KELLOGG — Around an hour before sunrise Saturday, two 12-year-old girls with blaze-orange clothing, 20-gauge shotguns and big dreams walked down an old road in what they called Buzzard’s Roost and prepared to hunt deer on the opening day of the 2021 firearms season.
Jada Fries, whose dad, Brian Fries, was with them, knows how big her dream is: “like a 20-pointer,” she said. “Pretty big, and fat too.” It would be her second deer — she shot a button buck last year. She proudly said she even field dressed it herself, with her dad’s help.
Her lifelong friend, Jessalyn Adams, said “I don’t have big dreams.” A 10- or 12-pointer will do nicely for her. It would be her first deer. She wants her dad to field dress it because she doesn’t know how.
They took part in a hunt up Cook’s Valley west of Kellogg where the Fries family has land dubbed Buzzard’s Roost in honor of Jada’s grandfather, Walt Fries, who has the “Buzzard” nickname.
They will also proudly be taking part in a major national trend — girls and women getting into hunting. While the number of men is static or dropping as a proportion of the population, females in the field wearing blaze orange or camo is on the rise.
According to a National Geographic report a few years ago “The proportion of women who hunt has risen 25 percent since 2006.”
In a forward to the 2019 book “Why Women Hunt,” hunter Brenda Valentine wrote: “Women hunters were never as accepted and celebrated as they are in this decade. The number of women in boots and camouflage has exploded.”
That is great with Jada “because you are starting something new,” she said before going out scouting Thursday evening. “Because you’re part of a trend.”
Same with Jessalyn: “I like being part of it.”
Sure, hunting is known more as a male’s sport but they are more than happy to get in too. In fact, Jada has big thoughts about just how good they are. She thinks girls and women can show the men “they are better than the guys.”
True, said her friend. She thinks girls “want to show boys they can be like them too.”
Besides, they said they see some boys in dance. Boys can do things more traditionally known for girls so girls can do things more traditional with boys. In fact, they would love to see any idea of hunting being for women or men erased, blotted out, removed. It might take some time. “Maybe in a few years,” Jada said. “Yeah, a few years,” added Jessalyn.
It’s not that they need more interests. Both are very active, Jada in dance, volleyball, softball and skiing; Jessalyn in dance, softball, volleyball and basketball. But they have time to hunt.
“It’s fun when you see the big buck,” Jada said. “You get excited.”
During the special youths-only hunt in October, she hunted a few days but skipped out the last day. A really nice buck was seen on their trail cam that evening - she was not happy with her dad. She wants that big buck.
In the field up Buzzard’s Roost, they knew it would be nice to sit in a tall tripod stand; if they get cold, they will sit in an old ice shack with shooting windows and a heater. Of course, they will bring treats along.
They have already spent time in the hunting woods. “It’s quiet,” Jessalyn said. You get a nice view of the trees, leaves and birds.
“It’s quiet, peaceful….lots of trees,” her friend said.
But then, that can all change in a flash when they see movement and hear someone whisper “deer.”
When that happened last year, “I can tell you that my heart started to race, it was exciting,” Jada said.
“I think it will be exciting because I will kill it and then we will have food,” Jessalyn said. Sure, they get most of their food from the grocery store but the venison “is more fresh and exciting,” she said.
“It’s boring when you get it from the supermarket, unless it’s ribs,” Jada said.
When they walked to the tripod stand Thursday to scout, they were great at spotting buck scrapes and rubs, and a few deer beds. They were keyed into the outdoors.
As soon as they climbed up to the tripod, they saw a few deer running away. After that, it was just a nice evening to sit up higher and see the trees.
Towards dusk, it was time to head back to the big shed at Buzzard’s Roost. They had other things to do but they were a bit better prepared when that big 10-pointer or even that fat 20-pointer comes within range.
P.S. Brian Fries reported the girls saw a few deer, including two does around dusk Saturday but it was too dark to shoot. No mention of a 10- or 20-point buck.
John Weiss has written and reported about Outdoors topics for the Post Bulletin for 45 years. He is the author of the book "Backroads: The Best of the Best by Post-Bulletin Columnist John Weiss"