“Teach a woman to hunt, and you can hunt for a lifetime.”

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Katie Payne

August 23rd, 2017

Junior Prois Essay

Teach a woman to hunt, and you can hunt for a lifetime.”

I grew up in a family of military men and strong-willed women, with a million boy cousins and one little sister. While all of us were raised shooting guns, my sister and I seemed to always have been left out of any trips targeting anything larger than a gopher. I also didn’t come from a huge hunting family, and for a long time I thought there was no real opportunity to become involved in that world. However, the stories I would hear from friends’ families of bugling bulls, monster mule deer and unbearable buck fever eventually got the better of me, and around fifth grade I began going along on hunts with whoever I could find to take me. The next several years I tagged along on several trips for ducks, elk, grouse, and mule deer, however, even when I became of age to hunt I was still unsure how to become involved for myself. I knew girls that went along on hunts – I didn’t really know any that hunted themselves. None of my friends did, none of their moms did, and my mom didn’t either. Girlfriends, wives, sisters and mothers, I only ever saw them acting in a role of support, never actually participating in the hunt. I felt I had nowhere to begin and too many roadblocks in my way.

However, the hunt that changed it all for me was with a longtime family friend and his father while elk hunting opening morning of archery season a few years ago. It was the foggiest, most still morning I’ve ever experienced to this day. I remember walking through those misty woods feeling like I was on the set of The Walking Dead. Every step I took further into the pines felt more and more like I was stepping into another world, it was so surreal. At one point, my friend stopped and bugled. The near instant response piercing through the mist sent chills up my spine that I still remember to this day. That day pushed me over the edge. I realized that the only thing keeping me from doing it myself, was myself. I realized how badly I wanted this, became a sponge for information, enrolled in hunter’s education immediately, and I was hunting a month later.

In the relatively brief time that I’ve been hunting, I’ve been blessed with a lot of great friends and mentors that have helped me greatly in my efforts, and have given me the opportunity to be exposed to many different types of hunting. Whether it was my first time duck hunting from a blind in early January with icicles clinging to my eyelashes, scaling the Rockies while helping a friend spot and stalk a beautiful mature mule deer buck, bow fishing carp at the canal beneath my house on a hundred degree day, chasing mountain lions through the snow with a team of blue ticks, figuring out what does (and doesn’t) work while pursuing antelope during archery season, managing predators, or even just through learning to tune and work on my own bow and processing my own animals, I have learned and experienced more in the past three years than probably any other period in my life. I have hunted with a bow, rifle and shotgun, both for birds and bigger game. Last fall was a time of firsts for me – I harvested both my first whitetail and my first spike bull, all while my leg was broken. I experienced overwhelming, fall-to-my-knees buck fever for the first time (okay, a few times), shot competitive archery and 3D for the first time, and began completing every step from field to table myself for the first time. I know I haven’t spent my entire life engrained in the hunting tradition, but this is a lifestyle I am absolutely in love with, and plan to take as far as I can. With this, I feel there are two core responsibilities – working tirelessly to keep hunting portrayed in a positive light and as an integral part of conservation, and ensuring the continuation of our sport by serving as a positive role model to the next generation and other women, providing opportunities and confidence to them as they have been provided to me.

One of the things I have found myself to be most passionate about in this life is opening the door for others into our lifestyle and worldview and helping them foster a passion for the outdoor life, or at the very least bring them understanding on why we love to do what we love to do. I truly feel as hunters our primary responsibilities are as educators and conservationists. Without properly educating the next generation as well as the women raising them about our sport, how can we expect it to continue, much less grow in participation and acceptance? Sportsmen are in a minority in this country, but the facts show that the percentage of actual anti-hunters isn’t that high either. The surprising majority of the population sits on the fence, and it is our duty to properly and respectfully educate those who have never been introduced to our lifestyle – the very future of our sport depends on it. As a hunter safety instructor, this is one thing I stress to my students, as well as carry into my own everyday life. Teach the men and women to hunt, and you can hunt for a lifetime.

I also feel that through learning to do things myself, such as zeroing my own rifle, tying flies or fletching my own arrows, I have gained such a sense of independence and confidence within myself, and that is something I want to share with everyone I meet. I feel too many women and girls feel dependent on their dad, husband or boyfriend when it comes to the outdoors, and that anything they do must be under his supervision or within his shadow. I want to prove to them that that simply isn’t so, and that they are more capable than they think. One of my favorite things is seeing the feelings of accomplishment after teaching a woman who has never fired a gun before to shoot with confidence, helping someone get in the 10 ring while shooting a bow for the first time, or showing a little kid how to bait their own hook. I am very passionate about introducing other women and the next generation into the outdoors and am always looking for ways to expand this platform. Currently I am a hunter and bowhunter education instructor and plan to partner with my state’s Becoming an Outdoor Woman program, and plan to further expand upon this platform in pursuit of the Miss America program in a few years.

I am in love with early September sunrises, losing myself in the great outdoors, and finding myself face to face with incredible animals, views and experiences. I am hooked on the shaking excitement of the hunt, the relationships built with other sportsmen and women, and the feeling of accomplishment achieved through feeding my family game I have harvested. My favorite stories to recount all involve this sport – the time I scoped myself from excitement after taking my first buck, the dusky walk through the woods back to the truck holding grouse with an older gentleman I now consider a great friend and mentor, the first time my puppy successfully brought back a mule deer shed, calling back and forth with wise and grizzled bulls, or experiencing a Pope and Young pronghorn buck snorting feet away from my face. I have never left the field feeling as though any time was wasted, but always have felt something gained, and will continue to find any reason to be outside for all the days of my life.

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