I 'd never held a firearm before September of 2003. I wasn't scared of guns or even nervous around them. The idea of picking one up had just never occurred to me. Yet, on an early autumn morning I found myself at a rifle range with a .22 at my shoulder, and deputy editor David Petzal next to me saying, "Just take your time." A week earlier, I had lucked into a women's hunt for mule deer in New Mexico. I had absolutely no hunting experience, no rifle skills, and no history in shooting sports whatsoever. But the hunt welcomed novices, and I was curious. After showing me how to sight in, Petzal took me through the anatomy of a rifle, showed me three shooting positions (prone, kneeling, and offhand), and had me fire at targets from 25, then 50 yards. When I was sure of what I was doing, we switched to a Tikka T3 in .270. Over the next few weeks, I caught myself looking forward to the smell of gunpowder. Petzal and I moved to the 100-yard range and finally out into the autumn woods, where he had me stalk deer decoys. Throughout our morning lessons, he encouraged Zen-like principles of focus and relaxation. As he helped me to trust myself and quiet my impulses to rush or overthink, I worked my way up to the mid-November game day.