Is it beautiful because it’s mine, or is it mine because it’s beautiful?…

 

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Scrolling through my social media posts could make a person think that I travel with a constantly rotating arsenal of weaponry. It’s true, I typically have more than one weapon along for the ride when we’re on the road, but I choose wisely when deciding which ones make the cut. Some guns are specifically for one type of game animal, while my bow is highly adaptable to many species. Here are my reasons why I choose to bring along my select few favorites when the moment of impact is hanging in the balance… 

 

1.  My Remington Versa Max 12 gauge in Tactical Black Finish. 

While a lot of girls are choosing their weapons based on the overall weight and color choices available, I typically choose mine based on the reviews from experts, statistics on accuracy, and how I can expect it to perform in real-life situations. Sure, I chose my Versa Max in black tactical because it looks amazing and stands out from the others, but I also chose it because of the reliability and versatility. I love that I can go from 2 ¾  inch shells to 3 ½ inch without altering the weapon. I love the smooth sound it makes as the shell ejects and another takes it’s place in the chamber. It’s sexy and strong all at the same time. It fits well in my arm when I’m packing through the hills, and it stands out from the others when we take a group photo. 

Is it beautiful because it’s mine, or is it mine because it’s beautiful? 

I brought this gun with me on a few trips this year. It followed me to California on a wing-shooting episode where we chased valley quail all over the high ridges. It took a few dove, a few valley quail, and a rabbit. The real trophies in my photos from that trip are not only the game birds, but also my gun. I cleaned it after we finished the hunt, and the simplicity of the process made me commit to it even more. 

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My pheasant hunt in Iowa was something special because I used my black Versa Max. I shot my first rooster with it, and I’ll never forget the moment when the bird fell and my gun and I posed along side it. Even in the brutal temperature of -17 degrees, my weapon never failed me. My thick gloves made it difficult to pull the trigger, but not impossible. 

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It also joined me on a turkey hunt in Tennessee, where I not only harvested one of my largest turkeys with it, but I also managed to fall into a creek with it in my left hand. The gun hit the rock creek bed hard, as did I, and we both walked away from the fall with only minor scratches. These moments are what makes it a real gun. Not something to put on display that will keep it’s new smell for years to come. But a tried and true, dirty and scratched, capable and successful weapon. I’ll keep this gun for the rest of my life. We’ve created too many memories to part ways now. 

 

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2. Remington .300 Ultra Mag

For larger animals we need to pack a punch that will make the kill fast and efficient. My .300 ultra mag has traveled in it’s case on many trips, mostly as a backup and failsafe plan. When someone arrives in camp with a less than sufficient weapon, I’ll always offer to let them use my gun. Although it’s a cliche thing to say, the gun is dead on. If you aim true, and hold steady, it will do the rest. 

I have had the pleasure of harvesting many large hogs with my bow, but recently I decided to take one with a rifle. This caliber was overkill in some ways, but I would rather err on the side of caution and use a bigger gun than the opposite. I shot two pigs, and neither one took a step after the bullet hit them. They fall instantly if you put the bullet in the right place, which isn’t much to ask considering the gun does the rest of the work. 

This gun is smooth. It’s heavy in my hand, but that’s easily solved with a nice sling and shooting sticks. Even a tree branch worked well when holding steady, and in most parts of the world you can easily find a limb to cling to. Some female shooters worry about the recoil on larger caliber rifles. I have two things to say about that; 1. When you are in the moment of the hunt, you won’t feel that recoil. 2. It only hurts for a minute, if it hurts at all.  

I’ve personally had bruised shoulders and cheek bones from guns, but that’s from repeatedly shooting to get action shots for the cameras. In real life situations it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have evidence of the recoil, unless if you forget to tuck it into your shoulder and hold on loosely. A small girl with a big gun is a good thing in my book, and I hope that someday the stereotypes go away that say we need small guns for ladies. Proper shooting techniques are what we need. 

 

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My weapons are crucial to my career, and I care for them as any professional would. They aren’t put behind glass or hung up on a wall. They are used, shot, cleaned, shared, and respected. 

One of the best feelings in the world is to let someone else borrow my gun, and to see them successfully bag their animal with it. This season alone I’ve had a handful of people utilize my personal gun on their hunts, and I beam with pride every time… 

So next time you see me, whether it be in person or on television, take note of which weapon I’ve chosen for that particular journey. Chances are that I have a solid reason for inviting it on the trip. 

 

 

Harvesting Animals Without Killing Each Other

We are seeing more and more husbands and wives, significant others, and newly dating couples that are basing their relationships around being outdoors. Instead of dinner and a movie, the new norm is target practice and grilling out something that either of you have recently harvested.

Acquiring “His and Hers” weapons is now perfectly acceptable as wedding gifts.

 

One of the most common questions that people ask me, after they feel comfortable enough to begin asking personal questions, revolves around my ability to balance a marriage and happy relationship with the person whom I spend all of my time at work. Daniel Lee and I literally spend every waking moment together running our production company, hosting a television show together, and living as gypsies on the road while we chase our dreams. I’ll share what I’ve learned, although it might not be what anyone expects a girl like me to say…

 

  1. He knows a lot more than I do. Let’s face it; the more years we survive living on this planet, the more knowledge we accumulate in our little human brains. Daniel Lee has been here longer than I have; therefore I listen to what he has to say. When we hunt together we hunt as friends. Just as you would respect your best friend in the woods, we take into consideration what the other is thinking. Our hunting styles are different.

He is patient and calculated. I go in like Rambo. He is a talented outdoorsman who is knowledgeable on all things that have to do with hunting and fishing. I am self-taught and typically pretend my way through when I don’t know what I’m doing.

He has a built in compass. I get lost.

So, I listen. This is the guy I have to live with on days when we aren’t hunting. Giving up the need to be right all the time was one of my biggest accomplishments. And, fortunately for me, I married someone who is right more often than I am.

Anybody who has had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Lee will know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s an absolute riot, and one hell of an outdoorsman.

 

  1. Walk in separate directions. Some of my best moments have been spent in the woods when I’m alone. I like to know that I can be there without anybody’s help, just like when I first began learning about hunting.

It’s great to have a hunting partner who you respect and enjoy being with, but there is something healthy about walking separate directions and determining a meeting place at a certain time.

Our time for this is mostly when we hunt hogs. We are both fiercely independent, and hog hunting brings out the caveman in both of us. It’s a no-stress hunt, and neither of us has ever been afraid to get up close and personal with pigs. Therefore, it’s our form of private therapy.

We have learned to choose an area on the property, determine shooting boundaries, set a time to meet back up, and then go our separate ways. In this way we continue learning from each other, all while having some distance between us.

Just like two big Oak trees that grow in the same field. We need space to grow, but we like to look across and see the other thriving in the wild.

 

  1. Don’t wear pajamas on road trips. We put about 40,000 miles a year on our truck driving from one location to the next for our production company. We sit side by side in that truck to get from point A to point B, and it’s nice to actually enjoy looking over at the person next to you. I’m not saying that he judges me by my clothing of how my hair looks, but putting a little effort in can go a long way.

Whoever says that television production work is glamorous hasn’t witnessed us on the tail end of a 24 hour road trip.

 

  1. He is perfectly capable of driving without my input. We pull a 43 foot production trailer behind our truck everywhere we go. It’s taken me a while to learn that my white knuckled grip on the door handle will not make him press the brakes any faster. It will, however, manage to annoy him. Driving with an annoyed husband is no more fun than driving with a wasp in the cab of the truck. I’m allowed to hold on for dear life, just not every 10 miles.

 

  1. Have the same conversations that you had when you first began hunting together. We still talk about the anticipation of a hunt. We still talk strategy on our way to the woods. And we still play our “rally song” on the drive in to ensure that our hunt will be epic. (Our rally song is by Molly Hatchey, “Dreams I’ll Never See)

The moments in between hunting can be just as crucial to your success as the moment you pull the trigger. It all adds up to an experience and a culture that has been passed down to us to ensure our time spent here on Earth is meaningful and fulfilled. For me, talking about the hunt with someone I love brings me back to reality and keeps my feet on the ground. Instead of looking for the next thrill, we re-live the amazing moments we’ve shared in the field.

  1. Respect their quirks. Sometimes when we hunt I think that I’m the stealthiest girl in the world. I can walk over a trail of dry sticks believing that I haven’t made a sound. Our rule is that when the leader stops, the follower stops immediately also. It’s common courtesy. At times I have thought that Daniel Lee was being loud on purpose. Obviously, he wouldn’t do that, but the hunter inside of me couldn’t help but wonder if I would have better success working alone on that particular stalk.

And then it happens…. I step on a twig that gives out under the weight of my boot, and suddenly I’m a mere mortal again. Just like my husband.

In the same way that I judge his ability to be stealthy, he judges mine.

And we both know that we hunt better together. We have accomplished more as a team than we could have alone. And even if we don’t accomplish our goal, or if our stalk doesn’t work out for some reason, we both mutually agree that the other is just as loud as we are.

 

  1. And finally, set your goal ahead of time. When we travel to destinations we have an ultimate plan. We have a production schedule, paperwork to file, budgets to work within, cameramen to organize, shot lists, camera gear to clean and organize, people to entertain, and animals to harvest. It’s a full time job just getting everything ready for the hunt most of the time.

Before we ever arrive on location we determine what our responsibilities are. If Daniel Lee will be hunting and I will be behind the camera, then he is allowed to talk to me just like he might talk to any cameraman. And I can talk to him just like a cameraman would talk to a producer. That boundary and level of respect cannot be taken for granted.

When those rules are set in place we all know what is expected of us ahead of time.

Seeing it all come together makes the long hours worthwhile. We create something amazing every time we go somewhere. I know that I couldn’t do it on my own. My success is completely determined by his.

Keeping that in mind is what makes us work well together. I know he’s typically right more often than I am, we both practice our skills so we don’t let the other down, we remember where we came from, and we enjoy every moment as if it might be our last time taking that walk through the woods in this lifetime. Even if neither of us are stealthy at all.

 

 

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A Story of Turkey Season : Prove Me Wrong and Hit Me In The Face…

As turkey season begins winding down for many of us, it’s good to reflect back on what made this season stand out from the rest. Every season is special when it’s your passion in life.

This season stands out because it proved me absolutely wrong. 

I had just told Daniel Lee that we never actually shoot a bird in the initial spot where we set up in the morning. It always ends with us running through the hills with the decoys in one hand, guns in the other hand, leaving our backpacks behind, and hoping that we remembered to shove extra shells in our pockets. 

Needless to say, my bird came in from across the field, and I was planted in the exact spot where we had set up at daylight. The Tom put on a show with his freakishly white head bobbing across the green field. He wanted to get to know our big Tom decoy and the svelte hens that were standing by. 

I put the bead on his head as he came in closer. I watched him while he put on a show, and in the back of my mind I tried to wrap my mind around the level of respect I had for him. He didn’t know he was being watched by 4 people and countless camera angles. He didn’t realize that he was in any danger.

I had no remorse as I removed the safety on my beautiful black Remington Versa Max. I felt the cold trigger under my finger, and then I checked back to be absolutely sure that I had taken that safety off. I had. And just when my finger pulled that trigger, and just as I struggled to keep my dominant eye completely open during the trauma of the shot, the bird flopped. A sure sign that my aim was true. 

I had snuggled in so close to the top of my gun that the recoil bruised my cheekbone. Getting down on the gun and keeping my eye on the prize are never a problem for me. To a fault, I will cuddle my gun into my cheek to be sure that there is no room for error. 

And then I ran. I rushed the bird just in case if he had the energy to fly. He didn’t. My beautiful bird lay in the place where he fell. And I celebrated over him, and i prayed over him, and I basked in the glow of the story coming together. 

And this season has ended for me just like every season before. I walk away from my time in the turkey woods with ticks, a sore cheekbone, and enough turkey breast to feed us and a few friends for an evening. That bird will live on in my mind as the one that proved me wrong in so many ways. 

People often ask me what I love most about my job. I love that I was able to give up the need to be right a long time ago. And I love that nature proves me wrong over and over, and it just makes me have even more respect for it. 

 

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The Average of 5 : Surrounding Ourselves with Greatness

There is a saying that goes like this…

“You are the average of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time.”

In a world where so many young people are striving to become relevant and we are overwhelmed with misinformation on the internet, I’m proud to work in an industry where I can easily surround myself with like-minded peers. Specifically the women and young ladies who have bravely made the conscious decision to work in the hunting and fishing industries.

Many young girls get their start in hunting from their Fathers or Grandfathers, which may just be a core reason why they have high standards and a good grip on life. Teaching young girls not only how to shoot a gun, but also how to clean and care for that gun, can only breed a generation of positive and inspiring young women who know how to take responsibility for themselves.

I’m proud to be a part of the female movement in our industry. We don’t just put on our camouflage and sit in the blind while someone else does the dirty work. We educate ourselves and take pride in putting food on the table for our family. We wake up before the stars have gone to bed, and sometimes we struggle to put on all of the base layers that we so desperately need to guard from the cold. We live and breath the culture that is hunting. We love the smell of fish slime on our hands. And hearing somebody praise us for a job well done and a trophy well earned causes us to immediately forget that stinging cold wind and the growling in our stomaches from not having time for breakfast. We are hunters.

Because I have been in my industry for over a decade I’ve seen some women come and go by the wayside because they weren’t genuine. They were here for the free meal, not to put the meal on the table. Now I find myself surrounded by ladies like Jana Waller, Eva Shockey, and Melissa Bachman (among many others) and it makes me proud to be a part of the hunting and fishing heritage that we fight so desperately to keep.

Surrounding ourselves with like-minded and positive people can only make us better in the long run. It’s not a competition, it’s a team effort to pass this down to the next generation of hunters and gatherers. When we stop trying to be the best, trying to know it all, and striving to set ourselves apart – that’s when we will realize that we are stronger as a group. Our voices resonate louder, and as long as we are all shouting the same thing, it will be difficult to argue.

In many industries the women fight over who is prettiest or most popular. I find that it’s difficult to fight with a group of talented ladies who are well trained in weaponry (and likely have a sidearm at all times), so instead of trying to be the best, we encourage each other to keep up the good reputation and continue setting a good example for the young girls who so desperately want our jobs. And with a little help and encouragement, hopefully someday those little girls grow up to be just like Jana, Eva, Melissa, and countless other talented huntresses that I have the pleasure to work beside.