I Don’t Want To Be One Of The Boys.

My early years in life were spent trying to keep up with boys. I had three older brothers, I wore their hand-me-down clothing, I had a boy haircut, and I aspired to doing the things that boys did. To someone who didn’t know my name, I’m sure I pulled it off quite nicely. I was everything that a boy was, except for the details.

As I grew older and began looking more like a girl, I kept my inner tomboy alive in various ways. While other girls were doing their thing at the mall, I kept a fishing pole in my car. I smelled like the stink bait that we would use to fish in the ponds of Oklahoma. It wasn’t unusual for me to be found at the lake sitting on a dock reading a book and catching fish. I wanted to be associated with males more than females.

Fast forward to my late teens and early twenties, and I focused even more on living a life that an outdoorsman would be proud of. I learned to hunt by myself. Most of my hobbies were in male-dominated industries. I even earned my pilots license and flew across the country in a vintage plane just because I wanted to. And also because I got to wear a cool flight suit during the journey that made me feel like I was in Top Gun. I played poker to make money to survive on, and my dreams were made of things that didn’t involve looking pretty. I wanted to be in male dominated industries because that’s where I felt most comfortable.

My first years in the outdoor industry were interesting because back then we didn’t have the influx of females that we have now. Most men had never seen a girl on a pro-staff. I was the first girl they called when Muzzy debuted their pink broadheads. I had shot bigger animals than most people I knew, and I proved myself in the field year after year. Even then I knew that being a woman in this industry was unique, but I still didn’t want to be better than the guys. I wanted them to respect me as something different from them. Something completely different. That was the turning point when I realized that I didn’t have to be one of the guys to be in the industry that I loved.

Breaking down that wall to get women to feel comfortable in the outdoor industry was a labor of love for many women in this industry. Some girls want to be one of the guys. Some of them want to be pretty in camo. And some of them remain anonymous in the backcountry and we might never hear their names. My personal journey has been one of persistence and dedication. I don’t want to be one of the boys because being a lady in this industry is much more fun for me. And I can appreciate all of the women who have taken the step into our world of hunting and fishing. I don’t care if they like to wear makeup in the field, I don’t care if they want pink on their equipment, and I don’t care if they act like a boy or not. All I care about is that we have torn down the preconceived notions that used to follow us ladies around when it came to the outdoor industry. I’m proud of what women have become, and how much we have accomplished.

Do I enjoy it when the guys offer me the nicest room in the hunting lodge? I do. Does it make me feel good when they offer to carry my gear or to help me cross a swift creek with deep running water? Yes, it does. And do I love the fact that I can put on my camo and feel prettier than when I wear anything else? Of course. I’ve grown to understand that being one of the boys is impossible. I’m not a boy. I’m a lady who loves to hunt, fish, and spend my days outside. If I were a boy then I would blend in with the others, so I’m learning to embrace my femininity. I’m learning that being one of the boys isn’t what I was intended to be. 

It’s not a competition to see who can outdo each other when we are in the field. I do stay in shape so that they aren’t waiting for me at the top of the mountain, but I’m not here to ask for special treatment either. I’m here to live my days outside working at a job that I love and bringing home some meat every now and then. I’m not here to show people that I’m stronger than, or better than, the boys. Because I don’t think I would want to be.


Because We Like To Show Off : Thoughts On Social Media

I’m guilty of it also…. “Throwing it back” or “Flashing back” to photos of events that happened long ago. Posting on social media about things we’ve done in the past, and reflecting on those events for our followers to see, even if we had zero followers during the time when the photo was taken.

In fact, I just posted a “#tbt” on my Instagram page.

Why do we do that? Do we not have content to share that is relevant to what’s happening in our lives at this very moment? Do we want attention for things that have happened in the past, quite possibly during a time when social media was not something we had ever heard of? Maybe we just need the positive feedback from people we’ve never met about how cool our life is. Does that make us feel more relevant?

Talking about these questions, and their potential answers, is a part of who I am. I am currently earning my second degree in Psychology, and I love knowing how the human brain works.

In today’s world our brains seem to think about social media more than what it thinks about our current situations. Want to distance yourself from something difficult that’s happening in your world? Scroll through Instagram. Want to find out what other people are suffering through? Scroll through Facebook. Want to have people tell you that you’re pretty, or smart, or relevant? Post on any social media site and wait for it. The comments will come eventually. The people will notice that you want feedback, or approval, and they’ll double tap that photo or comment on how cute you were as a kid.

So, do you want to know why I posted my “Throw Back Thursday” photo today on my Instagram?

Because I recently updated my iPhoto library to the iCloud on all of my devices, and now I have instant access to photos of things that happened years ago. And the photos are cool, and I loved the experiences I had, and I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished in my life. And also because I like to show off.

At least I’m honest! As long as we are posting and sharing on social media for the right reasons it can be an incredible experience. Similar to pulling out our phones and scrolling through photos with friends and talking about life experiences, posting on social media can be a nice way to introduce our world to others. It can also backfire. Relying on positive reinforcement or feedback from “followers” whom we’ve never met can be a gray area in our social world. If people like your photos, that’s great. But don’t base your entire sense of self-worth on other people or what they think of you.

Know your worth. Keep having experiences in life and enjoying each moment as if you were going to snap a photo and post it on social media. Show off for yourself, and you’ll get a lot more out of this world.

Professionals Needing Professionals

When is the last time you heard of a professional athlete, or professional anything for that matter, ask for help from someone else who was also considered a professional?

Does it show signs of weakness for us to ask for help? What about “professional hunters“? And I use that term lightly. What about the hunting celebrities that you see on television and on social media showcasing their abilities to fill their tags and their freezers. Do they ask for help? Do fitness professionals need help from other fitness professionals? What about professional videographers? Can you see them calling a friend and asking about a camera setting when they don’t know the answer?

I feel like I can speak on this topic with some certainty because I fit into all of those categories. I’m not saying that I’m a professional anything. What I’m saying is that I sometimes have to ask for help in all of those areas…

And here’s the secret: It doesn’t make me look weak. In fact, it makes me look stronger and more educated when I reach out to people who know more than I do.

As a hunter who spends more time in the field each year than many other people, I can say with honesty that I need professional guides from time to time. Not all the time, but if I don’t have time to go scout an area or put up cameras prior to season, then I need professional help. What if I want to hunt in a state where I don’t know anybody and I certainly don’t own any property? What if I don’t have a clue where the elk are spending their time in the late season? When I harvest an animal, sometimes I need professional help butchering and packaging it so that I can either share it or store it for later. There’s no shame in that. (And truthfully, I like supporting both small business and guide services because that’s the foundation that our entire industry is built on.)

As an athlete I also need help. Do I spend much of my time eating right and exercising? Sure, I do. But that doesn’t make me a genius when it comes to meal planning, current trends, or even how to lift weights. I reach out for help when I feel like I can advance further on my platform by having a professional step in with some advice. I recently hit a plateau on my fitness journey and I reached out to one of the best fitness experts I know. Her knowledge and advice pushed me in the right direction, and now I can feel the changes in my body as I’m getting even healthier than before. If I had been too full of pride to reach out, I would still be back there trying to convince myself that I know what I’m doing.

Keep in mind when you see a popular “professional” on television or on social media that they probably also have to ask for help once in a while. Many hunts that you see are not as easy as what they’ll have you believe. Does it show weakness if they tell you the truth – That they asked a guide to help them? Would that make you judge them? In my case, and I can’t speak for others in this industry, I don’t care if it makes me look weak.

I’ve said it before; I’m not a professional hunter. I co-own one of the most successful production companies in our industry, I host television shows, I film hunts, I run a business, and I spend my days outdoors more than most people do. It’s really that simple. That does not make me any more of a professional than someone who hunts on the weekends for fun. And it means that I probably need more help than anybody.

I have noticed a trend lately where people are publicly shaming others on social media for hiring guides or for hunting in areas where they get a guaranteed shot at an animal. I want to remind everyone out there that we are all on the same team as a hunting community, and before you judge someone for making a decision to hunt in a certain way you should evaluate your reasons for judging them. 

Don’t Put Your Camo Away Yet

Back during turkey season we wore ourselves out trying to get every ounce from the final camo clad days on our calendar until archery season opens up. For a lot of people turkey season symbolizes the beginning of a lull in their hunting schedule. We hang up our camo, air out our boots, and wait for deer season to open.

It doesn’t have to be that way! There are plenty of ways to get back into your camo during the summer months, but you may want to consider investing in some light weight clothing instead of your winter gear.

I’ve put a little list of ideas together for those of you having withdrawals from hunting season…

  • Bowfishing : There are opportunities to bowfish in many states around the country, and the good news is that it won’t break the bank to get it done. Check your states Game and Fish website for regulations, but consider throwing some camo cutoffs on and hitting the water with a bow. Don’t want to spend a lot on a bow fishing rig? Hit up the local pawn shop! I bought my first bow fishing bow in an old shop for around $30. You can easily convert an old bow into a fishing bow within a couple hours. Try giving it a custom paint job yourself with some tape and spray paint! Or, if you spend your money on a local guide they typically have a bow fishing setup for you to use instead of you bringing your own. Bowfishing is also a great way to practice your archery skills before deer season opens back up.
  • Frog gigging – Who doesn’t love frog legs? This is something that the whole family can get in on, although it’s more common in the southern states. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from a pond in the woods where my uncle taught me how to gig a bullfrog. To add an extra element to the fun, make your own gig. Get creative with it! Also, be sure to purchase a hunting license and check your state bag limits.
  • Hog hunting – In most states wild hogs are not considered a game animal. The only state that I’ve hunted in that regulates the number of wild hogs that you can take is California, so if you live there be sure to purchase the necessary tags and licenses. Most southern states, however, have no limit and do not consider hogs a big game animal. If you’ve seen the damage that these things can do to crops and farmers’ fields you won’t feel bad about shooting them. While some people shoot so many that they don’t use the meat, we restrict our harvest numbers to only what we will use. We process the meat and keep it, or give it to friends and family. Contrary to popular belief, most wild hogs taste exactly like store bought pork. I recommend shooting the ones in the 50 – 150 pound range for best flavor, and the sows will taste better than the boars because of the testosterone levels in their system.
  • Late season spring bear hunt – While everybody else is laying by the pool and going on their summer diet, wouldn’t it be nice to sit in a tree stand and work towards filling a bear tag? Some states have spring bear seasons that last up until mid to late June! Sure, it will be a little warm outside, but this is one way to continue your hunting season while everyone else is just daydreaming of putting their camo back on. Montana, Idaho, and some other western states have late seasons (and some have over-the-counter tags), so consider planning your summer vacation around that!
  • Just put on your camo because you like it. That’s what I do. Nothing to be ashamed of there! I feel more confident in camo than in anything else, and even if I’m not hunting sometimes I just want to be in camouflage.

It’s always nice to extend our hunting season for as long as we can. I personally keep my camouflage out year round. I never put it away, and I definitely put it to the test with the number of days I spend in the field. Last weekend I hunted  hogs in Tennessee and harvested enough meat to feed my family and friends for about half of the year. We night hunt for them also, which is a good way to avoid the heat and get some adrenaline pumping. There’s nothing like looking through a night vision scope at hogs in a field while the bullfrogs croak and the night air is the perfect temperature. Maybe next year I’ll have a late season bear hunt to add to my summer activities. Either way, I can guarantee that I’ll find a way to keep my camo on year round.

Julie McQueen with a Tennessee Russian boar, taken with a .223 and ATN X-Sight scope.

Julie McQueen with a Tennessee Russian boar, taken with a .223 and ATN X-Sight scope.

Fishing for the Silver King

Every year in early June we, along with hundreds of other dedicated anglers, make a pilgramige to the salty shores of Boca Grande, Florida.

We call it Hill Tide; a magical moon phase that changes the oceans tide and flushes millions of crabs into the Boca Grande Pass. The food chain is a beautiful thing, as the tarpon knowingly move in to feed on the crabs. Just as they’ve done for hundreds of years, and possibly thousands, they feed heavily on this natural buffet.

Tarpon are unique because of their “swim bladder”, which is sometimes used for buoyancy or respiratory functions. They “roll” on the surface of the saltwater to gulp air, then they use that air to supplement their energy level. If tarpon are not able to access the surface to get air, they will die. We know that the frequency of their air intake is directly related to the oxygen levels present in the water. Tarpon are the only fully marine species of fish able to breathe air. (myfwc.com)

Along with the tarpon come the sharks, who swim around waiting for one silver fish to break away from the school and show its vulnerability. The humans in the boats are the least of the problems for these fish who are targeted by the huge predators. At least the humans will release the fish after a few quick photos! I have personally witnessed a few shark attacks on tarpon, and even though I realize that it’s a necessary part of natures course, it’s tough to watch.

When we are lucky enough to hook a tarpon we know to hold on tight. They don’t simply fight us from below the surface of the water, they jump straight out of the depths and try to throw the hook by shaking their head furiously. When this happens the angler will lower the rod tip to keep the hook in place. We call the lowering of the rod “bowing to the silver king”. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a proven method for improving the odds.

My largest tarpon weighed 180 lbs. It took me about 35 minutes to finally get her to the boat. She was beautiful, she was exhausted, and we cared for her until she felt well enough to swim away on her own. In addition to photos, we also take DNA samples to send in to biologists to improve the overall health and wellness of the tarpon population.

Just a few days ago I managed to land my second largest – a beautiful female who weighed 150 lbs and was 7 feet long!

This is, by far, my favorite fishing trip every year. I love Boca Grande and the rich history of the little fishing town. I love tarpon and what they represent as a game fish. We fight to protect them and their safety in numbers so that we, and future generations, might always have this fight of a lifetime to look forward to each June.