Hunting Story: A Rocky Start & Why I Train for Hunting Season

Stephanie Rustad // June 1

When you’re the outfitter’s daughter, you get the non-traditional hunt. For me, that included getting to explore a new area with him.  My family owns an outfitting business in Colorado, in an area that ranges in altitude from 7,000-11,000 feet. Usually, we use horses to gain that elevation quickly. 

The area was a few hours’ drive on bumpy backroads. Once we arrived, we parked the truck off the side of the road, loaded up our packs, slung the rifle over my shoulder, and headed into the woods.

Out on the Trail

There was no trail to follow and too many blown down trees to count. This made our journey difficult. The mess of logs and debris covered the entire hillside. There was no way to be quiet, stepping on every dead log. My legs too short to easily step over the mess, I had to straddle and slide over many large logs.

Miss Pursuit

What was supposed to be an easy trek, turned into a very long and energy-consuming hike. I constantly stopped to take 30 second breaks, lungs burning, as I tried to keep up with my dad.

We ended up breaking out of the trees into a long meadow. We searched, but were unable to find any sign, new or old. We decided to throw in the towel and attempt the journey back. With little discussion, we decided that our best path would be to get above the tree line, cross over and then have a straight shot down to the truck rather than having to back track over the blown down mess.

We headed straight up towards a steep, shale rock slide.

The thought of sliding creeped into my head – more and more every time the shale slid out from under me. Each step was more difficult than the last. My nerves started to taunt me. Adrenaline and the anticipation of reaching the top were the only things that kept me going.

I reached a small flat spot in the slide, just wide enough for me to sit down, only a dozen yards from the top. The adrenaline that kept me going gave out, and my body went into a full panic attack. I started to hyperventilate. My entire body shook, and I felt my hands trembling. I couldn’t stop the tears running down my face. My smart watch told me my heart was racing. My dad watched from above, thinking I was just resting. He didn’t realize until he saw my face that something was wrong.

He slid through the shale down to my side. He helped slide the rifle off my shoulder and unclipped my pack, setting it beside me. He talked at me, asking if I was ok and what was wrong. I was unable to respond besides shaking my head.

He realized telling me to breathe wasn’t working, and he started to refocus my attention on wiggling my fingers and my toes.

We sat on that rockslide until I was able to slow my heart rate and catch my breath. It didn’t happen immediately.

We took it much slower after that, and made it safely back to the truck. It’s still emotional to think about that moment on the rock slide, when I was scared to death of falling and unable to control my body.

Read More: Clean Up for Hunting Season

Training for Hunting Season

I live at sea level and any elevation gain will always affect me. I get nose bleeds, headaches, and very dry skin. This year, I am taking my training for hunting season seriously. I see building my endurance and strength as a way to help me feel confident in the woods. 

Listening to your body is one of the most important things when you’re in the wilderness, or on any hunt or hike. We want to push ourselves and make it to the end, climb to the top of the mountain or keep up with our hiking partner. That’s not always possible or the best case scenario. Take time to break, drink lots of water, and eat so your body has something to burn as its working.

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About the Author

Stephanie Rustad

Stephanie grew up tagging along on rifle hunts with her dad until she was old enough to carry a license herself. Sh never had an interest in shooting a rifle (until now) so she talked her dad into trying archery - something he had never done! Together they learned to shoot and started bowhunting. They've covered many miles and made so many memories over the years.

When she went off to college in Montana (go Bobcats!), she took a hiatus from archery, but was able to experience a different side of the outdoors - hiking, fishing and duck hunting. Hunting with a gun was something she had never wanted to do before, but senior year of college she bought her first shotgun. All it takes is an invite from the right person to open the doors to amazing new experiences.

Stephanie gets so excited about helping women take their first shot, and seeing the smile that lights up their face when they hit the target and realize they can be successful.

My goal is to give you the skills you'll need to feel comfortable and confident when walking onto any archery range.