear season, her first hunt with her Matthews compound bow yielded a large harvest, a black bear on a private lease off Highway 7 north.
“Opening day, I actually didn’t go to my bear stand. I was kind of scared. So I gave my bear stand up to my friend and went to his stand not expecting to see anything,” Helms said.
Hoping she could “work out the bugs,” Helms got a large surprise while attempting to carry her gear up into the stand. With a black bear walking into her area and her bow still on the ground, Helms climbed back down, retrieving her bow, unclicked it from the cord and carried it into the stand.
“By this time, I had just sat down and he makes it to where I am at. My adrenaline is going crazy. He’s perfect, broadside. He doesn’t really know I’m there,” Helms said.
Getting ready for a shot, she was not able to draw her bow back. Helms could not calm down and had to sit down and place her foot on the side of the stand to be able to draw back for the shot.
“It was a 17-yard shot. I saw the arrow when it hit. He didn’t go 15 to 20 yards and he expired,” Helms said.
Due to cellphone reception, Helms was not able to reach any of the others in the hunting party to assist in checking the bear. For fear other bears may try to come in the area, she rushed to get the others.
“I am freaking out, almost in tears, trying to get someone to answer my call. No one ever answered my call. Finally, I got up enough nerve to run past the bear and make it to the truck to start honking the horn because I knew if he was there, we’d be getting all these other bears coming in,” Helms said.
Since harvesting her bear and adding archery to her hunting skills, Helms has also been introduced to duck hunting. Her first year, she harvested two ringnecked ducks, but last year was not very successful.
“I love my duck hunting. The whole ambience and experience is totally different from deer hunting because you are there shooting. It is so magical in the mornings and afternoons. It’s a whole other atmosphere than being in the woods surrounded by the leaves looking for the white tails,” Helms said.
Helms has experience hunting fox, hog, deer, turkey, bear, duck, squirrel, rabbit, dove and also likes to fish. She anticipates teaching her 4-year-old grandson how to hunt. This year, he got to join her dove hunting and held one. They purchased him a BB gun and Muck boots for his upcoming birthday.
“I’ve helped a lot of youth taking them out turkey or deer hunting. We are always taking the youth out whichever it may be. My nephew killed his first two bucks with me. He was probably 12 at the time and he’s a grown man now. Those are defining moments that I will never forget.”
In the face of work and other responsibilities, Melody Root encourages women to hunt, not only to feel the adrenaline rush of harvesting a deer, but also the tranquillity of being out in nature.
“My biggest thing that I try to tell women all the time is: as women, our duties and jobs are so large. To get to go out there in complete peace, if nothing else, you get some good ‘you’ time. There is nothing like sitting in that stand with peace and quiet and nature around.”
At a young age, Root’s father introduced her to guns teaching her to shoot quarters on trees with a .22-caliber rifle. Though she went on several hunting trips with her father, hunting did not appeal to her just yet. It wasn’t until she met her husband, now of three years, that she fell in love with the sport.
“My ex-husband believed that women don’t hunt. He hunted and believed that I stayed home, took care of the kids and that hunting was the man’s thing,” Root said. “My husband now wanted me to hunt with him. It was exciting to me to be a part of that.”
Root soon got the hunger for the hunt harvesting her first deer, three does and a small buck, in 2014 with a 25-06 Ruger. Her weaponry soon expanded to a muzzleloader and a Barnett Wildcat crossbow. However, the 25-06 remains her favorite hunting method.
“It’s so precise. You pull the trigger and it’s instant the deer drops. With the crossbow, it’s the noise and it seems like it takes forever for the arrow to get there for you to see if you got it. I kill deer with the muzzleloader and I like it, too. It’s just a lot more work,” Root said.
Her 9-year-old son squirrel hunts and harvested his first deer last year, but her three daughters, ages 10, 11 and 14, have yet to participate in the family activity. The girls do join Root in the deer stand and anticipates their eventual introduction into the sport.
“They will go out there with me and sit there with a book. Anything that comes out, they get just as excited as me,” Root said. “My daughters are a little girlie girl, I would say, and I consider myself that way also.”
Her passion for the outdoors through fishing and hunting, she says, does not mean she is not a girlie girl. But rather, she also likes to get dressed up and present herself as a lady, too.
“I want them to know that they can be that way and you can hunt. I am very much an outdoors person, but sure, I like to put on heels and a dress and go out looking nice, too. Present myself as a lady. That is something I really hope to teach my daughters,” Root said.
Preparing for deer season is a year-round activity. Filling up feeders with corn and setting out mineral and salt blocks starts several months before opening day of deer season.
“We disced up an area for the first time this year and planted grass, but I think it washed downhill. That is something that we are going to have to work on and find a better method,” Root said.
Getting dirty, her children do help her and her husband with processing the meat. Root grinds up her dear meat into hamburger and sausage and her children assist with packaging and labeling.
“I’ve encouraged several of my women friends to come and sit with me. The rush of when you actually get to shoot one, I think they will want to do that over, over and over,” Root said.