Linda K. Burch is President of WildTech,
maker of FireTacks Trail Markers and More.
The NHB's, or Nomadic Hunting Babes, meet each year for one or more hunts at various venues around the United States, but mostly in the South. I had missed the hunts in 2005 due to personal issues, so I was excited to be back hunting again with the girls again. This hunt was at Tara Wildlife outside Vicksburg, Mississippi. We were at the "Halpino" location of Tara, a more rustic 2700 acres of managed land.
The Tara area itself is 7000 acres and the Willow Point area is also 7000 acres. Tara's total area is around 16,000 acres of privately owned QDM land. We had a group of ten ladies this year, representing seven states. Sheila Burnham from Jackson, Mississippi was one of them. In fact, she was picking me up from the airport and I would be staying at her home that night in Jackson with the rest of the gals before we caravanned the one hour to Tara the next day. We would hunt Sunday evening through Wednesday morning.
As I dragged my camo bags out to the curb at the Jackson airport upon arrival, I strained my eyes in the dark looking for Shiela's car. There she was, with her trademark smiling face! I abandoned my bags and ran around to the driver's side of her car and opened the door. "Give me a hug girlfriend!" I demanded, grinning ear to ear. She turned demurely in her car seat, arms wide, and we embraced. "I'm so glad to be back here this year, I sure missed ya'll". Here I was a Yankee saying "ya'll" within the first few moments of being in Mississippi. Too funny. Shelia popped the trunk and I got myself loaded. Her back seat was full already, with her wheelchair and other gear. I loaded all my stuff and we sped off for her home where the other ladies were already gathered for the pre-hunt 'slumber party'.
Sheila and I chatted non stop for the 45 minute drive. She had just endured a hard 12 months, she said. Hurricane Katrina and Rita had left good friends of hers homeless, and she housed them for several months. The parent of one of those friends died during that time. She had also been in the Nachez 25 mile hand cycle race and gotten a pressure burn that required three months of rehab. Add to that, she had neck surgery (cervical disectomy) right after that and was down for another 13 weeks. She recounted these disasters in her velvet voiced southern drawl, sounding more like a national news anchorwoman than the person who just experienced such a halacious year.
After filling me in, she noted to me softly, "Linda, this is the first year I have ever really felt really disabled". I was stunned to silence with this comment and was glad we were in a dark car driving because I got tears in my eyes. Sheila had, after all, been paraplegic (see info below) and in a wheel chair for some fifteen years. That she only now regarded herself as disabled during these recent health issues hit me like a brick. Suddenly my own paltry litany of woes seemed insignificant. This woman was a goddess to me. I don't know that I could have her positive attitude were I in the same circumstances as she.
We arrived at her beautifully decorated and gracious home located in a gated community, and we girls talked and shared anecdotes and stories until way too late. It was good to be back with the NHB's again. Sheila had prepared an incredible spread of food and beverages for us.
The Ladies enjoy their time together.
The next morning we all drove to Tara Wildlife for our hunt. Sheila gets carried to and from her ground stands by the guides, and hunts from either a commercial blind or natural setups at ground level. She would like to have setups higher off the ground however, to increase her visibility. She started hunting in 1998 when, after getting honored as Miss Wheelchair Mississippi, was asked to participate in a women's gun hunt where she shot her first two deer. She was mentored by outdoor writer, Kathy Butt, who encouraged her to take up archery. Shelia's passion for hunting was immediate. Her brother Joe continued by teaching his sister all the finer points of archery. Today, Sheila is as avid a hunter as any. She is very independent, has a wicked sense of humor, and to me she is the epitome of a gracious and charming southern lady while at the same time being just "one of the guys". Sheila has yet to arrow her first deer, but that is irrelevant. Sheila Burnham, quite simply, is the most incredible hunter I know.
Shelia dropping clays one at a time.
Our four days at Tara Wildlife were packed with lots of serious hunting in between rain storms and tornadoes, but the deer were very jumpy from the mosquito invasions so only deer was harvested. The rest of the whitetails were in full gallop trying to escape the bugs. One of the ladies took a shot at a beautiful 8 pointer, but her arrow glanced a branch and missed.
This year the NHB's were:
The Nomadic Hunting Babes
Linda Kistler Burch, Minnesota, self employed accountant, owner of WildTech Corp., outdoor writer, President - Womenhunters.org.
Tes Randle Jolly, Alabama, professional photographer and outdoor writer, business owner
Lisa Methany, Indiana, outdoor writer and ProStaff, WomenHunters.org
Linda Owen, Alabama
Kathy Butt, Tennessee, professional photographer and outdoor writer, professional guide
Sheila Burnham (see below)
Julie Schuster, Tennessee, manager at Bass Pro and radio personality
Michelle Bartemus, Iowa, advertising executive for the National Rifle Association, cancer survivor
Sheila is a retired claims adjustor of some 23 years, and was a 10th grade school teacher prior to that. In 1991 she had a freak accident, falling three stories from a condominium balcony onto crushed rock below. She broke her back and is an "incomplete paraplegic", meaning, she still has use of her leg adductor and abductor muscles so she can lift her legs. At age 45, she was paralyzed from the waist down. She took up horseback riding (dressage) for therapy. Her marriage was a casualty in part from her disability, but Sheila maintained her great attitude and went on to win Miss Wheelchair Mississippi in 1998. She became involved in other organizations as well. It was then she got acquainted with the Wheelin Sportsman organization, and participated in their women's disabled hunt, harvesting her first two deer with a rifle. She loved hunting and started turkey hunting after that, and took up archery as well participating in her first women's archery hunt in 1999. She could only pull 15 pounds with her bow initially, but has worked her way up to 45 pounds now. Sheila won the Safari Club International Pathfinder Award in 2005, the first woman to receive that honor. Among her prizes, was an African Safari where she took a total of 6 animals with her gun, including a greater kudu and a hartebeest. Sheila is involved with many organizations, including Wheelin Sportsman, SILK (State Independent Living Counsel) and others. Sheila did some competitive shooting, but her true passion is hunting.