Growing up in Wisconsin, Jane Heinks took firearms safety classes. Her dad hunted deer, and she figured she would, too.

It didn’t happen.

“I always thought if I passed firearms safety I would be included with my brothers and my dad when they hunted,’’ Heinks said. “It didn’t turn out that way. I fished with them but didn’t hunt.

“Finally I figured out it was because I was a girl.’’

Today, Heinks, now 52, of New Brighton, not only hunts, she’s a teacher in the popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman program sponsored by the Minnesota DNR.

“I came to the Twin Cities directly out of college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,’’ she said. “I had hunted a year or two in Wisconsin. But no one ever really showed me how to shoot a gun properly until I moved here and met my future husband.’’

Heinks particularly credits her husband, Mike, with demonstrating to her the power of a .30-06 chambered with a 180-grain bullet.

“I shot my first deer with that rifle and bullet, and that deer was knocked right off its feet,’’ she said. “I like that, rather than wounding a deer and having to track it all day.’’

But Heinks didn’t use her favorite rifle when the 2015 Minnesota deer season opened last weekend.

Instead she employed a 12 gauge shotgun, a firearm whose ballistics pale compared to her more favored rifle.

The reason: an injured shooting arm.

“I’m a volunteer with the group Capable Partners,’’ Heinks said. “We take people hunting who have various disabilities, and earlier this fall, I took a few guys from the group on a duck hunt.

“We only got one duck. Worse, I tore up my shooting arm.’’

The injury occurred after the hunt, when Heinks tried to load her young Labrador retriever into the back of her pickup.

The dog jumped up, but not high enough, and when Heinks tried to catch the canine to prevent him from falling over backward, she tore a tendon in her right wrist.

“I ended up in a full-length arm cast,’’ she said. “I was told to see a surgeon on Nov. 11, after the deer opener, to consider operating. But that would mean I couldn’t hunt because with the full-length cast, I couldn’t hold a rifle.

“So I talked the surgeon into seeing me before the opener, on Nov. 5.’’

News delivered on the earlier date wasn’t encouraging. The doctor told Heinks she would have to wear the cast another month.

“I said, ‘Look, I want to hunt deer, and I’ve also got an elk hunt planned for later this fall in Montana, can you give me a different cast, one I can shoot with?’ ’’

The surgeon demurred.

But the woman who wasn’t allowed to hunt as a girl wouldn’t take no for an answer.

She walked out of the surgeon’s office with a cast that was not only shorter, it allowed enough movement of her hand and fingers to squeeze a trigger.

But not of her .30-06.

“The stand I normally sit in usually requires some pretty long shots,’’ she said. “Given the condition of my arm, I decided instead to hunt from a stand where shots of only 50 yards or less are typical. From it, I thought a shotgun would work better.’’

Mike Heinks built handrails on the ladder leading to the new stand, so his wife could climb into it safely on opening morning.

“Considering everything that had happened, when I settled into the stand I was just happy to be there,’’ she said. “Whether I got a deer or not was secondary.’’

Heinks’ 2015 opener — already unforgettable — was made more memorable still when an 8-point buck ambled toward her stand.

Struggling to raise her shooting arm, she nonetheless steadied the cross hairs of the shotgun’s scope on the deer’s vitals.

The buck fell where it stood.

“The doctor says if my wrist keeps healing as it is, I might avoid surgery altogether,’’ she said.

She leaves for Montana later this month.

 

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com