I am the Public Lands Coordinator for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. My job is based around the protection and advocacy of our public lands. This does not feel like work to me…
I have always had the desire to hunt; to seek out the feeling of being woven into the landscape, to be a participant in the food chain and not just a benefactor, to be a part of the circle. I grew up a ranch kid, raised by parents who have an intrinsic relationship with their environment and a deep appreciation for the natural world and its connectivity. The phrase “you are what you eat” was a popular one in my household. Despite a very real presence of game meat in my childhood, participation in hunting never felt like a reality to me. Due to job availability, my family spent a lot of my younger years moving from ranch to ranch in Montana and Wyoming, finally settling in northern California. I was exposed to many landscapes, small communities and hunting cultures.
I moved back to Wyoming 6 years ago and was intimidated by the vastness of the landscape and the rugged back county. The west is not a place for the faint of heart. Before long, intimidation quickly morphed into a deep and committed love. I learned Wyoming’s public lands from one of the most superlative sources possible, a back country archery hunter. I was instantly hooked.
Archery, like all hunting, creates a bridge between human and animal, and human and landscape. It makes you go above and beyond just casual observance; you learn habitats, behavior, and even sometimes a personality. It brings you in close and makes sure you are aware of the life you are taking. Hunting completes the circle, bringing into full focus what it means to be a predator, a participator in the cycle, and an expert on the land.
I picked up a bow because this relationship was illustrated to me by someone who had the patience to teach me; to take me to those secret mountains and meadows, and to stand by and watch as I shot my first ever animal, a Wyoming sage brush flats spot-and-stalk mule deer. My mentor helped me celebrate over the adventure that is hunting and to pay a deep respect to the life that was taken. I was instilled with a profound attachment to, and protection of, Wyoming’s back county and our public lands.
Hunting in the west is not a sport. It is a lifestyle. Fall for many of us is a time for work absences, early mornings and late nights. There is an almost palpable anticipation for season’s start and the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is one I have uttered a lot. To the average human, time spent in the out-of-doors chasing after animals much smarter, much more in shape, and much more equipped for the “wild” life sounds a little bit like torture. We are not today’s average human. We are hunters. We are the living and breathing historic ambassadors of the essence of being human… and sadly so few of us realize this. Now, more the ever, there is a need for active and outspoken hunters to take the stage, to advocate for our ways of life and to protect our most priceless treasures; wildlife and the public lands they call home.
We as women are earning our place on this stage dominated by men. We are finding the freedom of the wild, the independence of procuring our own food, and the pure enjoyment of a hard won hunt. And we are doing this with limited quality equipment, pink clothing, and few active mentors. The need is there ladies, and the stage is waiting. Our involvement is ever growing and there is a long road ahead, NOW is time for action.
Our public lands are threatened by people who do not understand their value, who see only dollar signs where they should be seeing pasts, presents, and futures. These lands are valuable to the human experience, to a legacy to be passed down to our children, and to the dreams of desk-bound people in a forest of concrete.
I am a woman, a hunter, and a protector; I am stepping onto this stage because I have found there is something here to be lost. I am a woman, a hunter, and a protector. My children will grow up in mountains, hearing elk bugle on a crisp September morning not knowing that there was a time this was almost an impossibility. I am a woman, a hunter and a protector and I will not relent until this dream is safe.