August 30th, 2013

2012 Prois Award Finalists~ Meet Michelle Bodenheimer!

It is a moment I will never forget… that moment when I first heard the bugle of a majestic bull elk echo through the forest. I was in my early 20s. Although it was my first big game hunt, I realized it would not be my last. I was captivated by the sights and sounds of those Central Idaho mountains; they had stolen my heart.

I quickly fell in love with hunting and the idea of harvesting my own food. I immersed myself in instructional clinics, read about our local flora and fauna, and studied the hunting greats. It was not long before I knew my way around the woods, and had mastered my shotgun, rifle, and bow.

Over a decade later, I have traveled the globe on many hunting adventures. I cherish the memories my hunts have given me, the cultures I now know, and the people I have met along the way. The experiences from my hunts have helped define me. I am not only a wife and mother, but a dedicated conservationist and community activist. As a huntress, I recognized my vital role in protecting our natural resources. I am an active member of a number of wildlife conservation groups, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation, and I serve on the board of directors for our local Safari Club International chapter. My hunts abroad have also allowed me the opportunity to serve my fellow man outside the boundaries of North America. In 2009 I was introduced to a wonderful humanitarian relief mission in South Africa which I now diligently support and visit as often as possible. The mission provides much needed aid to orphans and impoverished refugee families.

When I am not hunting for myself, I spend a large portion of my time working to preserve our hunting heritage. I cherish my time volunteering as a shotgunning coach, guide and instructor for several non-profit organizations. There is nothing better than guiding a group of young hunters on their first pheasant hunt, and watching their faces light up when they harvest their first rooster; or leading a new huntress into the forest in pursuit of her first deer.

I do not measure my success as a huntress on the size or quantity of my harvests, but rather on the quality of my memories from the field. This last year my son, Wyatt, became old enough to join me on more challenging hunts. Although I have been blessed with the opportunity to hunt in a number of exotic locations, my most favored hunts have been at home in Oregon with Wyatt. Creating these memories with my son is a much greater trophy than any head I can hang on my wall.

Last fall, however, I feared my outdoor adventures had come to an end. My doctor phoned with questionable results from a biopsy. The next week I was having surgery to remove a mass of breast tissue. My world was crashing down. I questioned whether I would be able to continue to share my passion with Wyatt or others. Although I recovered from my surgery, I was left with permanent nerve damage to my right arm… my shooting arm. Had my last hunt been my last?

I refused to relinquish my passion for the outdoors. I am a huntress and will always be a huntress, and I was not about to let any disability stand in the way. With hard work and determination, I retrained myself on how to position my shotgun and rifle, and how to draw my bow. Within two and a half months, I was back in the field guiding, instructing, and living my dream. I coached Wyatt to his first 3D archery tournament win this past summer, and last month I was again in the forest hunting for myself. I was breathing in the fall colors, the smells, and the sounds. I was where I was suppose to be… in the great outdoors.

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