It’s the end of summer. You’ve drawn the tags you wanted, put in the miles scouting, and you’re a lethal shooter. You are all set to punch a tag and fill your freezer.
But, now you’re staring at 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test.
It may feel like your season just went out the window, but I’m here to help you salvage all that hard work and still have a successful hunt.
Before I go any further let’s clear something up. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I’m just a mom who survived a few pregnancies. This is not medical advice. Speak with your care provider to confirm that you are low risk and healthy enough for strenuous activity. Now let’s get to it.
Hunting while newly pregnant is probably the safest time to go because the baby is low in your pelvis and protected from any slips or falls you might take. It is, however, probably the hardest time for YOU. In those 12 weeks, your blood volume is increasing, and your heart is pumping 20-30 beats a minute faster than usual. Your blood sugar is all over the place and the hormones have likely given you a nice case of morning sickness. Just existing is a workout at this point.
During this time, you want to focus on two things: Food and water.
Drink water like it’s your job. Staying hydrated will keep you cool, replenish what you lose from sweating – trust me, mama, you will be sweating – and combat the hormone headaches.
You should also make sure you have a big backpack because you’re going to want to pack snacks, and then pack some more snacks. Protein and complex carbs will help keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing. Getting hungry induces nausea and dizziness, and nobody has time for that in the middle of a hunt. If you have an unrelenting case of morning sickness, pack sour candy and hard candy to suck on. It won’t cure nausea, but it makes it more manageable.
The second trimester is really the sweet spot for hunting. You’re starting to feel human again and you aren’t so big that hiking is difficult yet. You’re still going to want to focus on staying hydrated to keep Braxton Hicks (practice contractions) from sneaking up on you. The downside to staying hydrated is that baby is using your bladder as a trampoline and the hiking isn’t going to help that situation. If squatting to pee every 20 minutes isn’t your idea of a good time, look into getting a GoGirl. Just make sure you practice at home first. You’ll thank me later.
From a personal standpoint, the third trimester was when I was no longer comfortable going into the woods. If I’m not allowed on an airplane, then I’m not waddling my butt into the backcountry. With my youngest child, I was in my last month of pregnancy during archery season and chose to sit the season out. I wound up going into labor three weeks early and was so happy my water didn’t break at hunting camp.
That being said, a lot of women including Tiffany Lakosky and Eva Shockey hunted through their entire pregnancy without issue. If you chose to hunt into your third trimester, make sure to manage your expectation. Your ligaments are loosening making you less stable as you walk, and your hips and back are likely sore. Take it slow and be realistic with your goals. If you start to feel contractions, sit down and drink A LOT of water. If contractions continue, then call it quits for the day. More than 4 contractions in an hour mean you need to get in touch with your doctor.
I would also change my hunting strategy from spot and stalk, to sit and wait. Post up at a watering hole or at a known feeding area and settle in for the long wait. Take the opportunity to enjoy a sunny afternoon nap and soak up the silence. There won’t be much of either of those things in your near future.
Communicate with Your Hunting Partners
When I was pregnant with my middle child, I went on an antelope hunt with my husband, my dad, and lifelong hunting buddy. I remember one morning as we were preparing to leave, I stood hunched over the sink in our hotel room puking. The three of them awkwardly watched as I pulled myself together. I apologized but they told me “You just tell us what you need. We’ve never done this before either”.
I laughed at the moment, but it became such an important part of that trip. Women already struggle to ask for help while hunting because we don’t want anyone to think we don’t belong there. The fact is, no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, you’re going to need to do things a little different.
You’re hunting partners aren’t mind readers, so don’t hesitate to speak up if you need to take a breather. Don’t feel ashamed if you aren’t comfortable helping with a pack out – there will be many more packs in your future. Don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself suddenly overcome with nausea while field dressing an animal. The smell of raw chicken would turn my stomach, so I’ll let you guess how well I handled a fresh gut pile. By the third antelope on that trip, I unapologetically ate a snack in the truck while the guys did the dirty work. Cut yourself some slack. You can do it yourself again next season.
Lastly, ignore the critics. Any pregnant lady knows that during those 9 months, anyone and everyone feels they get to comment on what you do and how you do it. If you are comfortable being in the mountains and your doctor has given you the go-ahead, then enjoy the heck out of this unique experience. On the other hand, if you aren’t comfortable with the extra risk factors, then don’t feel like you have to go hunt. Tags can be returned, and you still have a lifetime of hunting ahead of you. Follow your gut and do what makes you happy.