I was the typical cheerleader, pageant princess, and vegetarian. Although I occasionally went camping and fishing with my family, I did not value the outdoors. Life as I knew it would change, however, the moment I met my future husband, Todd.
When we were dating, Todd introduced me to the world of hunting. I quickly grew a strong appreciation for the wild side of life. I loved that I could harvest my own food. I loved the opportunity to explore the world outside of the urban setting I had always known and called home. Todd and I dated for three years before we married. By the time we tied the knot, Todd had me rifle hunting big game, shooting a bow, and hunting birds of all sorts. In fact, we celebrated our engagement with a pheasant hunt.
Hunting is now the center stone of our family. We took our son Wyatt on his first hike through the woods at 5 weeks old; he joined us on his first deer hunt at 10 months. Wyatt, now 6, has been by my side on many hunts throughout the Pacific Northwest. Not only does my family enjoy the general hunting season available in our region, all family vacations must include a hunting or fishing expedition!
In June 2009, Todd and I traveled to South Africa for our second safari. The hunt had been successful for us both. Unfortunately, while hunting bushbuck near the end of our trip, Todd suddenly fell ill. Within moments, he was lying lifeless in my arms on the side of a remote mountain. I faced the sudden reality that our hunt was over. Life as I knew it was over.
My hunting guide and I reacted quickly and were able to revive Todd. Part of being a good hunter is being prepared for the unexpected. Despite our remote location, we were able to keep our heads calm, stabilize Todd, and seek the medical care he desperately needed. The next day, Todd underwent open heart surgery for a previously undiagnosed heart defect. We were forced to live in South Africa for the summer until Todd regained enough strength to fly home to Oregon.
Many people asked if I would ever hunt again after that terrifying experience. Although I was afraid to venture far from home, I knew I had to get back into the game. In May 2011, I returned to South Africa to complete my hunt with Crusader Safaris. I was eager to complete my Reedbuck Slam. On previous hunts I had harvested mountain and common reedbuck. It was time to take on the elusive vaal rhebuck. The vaalie is considered among the most difficult small plains game species to hunt. Vallies have eyes like eagles, and can quickly maneuver the high, rocky mountain terrain they call home. After several days of busted stalks, falls, scrapes, and bruises, I found myself staring down the barrel of my gun with cross hairs held tightly on a trophy Vaal ram. Balanced precariously and on my tip-toes, I squeezed the trigger and perfectly executed the 275 yard shot. The ram dropped in his tracks. I was the first woman to successfully spot and stalk a vallie with Crusader Safaris. I was back in the game.
Hunting has helped me recognize a self confidence I did not know I possessed. I take pride in the fact that I call myself a huntress. To me, hunting is more than a sport. It is having the stamina to forge the highest mountains, the guts to push your own limits, the wisdom to know when to take the shot, and the stomach to clean your own harvest.
I am honored to have the opportunity to share my love for hunting with others. Not only am I passing on the hunting tradition to my son, I have been blessed with the opportunity to guide many other women into the outdoors. I now train my own bird dogs, and help guide other women through the BOW and Women in the Outdoors programs in Oregon. Over the past several years I have been increasingly active in a variety of wildlife conservations groups, including RMEF, NWTF, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Women in the Outdoors, SCI, and Sables.
It can no longer be said that “hunting is a man’s sport”. Hunting is also for mothers, daughters, and sisters. It is our responsibility to share our passion for the outdoors and see the tradition is continued!