Friday, October 27, 2006

The Thrill of the Hunt

It was getting dark and I was anticipating that my guide would remark, “I’m calling it” as he typically did when dusk settled upon us and we have had no luck on our hunt. This evening though, was different.

As I waited for those three words that would end our hunt, my guide grabbed my elbow and instead whispered, “Deer in the field.” That was my cue. My heartbeat quickened as I moved in slow motion. I folded my right leg beneath me on my chair to give myself some added height. I lifted the gun from where it rested in the corner of the blind and painstakingly maneuvered it – onto my shoulder, through the slat in the blind.

I quickly ran through the “rules” in my mind … I released the safety, placed my finger gingerly on the trigger and looked through the scope. And, I couldn’t see a thing. I whispered to my guide for some help and he grabbed my shoulders to guide me in the right direction.

As if I wasn’t nervous enough, when the deer appeared between the cross hairs of the scope every sense was heightened. I could hear my own breathing as my guide reminded me what to do – don’t hold the scope to close to your eye or we’ll be stitching you up, center the cross hairs just below the deer’s shoulder, slowly squeeze the trigger. Check, check, check – I did it. I pulled the trigger.

Surprisingly, I barely heard the gun shot – it was silent compared to my practice round. It was after I pulled the trigger that I realized I was shaking and so was my guide who hands remained frozen on my shoulders. I think he was as shocked as I. (I’m quite certain that no one believed I would actually go through with it!)

“Did I get him?” I asked. “You got him, you got him,” my guide yelled. I think he was even more excited than I. He had successfully converted a Jersey Girl into a huntress. A task that very few thought he would accomplish, including myself and my husband. (He still calls me “killer”.)

I placed the gun back in the corner of the blind and followed my guide out into the field. He was walking so fast I could barely catch up. He told me to stay put, which thrilled me (note the sarcasm) since it was pitch black and I was in the middle of nowhere. I watched the light of his flashlight, so in case something started chasing me I would know which direction to run in. After what seemed like forever and was actually about thirty seconds, my guide called me over.

He asked me where I thought the deer went down. I pointed and by gosh, I was right. I picked up the blood trail with the flashlight and followed it into some brush, where the deer lay. My immediate reaction was, “oohhh”. I felt horrible. I was so sad. My guide was quick to remind me that we hunt for a reason – we hunt to cull the deer population. If we didn’t, the deer wouldn’t survive as there is not enough food or resources for a large population, so we keep the population in check.

The ride back to our meeting point was silent, I was still debating whether I had done a bad thing or not. Once we re-joined the group, spirits were high. I was the only one who got a deer that afternoon, on the last day of the season. And since it was my first, I was treated to a ritual – blood from my first deer was smeared on my cheeks and my nose, like war paint - paint that I proudly wore as I promptly got in my car and drove right over to my mom’s house where the rest of the family was having dinner. I just couldn’t resist!

This experience took place during last years hunting season. However, I remember it like it was yesterday. As the fall air chills - much to my own surprise - it seems I have a hankering for going hunting again. Who knew?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is currently the proud owner of a pair of camouflage pants. Courtney can be reached at

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fido for President

I need you to help me understand something.

Three to four thousand people attended the Shelter Party and Treat Fest last weekend. This is a remarkable number and I am thrilled that the Palmetto Animal League is receiving such great support. I am, after all a dog lover at heart. However, I have to admit that this number shocks me.

Let’s review… On November 15, 2005, 265 Bluffton voters came out for our local election. This was a mere 22% of the nearly 1200 registered voters.

We throw a party for pets and thousands come out of the woodwork. Let’s be conservative and estimate that 40% of Pet Party attendees were adults of voting age. Then, let’s assume that there were 3,500 people in attendance. That means that 1,400 people woke up in the morning, took a shower, ate breakfast, grabbed a leash, treats, and poop bags, loaded the dog into the car and drove to the event.

How come 1,400 people can’t be moved to wake up on Election Day, take a shower, eat breakfast and head to the polls? Imagine the ease of not having to bring the dog with you. Heck, it is so easy to vote. Why aren’t more of us taking advantage of our right to vote?

If all of the adults who attended the Shelter Party were registered and voted in the upcoming elections, we would see a 528% increase in numbers at the polls. That is an impressive number.

Moving on … here is a sample of topics discussed in the VOX and blogs in the last week:

Those damn left-wing liberals.
Those damn right-wing conservatives.
Those damn Yankees.
Those damn illegal immigrants.
Those damn Sun City-ers.
That damn Bluffton Parkway.
That damn Sheriff.

With 2 available seats on the Bluffton Town Council, how come we aren’t discussing the candidates? There are two so far. Do you know who they are? And why pray tell is no one else stepping up to the plate?

Have you heard? Our Governor is up for re-election. How come we aren’t debating the merits of Governor Sanford and his opponent Tommy Moore?

With our U.S. Representative seat on the ballot this year, how come we aren’t discussing incumbent Joe Wilson and Michael Ray Ellisor.

Voter apathy in Bluffton is an epidemic.

Let’s put our energies into something positive, something that we do have control over. Get off your damn derrieres and vote on November 7 for the state and national races. And, if you would be so kind please vote again on December 5 for our local races.

Oh did I mention that we have two Election Days in Bluffton? I am amazed that with the rampant voter apathy in Bluffton the decision was made to keep two separate elections days in the town. (All so recently annexed residents could experience two elections. Whoopee!) The good news is in 2007, we only have to wake up one morning, take a shower, eat breakfast and vote. What a relief that will be.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. This damn Yankee is really peeved by the voter apathy in Bluffton. Courtney can be reached at

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dear Mr. Politican

One of the things that impacted my life most when I moved from New Jersey to South Carolina was the lack of the legislation that I mention in the letter below, which I sent to Representative Bill Herbkersman a couple weeks ago.

Dear Mr. Herbkersman:

I am writing to request that you sponsor legislation that would require insurance companies to provide coverage for infertility treatment. Currently, 15 states throughout the country require or encourage some type of infertility treatment.

Infertility is a medically recognized disease that affects men and women equally. Still, many insurance companies do not provide coverage for treatment to overcome this disease, but single out infertility for exclusion. I find this to be discriminatory. Well-managed insurance coverage will not place a large burden on insurance companies. Studies have shown that infertility coverage may actually reduce costs by limiting costly treatments that have low rates of success in treating the underlying problem.

In fact, a recent employer survey conducted by the consulting firm William M. Mercer found that 91 percent of respondents offering infertility treatment have not experienced an increase in their medical costs as a result of providing this coverage.

Insurers argue that bearing children is a lifestyle choice. In fact it is. But it is not a choice to have a disease that prevents a person from having the option to bear children.

My own personal battle is that both of my fallopian tubes have been removed due to ectopic pregnancies. During an ectopic pregnancy the baby doesn't make it to the uterus and instead begins to grow in the fallopian tube, until the tube bursts, killing the baby and causing the expectant mom to bleed internally, severely and rapidly. If the woman does not get immediate medical attention, she will die. I have gone through this horror twice, almost losing my life, losing two children and both of my fallopian tubes. The only way I can become pregnant is through in vitro fertilization.

Insurers raise concerns about some treatments and the possibility of multiple births and the associated costs. Reproductive doctors are careful to help couples minimize the risks associated with multiple births. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug 29, 2002) concludes that the incidence of multiple births is actually lower in states that have enacted an infertility insurance requirement than in states without coverage. Why? Because couples with insurance coverage are free to make purely medical decisions when pursuing some infertility treatments, as opposed to other couples who must also weigh financial considerations that often result in medical risk taking, multiple births and a high rate of complications during and post-pregnancy.

In 1998, the United States Supreme Court ruled that reproduction is a major life activity under the "Americans with Disabilities Act." This ruling demonstrates the importance of reproduction and the impact that infertility, in which the ability to reproduce is impaired, has on the lives of men and women.

Many affected by infertility do not feel comfortable speaking publicly about this very private struggle, but we represent all racial, religious, and ethnic groups, as well as both sexes. We are neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives, and we just want to experience the joy of raising families without having to bankrupt ourselves in the process. I am willing to tell my story and would encourage you to call upon me anytime.

Please support infertility coverage legislation and help fulfill the dreams of thousands of couples waiting for a family to love.

Courtney Naughton

I was extremely encouraged by the response I received from Mr. Herbkersman, who emailed me within a day and began researching the issue. I hope that Joe and I have the opportunity to work with him and champion this cause.

Statistics tell us that one in every eight couples suffer from some form of infertility. So look around. Chances are some of your friends, your co-workers, or your family members may be interested in learning more. This legislation, while worth ten of thousands of dollars to the folks who need it, is in fact in the end – priceless.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. The 17th Annual National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is October 29-November 4, 2006. More details on the issue can be found online at Courtney can be reached at

Monday, October 09, 2006

Snakes on the Brain

“Um hun, I think you are going to want to change your shoes for this.” That wasn’t a good sign for a flip-flop loving girl just looking for a little excitement on a weekday. It is safe to say that I was a little out of my element a few weeks ago when I embarked on a wildlife expedition.

Due to the diverse group of friends I have made since I arrived, I once again found myself in the middle of the woods (ok, a nature preserve) on a mission. Our purpose – rattlesnake management. The idea was sprung on me merely a day in advance and without enough information to make an education decision, I agreed.

The outing started like this. The back door of a pick up truck swung open and I was invited to jump in. “Not a chance” I remarked as I noticed the white covered bucket labeled “venomous” strapped into the backseat. I slowly backed away and hitched a ride in a non-venomous vehicle.

We drove a few miles into what I lovingly describe as “the middle of nowhere” and we unloaded. We bug-sprayed from head to toe and I watched mesmerized as our leader dubbed “The Snake Girl” gathered her rattlesnake tracking paraphernalia.

Allow me to elaborate. The Snake Girl is a Herpetologist, working with the Savannah River Ecology Lab. There, she derived a research project working with rattlesnakes to determine how different rattlesnake species are affected by development and how these creatures react in our environment throughout the year. She captures rattlesnakes and takes them to a Veterinarian, where they undergo surgery to have transmitters implanted into their body cavities. Once these snakes have fully recovered from their ordeal, they are released back into the wild in the same spot they where captured. The Snake Girl then monitors these snakes for several years before, during, and after development and construction of particular areas.

Now back to the mission. The Snake Girl is now leading us through the woods. She carries a transmitter and large antennae in an effort to pick up the frequency of a recently released snake. We walk for about ten minutes (I was at the back of the pack) slowly following the beep, beep, beep. As the signal gets stronger we are warned that we are coming up on the rattlesnake and we should watch where we walk. (Feeling a little freaked out right about now.) Everyone stills and scans the ground. “Oh look, there he is,” comments the Snake Girl as if we’ve just stumbled upon a friend who we lost in the mall.

And sure enough coiled beneath a pile of leaves and twigs was our rattlesnake, I believe his name is Jay. It seems he has moved since the last spotting and the Snake Girl ties a marker around the closest tree and dates it. This is how she continues to track his movement.

Whew, it’s over. We are back at the trucks and then it hits me. We still have the issue of the venomous snake in the white bucket that has recently been implanted with a transmitter and needs to be released. Woo hoo!

So, we turned around and headed back into nowhere to find a good spot to release our venomous friend. We were told that there were two possible scenarios once the bucket was opened. In Scenario #1, the snake is a little agitated and will rattle something good, probably scaring the heck out of me. In Scenario #2, the snake high tails it (no pun intended) out of there and makes him self comfortable in his environment.

We were lucky to see a little of both. The lid came off, there was some definite rattling and then we watched this amazing creature move smoothly into the ground cover and back home. The Snake Girl marked the tree where he was released and she will continue to track him among his other friends.

This was such an interesting project to witness. And with all of the development taking place in the Lowcountry, it was refreshing to spend time with a group of wildlife experts who’s focus is on ensuring that humans and wildlife can continue to cohabitate.

Ah, just another day in the life of a converted Carolina girl.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Drivers Ed

I got my drivers license two days after my seventeenth birthday, with no restrictions. (The law in NJ is now 16 for a learner’s permit, 17 for your provisional license, and 18 years old for the real deal – not that NJ is better than SC.) A few months later I finally got a car. And minutes after signing the paperwork, I was headed out for a night on the town.

That first outing in my own set of terribly un-cool wheels went like this. Rather than waiting in line to make a left hand turn at the big intersection, I did what everybody did and cut through the parking lot of the movie theater. With no clear entrance and exit lanes cutting through this parking lot was always precarious at best. Well, the car in front of me stopped and started backing up. So, I started backing up and hit the car behind me. I guess I “front-ended” him. Talk about a panic attack. I’d been street legal for all of one hour and already I’d had my first car accident. Thankfully no damage was done and I didn’t have to tell my parents. Well, until now.

I had my fair share (4ish) minor fender benders in my first few years as a licensed driver. Some did require telling my parents and a bit of body work (the car, not me). And it took awhile before I really understood the rules of the road.

I can remember driving with my father and him telling me to slow down. My response was “Dad, the speed limit is 40.” And he said, “yes, but the car in front of you is only going 35.” It still makes me laugh … and realize that we really need to be aware of the drivers who are sharing the road with us.
And, whenever Mom was a passenger in my car and I would be yelling at a careless driver she would warn me, “one day someone is going to pull out a gun and shoot you, you never know who these people are.” Well Mom, you were right.

Last Sunday I attended a party and the topic of road rage came up. We of course discussed the recent incident with the Sun City gentleman who was unnecessarily a target of violence. Then, I heard this story from a friend …

“I was driving down S.C. 170 earlier today and a white GMC Yukon flew past me and cut me off. I noticed that the plates were Legislature plates – S.C. Legislature Plate #97. He was doing 80 mph and talking on his cell phone!” (Yes, my friend sped up and broke the law to read the license plate.)

My immediate response was “you should have called the VOX!” and he said, “I did.” And his VOX comment made a really great point - after all, if we can’t keep our legislators abiding the laws, how can we get them to create the laws that will help our public good?

I don’t know the answer and since only 20% of us vote, I’m not sure that anyone actually cares, but consider this:

• In South Carolina the minimum Permit age is 15 years.
• The minimum License age (with provisions on nighttime driving) is 15 years, 3 months
• Full driving privileges begin at 16, if the provisional license has been held for one year and there are no violations of at-fault accidents on the teen's driving record.

At the risk of creating an uproar in high school lunchrooms across the county, I have to ask, is 15 years old too young to be driving a car? I say, yes.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Since moving here she has shaved 100 miles off of her daily commute and hasn’t yelled at a fellow driver in eighteen months. She can be reached at