Hallie Raabe stalked through the gray woods on a chilly November morning to her blind nestled deep in the forest near Knox.
She climbed into the stand, switched on the heat and then descended to grab her rifle.
She heard a faint rustle. Then she saw him.
An eight-point buck was emerging from the pines into a small clearing.
Hallie, 17, and a Slippery Rock High School senior, could hardly believe it.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” Hallie said.
She moved slowly to grab her gun leaning against a tree, aimed and waited for the perfect shot.
She got it.
Three minutes into rifle hunting season this fall, Hallie bagged her eight-point buck.
“It was crazy,” Hallie said. “What’s funny is I usually only get to go one day a year because of basketball and two out of the three years I got one on the first day.”
Her father, Ken Raabe, hadn’t even loaded his rifle at his blind when he heard the shot.
Hallie’s older brother, Colten, didn’t go out with them that morning.
When he heard his sister had bagged a buck less than three minutes into rifle season, he was amazed.
“He said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Hallie said, laughing. “‘How did you get a deer within the first three minutes?’”
Hallie couldn’t believe it either. It took only one shot, and suddenly her hunting season was over.
“He probably just woke up too,” Hallie said of the buck. “I said, ‘Well, I’m going back to bed.’”
Hallie has been hunting with her father and brother since she could walk.
People say she’s a natural.
She shrugs, “I don’t know. It’s just luck, I guess.”
While that scene is unusual — getting a buck just three minutes into rifle season — young, camo-clad women such as Hallie heading to the woods with rifles and crossbows in hand is becoming more common.
Women are the fastest growing demographic in hunting, according to statistics from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which estimates 15% of hunters are now women.
The wildlife service also estimates the number of first-time male hunters has fallen by 30%.
“I don’t think it’s where it needs to be yet,” said Amber Osborn, who coaches Hallie on the Slippery Rock High girls basketball team and is an avid hunter herself. “I think it is getting more popular. I think women kind of feel empowered when they are hunting and get a kill.”
Hallie said she doesn’t have any female friends who hunt.
“In class, a teacher will ask, ‘Who is going hunting?’ and no one raises their hand except for me,” Hallie said. “They look at me like, ‘Oh, that’s different.’”
More women take up hunting
Butler resident Jeremy Moore looks forward to his excursions into the woods with his 10-year-old daughter, Kendall.
The two began heading out together when Kendall was 3 years old.
For the two, it is a great bonding experience.
“It’s great. I love it,” Jeremy said. “I get to spend a ton of time with her.”
The same is true for Kendall, who sees the trips deep into the woods around Boyers as an opportunity to hang out with her father.
And, of course, “shooting stuff,” she said.
Kendall harvested her third deer this fall in Washington Township, bagging a full-rack buck.
She has also gotten a button buck and half-rack in the past two years.
Kendall couldn’t describe what she was thinking when lined up her shot with a crossbow.
“She wasn’t doing much thinking,” Jeremy said, chuckling. “She was shaking too much.”
“I was really excited,” Kendall added. “I was nervous. I was happy when I got it.”
Kendall said she likes archery season more than rifle season.
“Archery is quieter,” she said. “You have to be a little more quiet.”
Being quiet is sometimes a challenge for Kendall.
So is being patient.
“Well,” she said, “it’s not that hard. Sometimes it’s boring.”
But Jeremy and Kendall fill the downtime by doing homework.
For Jeremy, taking Kendall out to hunt brings back his own fond childhood memories.
“The old man had me out at 3, the same age I began taking Kendall out,” he said.
Jeremy and his wife, Noelle, have another daughter, 8-year-old Kylie, who is not as enthusiastic about hunting as her older sister.
“They are complete opposites,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy said he always will treasure his time with Kendall while hunting.
“It’s something we can do together,” he said. “It makes me feel closer to her.”
The same can be said for Amber Osborn, who goes hunting with her entire family on a regular basis.
Osborn and her husband, Doug, have five children — Maddie, 11; Kyle, 10; Bri, 9; Jude, 7; and Willa, 4.
The three girls are just as enthusiastic as the two boys.
Amber Osborn grew her love of hunting when she was a little girl, heading out to a blind or a stand with her father, Steve.
She’s handing down that love to her children.
And her girls.
Once they are out there, it’s the incomparable thrill just before the shot that will keep them coming back for a lifetime.
‘It’s not just for men’
“It’s literally a feeling like no other,” Hallie said of the second before taking the kill shot. “It’s just different. I always compare it to winning the District 10 championship (in basketball). That’s insane. That’s nervousness and excitement, but it’s just different. Hunting — your heart is pounding out of your chest. You literally go from the calm of taking it all in, taking in nature to ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a deer right there!’”
Hallie also is an avid angler.
“I probably fish more than I hunt,” Hallie said.
She’s gotten some whoppers in her time.
But she admits that the thrill of catching a walleye on Lake Erie doesn’t compare to bagging a buck within the first three minutes of hunting season.
And, she said, there is nothing like being outside in nature.
“I just like being outdoors,” Hallie said. “That’s a big draw too.”
Hallie said she hopes more women will take to the woods.
“I definitely think it’s becoming more popular for females to go out and hunt,” she said. “It’s not just for men. It’s for everybody.”