When Yolanda Hatch retired from the Navy, she knew she needed to find peace. She also knew she would miss the camaraderie that is special to the Armed Forces. Having served her country as a corpsman for 18 years, she felt like she needed healing and restoration.
So, this energetic, soft-spoken Georgian attended a Women in the Outdoors (WITO) event 3 years ago. She said she wanted to “see what the outdoors was all about.” Whereas most WITO events provide a host of eclectic courses/workshops, this one served up a deer hunt.
“Although I didn’t see a deer that day, I discovered a lot about the outdoors and the healing process,” said Yolanda. “I bonded with my guide, Wayne.” While sitting the stand, Wayne and Yolanda started chatting about family and how it is that she came to want to hunt. She explained to him she and her husband had been taking care of his ailing mother full time and needed an activity that would give them an opportunity to refresh and renew their bonds. It turned out that Wayne had also used hunting to strengthen his family bonds. “I guess the icing on the cake is that we are fellow bikers, which he later introduce to me a riding organization that rode together to honor the fallen veterans and service members” added Yolanda.
She went home and told her husband, Daryl, about her newfound love of the outdoors. He is a Vietnam veteran from the Marine Corps and loved hunting. He, too, wanted to find more time outdoors.
Together, they rediscovered and discovered the joys of hunting. “In fact, my husband started going to Bass Pro Shops, and I started going with him. I call it the ‘men’s toy shop,’” said Yolanda, with a chuckle.
Lynn Lewis-Weis, a certified wildlife biologist for the NWTF in Georgia, describes Yolanda’s journey of discovery.“Part of our new initiative Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. is to create new hunters. Yolanda is what I would consider a perfect example of that creation process from start to finish. She had never hunted before, but was open-minded and interested in learning more. She attended one of our WITO programs several years ago and learned the basics,” said Lynn.
“She took that knowledge, along with the help of several mentors, and has now become, what I would consider, an avid hunter. She is also mentoring others and is now an instructor for our annual state WITO event,” added Lynn.
Yolanda’s mother taught her to appreciate nature, and her father hunted raccoons and other game. He didn’t ask her to accompany him, but is so proud of her now that he recently gave her his shotgun. She named it “Sir Arthur.”
Not content to be a taker, Yolanda continually gives back to WITO by serving on the NWTF committee for an annual WITO event in August. As she did last year, she taught an art class with gourds from her expansive garden. She and Daryl also are committed to hunter safety, and last summer, they completed training to be Georgia Hunter Safety volunteer instructors.
She and her Daryl work side by side in a quarter-acre garden and provide food for 10 families in their community. They have future plans of expanding their garden into an organic farm and sharing fresh produce with others. She also believes, such as with hunting, it is important for people to realize where their food comes from – whether from earth or woods or water.
To that end, Yolanda sees hunting as the ultimate organic experience. “I have a very deep passion for processing the harvest,” she said. “I have six grandchildren, and have already taken one hunting with me. She is already planning on taking her cousin – who is only 17 months old – hunting with us someday.”
Particularly dear to Yolanda’s heart, though, are the women vets who need to experience the tranquility and healing that only the outdoors can provide. “The main thing is to get more women involved in being outdoors, “ she said, “and particularly our women veterans – especially the ones who may suffer from PTSD.”
She also is on the planning committee for the second annual “Geezers & Gals” deer hunt, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, along with the NWTF. “This is a hunting initiative that the DNR allows with certain dates and locations at Wildlife Management Areas throughout Georgia for women and for men 60 and older to hunt,” explained Yolanda.
Since that first deer hunt, Yolanda has tagged a nice buck. She would love to see the “Hartford deer” come into her range someday. She plans on completing a turkey slam, and she has hopes of taking a safari hunt with her husband.
When Yolanda is not gardening, hunting, or planning for another NWTF event, she might be found riding her motorcycle, practicing archery skills in backyard or practicing her defensive shooting skills with her concealed-carry pistol. Or, and this might be a future topic for Turkey Country readers, sewing her own hunting clothes.
Reprinted with permission of National Wild Turkey Federation’s Turkey Country magazine.