For Hartland Family, Hunting Is a Three-Generation Tradition
Amanda Dickinson, 23, of Hartland, front, has been hunting since she was 9. She learned about hunting and the woods from her mother, Renee, left, her father, Sean, right, and her grandfather Wayne Barrows. Barrows owns Barrows Point Trading Post in Quechee, where an 11-point buck shot by his granddaughter is displayed.
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Amanda Dickinson, 23, of Hartland, comes from a family
of hunters, learning about animals and the woods beginning with her first hunt at age 9. There was never any doubt in my mind that I was going to be a hunter, she said.
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Hartland — For Amanda Dickinson, there’s nothing quite like being in the woods when they wake up. There’s the silence first, but then the sunlight starts to flicker through the trees and the animals start to move around.
“It’s serene,” she said. “You’re away from traffic noises.”
And you never know what nature will do when it encounters you.
“(You might) have a chipmunk run over your shoe,” said her father, Sean.
“Or an owl try to land on your head,” said her mother, Renee.
“There’s a lot of different things for people to take in and enjoy,” said her maternal grandfather Wayne Barrows.
Dickinson, 23, has known the woods for as long as she can remember, learning how to identify animals by sound and how to find her way through thickets of trees. It’s the way she and previous generations of her family were brought up. It’s the way Barrows taught her mother, and the way her father and grandfather both taught her.
“We were taught to live off the land,” Renee Dickinson said.
Part of that education was learning to hunt.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that I was going to be a hunter,” Dickinson said.
Her father and grandfather taught her how to shoot, how to make a clean kill. Growing up, she was taught to treat deer “with respect all through the year, not just hunting season,” she said. And to kill only what you need.
“We’re going hunting to put food on the table,” Renee Dickinson said.
Barrows has owned Barrows Point Trading Post in Quechee for 24 years. Inside the shop, the walls are crowded with pic
tures of family and friends posing with their catch from hunting outings. There are antlers and mounted bucks — all taken by family members.
“You wouldn’t believe the memories we have,” Barrows said.
When she was 9, on a youth hunting day, Dickinson’s parents, grandfather and uncles took her out on her first hunt. When they came across deer in a field. Dickinson and her father walked out toward them. She got ready, pointed her rifle toward a deer and lined it up through the scope on the top of the rifle.
“All my uncle kept saying was ‘Amanda, shoot!’ I finally shot and unfortunately, I didn’t hit it where I was supposed to,” she said. “It wasn’t a clean kill.”
The deer took off. Dickinson and her family tried to track it, but couldn’t find it at first.
“I was just walking around,” she said. “I don’t want it to suffer.”
Unable to find the deer, the family returned home. Later, Dickinson’s uncles went back out and found the deer.
Dickinson said she felt relief at first. “And then there was the pride that came into it,” she said. “My very first hunt. I’m 9 years old. My family is all around me and I end up getting it.”
The pride was felt all around.
“My dad has said one of the most enjoyable things in his life is to see his child take a deer,” Renee Dickinson said. “I didn’t believe him until I saw (Amanda) take one.”
“It doesn’t matter if I ever get another deer,” Sean Dickinson said, because seeing his daughter take one, and watching the hunting tradition carry on, means that much.
“Being an only child, I was brought up to be able to take care of myself,” Dickinson said. “I can hunt. … I can change the tires on my car. I can change the oil on my car. My dad wanted to make sure I knew how to take care of myself.”
But being a woman in what is typically seen as a man’s activity isn’t always easy, and the Dickinson women know that firsthand.
When Renee Dickinson first learned to hunt, the reaction she occasionally encountered was “girls didn’t do that” and she was cautious to talk about hunting outside of her family.
“Girls were brought up to do girl things,” Barrows said. “Hunting wasn’t considered a girl thing.”
But Barrows didn’t care. His daughter was going to learn to hunt. And if someone in his hunting group had a problem with it, they didn’t have to be part of the group any longer.
When Vermont’s youth hunting days began in the 1980s, the role women played in the sport began to change.
“Youth weekend was the biggest change of bringing girls into hunting,” Barrows said. Instead of fathers just teaching their sons to hunt, they began teaching their daughters, too.
While Vermont has a lower percentage of female hunters compared with states in the West, there has been an increase in the number of women who have signed up for hunter safety courses, said Christopher Saunders, hunter education coordinator for Vermont. This year, between 30 and 40 percent of course graduates were women.
“I think early on, in the beginning, there was some resistance because it was seen as a male-dominated activity. They saw it as an intrusion,” said Saunders, who has been coordinator for eight years.
That attitude began to change, however, when hunting numbers began to drop.
“There’s a recognition that if this activity is going to continue, we need support and find new people to do it,” Saunders said. “It’s not, at its core, a gender-biased activity. It’s about getting (out) there and enjoying nature and getting some local meat if you’re lucky.”
Over the last 10 years, Saunders has noticed the hunting community become more accepting of women, though he concedes that he doesn’t like to use the word “acceptance” because it shouldn’t be an issue.
“There’s no more room for machismo and misogynistic behavior in hunting,” he said.
But Dickinson and her family have long since gotten past that type of behavior. Because when it comes down to it, hunting isn’t just about getting a deer. It’s about getting up before daylight and eating a big breakfast with family and then piling on layers of clothing and going out into the woods.
It’s about the shared laughter when a flock of turkeys startle the deer.
It’s about being in the woods they grew up in, with the family they grew up with.
“We could care less if we got a deer,” Dickinson said, “but it’s a family affair.”
Liz Sauchelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3305.