Situated near the edge of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the rustic Halpino Lodge. For a few days each fall, this quiet camp comes to life as it becomes home to a special group of lively female hunters, the Nomadic Hunting Buddies (NHB).
This annual gathering of the NHB attracts an array of colorful, lively characters, all seeking the same thing—bowhunting camaraderie.
This is no club. There are no dues to pay or meetings to attend. Instead, we are a strange, motley crew, comprised of doctors, nurses, photographers, writers, wives and mothers. More importantly, we are a unique sisterhood of kindred spirits, each of whom shares a passion for bowhunting. We pride ourselves in our competitive nature, our hunting skills and our ability to laugh at ourselves and each other.
Before we get serious about pursuing deer, we partake in our annual tradition of hunting armadillos with a net. Armadillos that are successfully caught and killed are crafted into unique bowls by Ned Randall, the father of the NHB’s mama hen, Tes Jolly.
Catching these creatures and dispatching them quickly, without damaging the head or shell, is not an easy task, but it sure makes for some grand entertainment. Our success rates are not very impressive, and the majority of the critters escape the NHB’s path of terror.
During last year’s whitetail hunt, the weather was miserably hot and the sun had sucked the life out of everything in sight. The foliage was dry and brittle, and the normally lush food plots were non-existent due to the drought. Our hunting strategy had to change.
My guide, Jason, dropped me off at a new stand location. Jason thought this spot would be good because of a nearby honey locust tree. The tree was starting to drop its bean pods, and the deer were forced eat the pods because of a lack of other food options.
The heat and humidity were stifling, causing the evening to drag out at an unbearably slow pace. Finally, the golden hour was getting near and I could hear deer movement in the dry leaves.
Peeking around the tree, I spotted two small button bucks making their way toward me. Glancing over my other shoulder, I saw two small bucks foraging for acorns. It wasn’t long before more bucks began showing up.
I quietly counted 11 bucks! I couldn’t believe that none of them had detected my scent. Again, I glanced over the area. Fourteen, 15, 16 bucks! I was smack in the center of a bachelor group, but none was a shooter.
Finally, I could see the tips of dark-colored antlers among the branches at the base of my tree. Looking directly down on him made it tricky to size-up his rack, but I knew he was a shooter as he silently walked around the tree. My heart pounded louder with every step he took. The tall-racked buck calmly stepped into the shooting lane and offered me a quartering-away shot. Silently, I asked God to guide my arrow as I watched the broadhead drive deep into his body.
Miraculously, the majority of the other bucks only flinched and instantly returned to grazing as my buck bounded through the brambles. I tried to gain some composure over my trembling body, but the adrenaline shot through my limbs and I began to shake uncontrollably as I realized that I’d just shot my biggest deer ever.
Jason and I found a small circle of blood at nightfall, but decided to back out and wait until first light to track my deer. The NHB’s human tracking machine, Billie, helped Jason and me look for blood early the next morning. Thankfully, we found a good blood trail that led to my first Pope and Young Club buck. Scoring that buck was the thrill of a lifetime, but sharing the experience with all the “Mississippi girls” made it the hunt of a lifetime, and one I’ll never forget.