Although some women have been hunting their entire lives, I was a bit of a late bloomer in realizing just how great the sport can be. I often look back and regret the nights I stayed out too late, the mornings I slept in too long and the opportunities I didn’t take while I was growing up back home with my parents. My dad is an avid bow hunter and has been for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house decorated with mounts of massive elk, beautifully colored waterfowl, bighorn sheep, and most impressively, a number of trophy whitetail bucks. Despite being raised in an environment where most lived and breathed for opening day, I never understood the thrill of it. There wasn’t a single inkling of me that wanted to wake up early, sit in the cold and possibly not reap the benefits of the hard work I had put in. I was 20-years-old when my dad gave me my first bow. The bow itself was nothing special, it was a six-year-old Hoyt hand-me-down but it was all it took to change my mind about this great sport that we all know and love.
When my 10-year-old niece Rhian first became interested in hunting, I was eager to share my love of the sport with her. The excitement I got when helping Rhian learn about hunting is unparalleled. Like I said, I had a very late start in the outdoors and as difficult as it is for me to admit, I am jealous of my niece. Rhian had many people in her life that encouraged her to shoot a bow. Aside from her father, uncle and grandfather, who are all bow hunters, I strived to provide the benefit of having a strong female role model and fulfill that role myself. I have taught her the fundamentals of shooting a bow, the attitude one must posses to be successful and how the most important aspect is the experience, not the kill. I believe that teaching her these values has impacted her love and curiosity for the sport, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in having helped her grow into the hunter she has become.
All of our help, and Rhian’s hard work, finally came to fruition this fall in rural Geneseo, Kansas. When my brother-in-law Trent asked if I wanted to film Rhian on her first-ever Kansas youth hunt, my answer was without hesitation, “yes.” I rushed to the lake and made it to the blind and we started getting set up, but I had a feeling that we wouldn’t see anything that night. Thankfully, I was wrong and after an hour in the blind, a small doe walked up. The look in Rhian’s eyes when she saw the doe was indescribable. I started to reminisce about the first time a deer walked within five yards of my blind and the feeling that I got; I knew that in that moment she was feeling the same thing. After watching for about 30 minutes she started questioning herself on whether it was worth waiting for a buck. She decided to wait it out and about 30 minutes later, her buck walked up. Trent saw him first, I was working the camera on the other side of the blind so he was still out of my view and Rhian and I didn’t see him until it was time to shoot. He was a 3×3 in full velvet. When the time came, I watched Rhian sling her first arrow through the air at a live animal. She missed her shot but to my surprise she didn’t panic and she definitely didn’t give up. Instead she kept her calm, picked up another arrow and before the deer could decipher the source of the first arrow, she shot her second and smoked her first whitetail buck. It was at this moment that I realized I was no longer the teacher, she was. Witnessing Rhian’s ability to remain calm even after having erred on her first shot and focus on getting the job done was admirable and any hunter could benefit from the lesson she taught in the blind that day.
While my tag for this year burns a hole in my pocket, I have already enjoyed success beyond what I could ever have hoped for in participating in Rhian’s hunt. Helping her get her start in the outdoors has allowed me to make up for lost time and truly revel in the experiences we have shared. As hunters, and as women, we are a community, we must teach each other, we must learn from each other, and we must carry on the tradition.