Kelly Zurbuch of Newberg, Oregon was new to hunting when she drew a California Bighorn tag. Here’s the story.
Girl has never been hunting. Girl’s boyfriend introduces her to wild game cuisine. Girl gets hooked on the taste. Girl decides that maybe she should pursue hunting. That simple.
After filling out big game hunting applications, Kelly decides to enter the Oregon bighorn filing—which her boyfriend just as much considers as a waste of time—and what happens? She pulled a tag. So what next? Time to take a crash course in hunting!
Lots of prep time and many rounds of practice shooting later, along with interaction with other hunters (especially other women hunters), Kelly was as ready as she could be on short notice.
Trepidation set in when her hunting party began its trek through the wild. Crossing a river only hastened her doubt. Topping the first ridge with a fierce wind blowing in her face didn’t make things any easier. And that was the first ridge. There were more to come.
Finally, after several miles, the hunting party topped yet another ridge. But this one was different. Kelly immediately saw sheep on a nearby hillside. The butterflies subsided as her boyfriend helped her set up for a possible shot. But before she could get set, the sheep moved over the ridge.
Gaining confidence, Kelly and her party wasted no time in following the sheep. Two ridges later, Kelly set up again. When a mature adult ram moved away from the herd, she was given the green light. Her boyfriend told her to “shoot when ready.”
Kelly squeezed the trigger and the rifle jerked against her shoulder.
“It was a huge moment,” Kelly later said. “The other guys stayed back and let me walk up to it on my own. It was really emotional; I was taking really small steps. It was a combination of everything that led up to that moment, the work that it took to get there, and the beauty of the animal. It was overwhelming.”
Taking the animal down was one thing. Getting it out was another. Exhausted and with blistered feet, Kelly packed it out herself.
Of course, if you mention anything about hunting to Kelly these days, she wants to know two things: what’s the game and when can we go. She can’t wait for the next hunt.
She also had this message for other women who have tinkered with the thought of hunting. “Go for it! There’s so much the outdoors has to offer, and it’s so rewarding. It makes you realize how small you are in the world.”