The Beauty Of The Written Word

I used to aspire to see my image in magazines. Like many other girls I felt that I had something special to offer. And now I’ve realized that I do have something. But it’s not the way I look.

Seeing my name in print above an article that I’ve written is one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve known. The hours of writing, re-writing, editing, adding words, taking those words back out, and proof reading that go into these articles is mind numbing.

But then one day a magazine shows up in my mailbox that I get to scan through until I see my name at the top. An article I wrote about something I believe in, and then I realize that what I have to offer runs deeper than any superficial beauty. My brainpower is one of my greatest gifts, and using it to spread the word about our hunting community is a blessing.

Check out the latest Mule Deer Foundation magazine for my 2nd article from my 3 part series. I’m quite proud of it. And you’ll continue finding my name in that magazine in the future, as I’m doing my best to contribute to this wonderful organization and the conservation efforts of our beloved mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat.

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Being Kind To Others

I believe in karma. I believe that if you are nice to people, then you will find more kindness in this world than you can imagine. I also believe that there is no excuse for rudeness. My parents taught me that there is never any reason to be unkind to people, even if they treat you poorly. And the only reason that we should be looking over at someone else’s plate is to be sure that they have enough. Not to compare what we have.

Social media, however, has opened up new doors for people to be rude and inconsiderate without having to face the consequences. It has enabled some people to make comments or say things that they would never imagine saying to someone’s face. I live by the rule that I don’t say anything on social media that I wouldn’t want my family to see. The people who harass hunters and threaten us obviously don’t live by that rule.

What if somebody wrote a book that was full of quotes from what you’ve said on social media? Would you be embarrassed? Would you allow your family to read it?

Turning my cheek to the ugly comments is my preference. I choose kindness because I’m happy with who I am and what I do in my life.

I do have a degree in psychology, but I’m not the first one to point out that people who put others down and publicly shame others are lacking in confidence and have underlying issues. People who insult others whom they’ve never met have serious personal problems. I choose to be nice and to focus on kindness in my world so that some of that positive energy stays with me at all times.

Hunting Dinosaurs

Most people know that hunters chase elk in September. It’s the time of the year, and the season, that we all look forward to. After hot summer months there is something refreshing about the high altitude cold and the sound of screaming bulls. I control our filming schedule, and I did something different this year. I booked an alligator hunt in Florida instead. Why? Because I wanted to. We drew tags through the lottery system, we love gator meat, and it was the perfect time for us to tag a few gators prior to our busy fall filming schedule.

Hunting alligators is different than most people might think. I guess some guides have different styles of hunting them, and the way we chose to go about it was a little more dramatic than most. We ride on the front of a boat in the middle of the night while holding onto our weapon of choice. That weapon can be a bow, a crossbow, or a harpoon. All of them have buoys attached to a rope, and the point is to tag the animal with the buoy. After you tag the animal, you follow the buoy, pull it up to the boat, and harvest the animal with a bang stick.

We all know that alligators hide up on the banks, slightly submerged, while their yellow glowing eyes watch us. The system our guides use is to run the boat up on the gator as fast as possible, while judging the size of the animal, and then releasing the arrow as soon as we have a clear shot. If it’s a really big alligator then sometimes we’ll put multiple buoys into it just to be sure.

In Florida it’s required by law to use a bang stick to harvest the alligator after you get them up to the boat. Imagine a gun that looks like a broomstick… It has a .357 caliber bullet inside, and you tap the animal on the head, right between the eyes, while it’s slightly under the water. As soon as the end of the stick makes contact water explodes everywhere. It’s actually a more humane way of finishing the hunt than many other methods, so I completely agree that this should be a regulation.

On this trip to Florida I harvested my largest alligator to date. It put up a great fight, and at one point it actually bit the side of the boat right next to my foot. Watching it roll in the water, watching it come up from the depths of the murky river, and harvesting it with my own hands was something I’ll never forget.

In order to keep the alligator population balanced and to keep the number of nuisance gators at a minimum the state of Florida issues both nuisance tags and trophy tags every year. We’ve participated in nuisance hunts, but this was our first time going after trophy gators. It’s a good balance, considering that there is an estimated 1.2 million alligators living in Florida.

I grew up in the Midwest, so alligators are not an animal that I knew much about until my adult life. The more I chase them in the wild, and as I learn more about their habitat and history, the more I adore spending the first week of elk season chasing these mammals instead. Maybe not every year, but I wouldn’t trade these memories or this hunt for anything.

Did you know that scientist believe that the alligator species is over 150 million years old?! They survived about 65 million years longer than other dinosaurs! They are classified as reptiles, but they are more closely related to birds (whose ancestors were dinosaurs!)

Home Decor – Taxidermy “Do’s” And “Don’ts”

Anybody who walks into my home will be greeted immediately by smiling faces, laughter, and a zebra in the foyer. It may be a little too much for some people to enjoy, but we love being surrounded by the animals that we’ve harvested over the years. In todays home decor trends, taxidermy is making a comeback in a big way. I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to bringing taxidermy into the household, so I’ll share some tips for making it work. When this trend passes and something new comes along, you can guarantee that taxidermy will always be a part of my home decor.

  • Do use taxidermy to brighten up a room.
    A nice stag or deer above a fireplace can bring old-world coziness to any room. This might be because we associate our ancestors and early family ties with hunting. It reminds us of how the world used to be every time we look at a fireplace with a beast mounted above it.
  •  Don’t overdo it.
    More than a few animal heads in a room can make us think of scary movies, and it can take away from each individual animal you’ve placed there. In my house we have animals in almost every room,
    but to keep it tasteful we put space and other pieces of art between them. For example, an elk mount in the corner of a room can be offset by a smaller animal across the room to keep the theme going. But we also have some rooms that are full of animals, and I’m ok with that even if other people would find it tacky.
  • Do find practical uses for taxidermy.
    We actually use a European whitetail mount as a key rack near the front door. It’s small enough to be unintrusive, but large enough to make a statement. An elk shed can make a great coat hanger when mounted to a wall properly, and antler chandeliers will never go out of style.
    When people first enter our house it sets a mood of whimsical fun, but also a serious reminder that we fill our own freezers with meat.
  • Don’t put something within reach of people if you don’t want it to be touched. Most people, and almost all children, will want to feel what the animals fur feels like, or they’ll want to touch the
    horns. In our foyer we have a zebra mounted on a pedestal. We don’t mind people touching it because we like to share the experience with everyone who enters our home, but if you want to keep it from being smudged with fingerprints, move it to a place where nobody can reach it. I never put things within reach that shouldn’t be touched.
  • Do have fun with it! If you love how something looks, then keep it that way. Just because something is trending and other people think it’s cool, that doesn’t mean your home has to follow those guidelines. Forget the rules and decorate your house in a way that makes you happy when you spend time in it.

I’m sure that some people have walked into my house and cringed at the sight of all of our animals mounted everywhere. I’ve got a full sized alligator in my dining room, along with a caribou in velvet, a Kansas whitetail on a pedestal and 2 flying pheasants. Most people wouldn’t think of a formal dining room with that decor. But I love it and it makes me happy. And every one of those animals provided food for our family, so really the dining room is a prime spot for them to spend eternity.

My point is that for some of us who hunt and decorate our homes with the trophies and memories from those hunts, the animals have special meaning. If you just want to spruce up your home with some traditional taxidermy, then I applaud you for supporting our way of life and embracing the natural beauty that we find in all animals. Either way, just be sure to hang the heavy stuff correctly so you don’t end up with a deer on the floor and a hole in your wall. Stud finders and proper hardware are a must!