What are Duck Bands?

First published here

One unique treasure for duck hunters is the duck bands. It as much trophy to wear on a lanyard as it is a badge of status. Not only does it show off your harvest, and possibly earned you a monetary reward, but it also shows you played a vital role in waterfowl conservation.

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Duck Banding

Duck banding started back in 1899. Hans Mortensen placed aluminum rings around the legs of a few different species of ducks, including Pintails. He carved his name and address on the ring so that the birds would be returned to him. This system of banding is almost identical to how ducks are banded today. In 1909, Jack Miner banded a mallard to see if he could learn how far it flew during migration. All his duck bands were also inscribed with his Canadian wildlife sanctuary address as well as a verse from the Bible. Five months later, this mallard was discovered in South Carolina. This event went down in history as the first ever successful duck banding. Jack banded over 90,000 ducks and geese in his lifetime. His descendants still band birds from the same sanctuary – and the bands are considered collectibles.

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In the United States, the bird banding is primarily the responsibility of the Bird Banding Laboratory of the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, in Laurel, Maryland. It is a joint effort between our Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, various state wildlife management agencies, and nongovernment research organizations such as Ducks Unlimited among others. And they don’t just band ducks; many species are banded using a variety of bands, collars, and even GPS trackers.

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In order to participate in banding, you have to have a federal banding permit since banding laws are controlled by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In late summer through early fall, migratory waterfowl are captured and banded. Their species, gender, age, and location of banding are recorded. Each bird is outfitted with an aluminum band that has a unique number assigned to each bird as well as the phone number for the laboratory in Maryland. However, many organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and California Waterfowl Associations offer volunteer opportunities for their banding projects.

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Duck Conservation & Hunting

On rare occasions, a hunter will be lucky enough to harvest a bird with a double band – one regular aluminum band and one colored. This most often signifies that it is a special reward duck. The monetary reward is typically anywhere from $25-100, and in rare cases even higher. These are usually placed on species that are being specially monitored. The hunter will call in and report the band, and he receives a certificate with the bird’s information and occasionally a check too.

The information gathered from hunters has proven to be of tremendous value. Monitoring the migratory bird’s flight patterns and population numbers is a daunting task – especially when you consider how many thousands of miles these birds travel. Biologists analyze the information gathered, such as the timing and distribution of the bands. This shows a more complete picture of the health of each of migratory birds species. The wintering areas and exact migration routes are able to be pinpointed with greater accuracy. These numbers not only help the biologists to know more about how to ensure healthy breeding populations but also helps to determine the bag numbers for each species every year.  This will safely ensure the health of the species year after year.

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Many hunters refuse to report the band information because of false beliefs that it guarantees the government to put greater restrictions on waterfowl hunting.  But this simply isn’t true. The more information that is collected, the more the biologists are certain of the accuracy of the data and the sustainability of the species, and this can actually lead to longer harvesting seasons. So please, report your bands. An easy way to do this is to go to www.reportband.gov

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20 of the Best Hunting Quote of All Time

First published here

A good quote resonates in your soul.

It sticks with you. Some of these quotes are from people you have heard of, and some will be from names new to you. A few of the names are repeated, as they are from individuals who had a plethora of knowledge about the outdoors that is worth remembering. I have gathered a list of great hunting quotes that every outdoorsman should know. They speak to the art of hunting, the deep commitment to conservation, the love for proper land management, and the respect for the animals harvested that non-hunters will never fully understand.

20 of the Best Hunting Quotes of All Time

  • Henry David Thoreau – “When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.”

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  • Aldo Leopold – “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”
  • Donald Trump, Jr. – “Hunting forces a person to endure, to master themselves, even to truly get to know the wild environment. Actually, along the way, hunting and fishing make you fall in love with the natural world. This is why hunters so often give back by contributing to conservation.”

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  • Saxton Pope – “The real archer when he goes afield enters a land of subtle delight. The dew glistens on the leaves, the thrush sings in the bush, the soft wind blows, and all nature welcomes him as she has the hunter since the world began. With the bow in his hand, his arrows softly rustling in the quiver, a horn at his back, and a hound at his heels, what more can a man want in life?”

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  • Archibald Rutledge – “It has always seemed to me that any man is a better man for being a hunter. This sport confers a certain constant alertness and develops a certain ruggedness of character… Moreover, it allies us to the pioneer past. In a deep sense, this great land of our was won for us by hunters.”

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  • Henry David Thoreau – “You must not only aim right but draw the bow with all your might.”

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  • Theodore Roosevelt – “The great body of our citizens shoot less as time goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes…”

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  • Pete Dunne – “When I was young, I was a hunter, walking wooded hillsides with confident steps and a gun in my hand. I knew the blur of wings, the rocketing form, and the Great Moment that only hunters know when all existence draws down to two points and a single line. And the universe holds its breath. And what may be and what will be meet and become one – before the echo returns to its source.”

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  • John James Audobon – “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I know not, and cared naught about them.”

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  • Henry David Thoreau – “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
  • Fred Bear – “Nothing clears a troubled mind like shooting a bow.”

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Women in Taxidermy – Part Three

As first published here

Amy CarterAMY CARTER OF AMY’S ANIMAL ART TAXIDERMY

Taxidermy has interested Amy since she was 13. “Now, I had never been a girly-girl, and had always had unique interests and hobbies as a kid growing up, so picking up taxidermy as hobby came as no great shock to my family. It all started one day while out on the family farm, I came across a dead King-snake. I thought the pattern of the hide was so interesting I wanted to turn it into a belt.”

Amy was home-schooled, which equipped her to be great at learning whatever she sets her mind to. She went straight inside and researched how to tan a snake hide.

“While I was researching, I came across taxidermy websites and instantly realized that taxidermy was something that I wanted to try. Early on, I practiced on whatever I could get my hands on, particularly road kills, and rat that I raised for my pet snake’s food. As I became more involved, I made friends with other taxidermists who began to donate better specimens for me to practice on.”

Taxidermy was just the right fit for her as a kid to get started in. The price for a license varies from state to state – and where Amy lives it was only $15.

“As a kid starting out, I had very little funds and was able to use as many common household supplies for my taxidermy, as well as making my own bodies for small animals out of things such as newspaper and tape. While these days I don’t advocate doing it the archaic way that I started out, it was fun and making my own body forms from scratch forced me to learn a lot about animal anatomy.”

“Many taxidermists are open to taking on apprentices, and that can be a great way to learn. The optimum way would be to take a taxidermy course with a qualified teacher, which can range anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks long depending on which course you choose.”

Amy Carter - Alaskan Wolverine

Amy’s Alaskan Wolverine

Amy has come a long way from using newspaper and duct tape – now she is dedicated to educating others. “I recently began teaching my own taxidermy classes, and they have been very popular, especially among women who may feel safer or more relaxed learning from another woman. I would also suggest joining your state taxidermy association and attending their annual convention. There you can meet other taxidermist, attend seminars on a wide variety of topics, and view some beautiful examples of taxidermy.”

More and more women are showing interest in this art form. When Amy first got started there were just a few women taxidermist in the field. “In my experience, I received nothing but kindness from male taxidermists I met. They saw me as a bit of a novelty, yes, but were eager to help me learn more and I owe them for where I am today. I also get a great amount of respect from my customers, many who come out of state to bring me their trophy. I attribute this to the quality of work that I do, not just because I am female. Several customers have mentioned their trust ‘of a woman’s touch’.”

“People do tend to see a female taxidermist as a curiosity and I believe this helps me in a very positive way… I have a large following on social media, more so than many of my male counterparts. I’ve sensed a bit of jealousy in this area, from other taxidermists – even though I want to be known for my talents and not my gender… but if it helps promote my business, I won’t complain.”

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Amy’s Bobcat Taxidermy

Amy is indeed talented. Her bobcat head mount with his tongue sticking out is absolutely remarkable. Most tongues that I have seen in taxidermy are so fake looking they are laughable, but this looks very much alive.

Amy used to do pet taxidermy. She has chosen to no longer accept any, due to the close connection people have with their pets, and the sensitive emotions surrounding their death. “I had one fellow call me one night and tell me that he was brining his dog to me. As I went to hang up the phone, he said ‘I’ll be there just as soon as I can dig him up’. Sure enough, the dog had been buried for a day before they decided that they just couldn’t let go!”

She had a lot of really funny stories. “I had a lady who wanted her cat turned into a rug, and the remains shipped back to her, all the way to Hawaii. From what I heard, there was a lavish ceremony with music and rose petals, and they tied rocks to the carcass and threw it into the sea…. And there’s always the occasional call for someone asking if I’ll stuff their Grandmaw.”

Amy Carter - Bobcat

Amy’s Perching Bobcat Taxidermy

Her art goes beyond traditional taxidermy. She makes fur pillows; upholstered stools; antler carvings; jewelry made from bone, teeth, and claws. “I support any form of taxidermy – after all, it is preserving an animal that would otherwise just have rotted. There’s something really cool about that!” Her style tends to be mainly traditional, but a lot of her woodwork and habitat bases lean towards the modern trend of less-is-more. “I like to showcase the animal and not necessarily clutter the scene with too much grass or other material.”

Amy has had her share of trouble from animal rights activists, who seem to love to give her bad ratings on Facebook anonymously. She responds to them kindly, by asking logical questions but never gets a response. “There will always be those that don’t agree with hunting, and the taxidermy that comes from it. To me, I see it as a beautiful way to use EVERY part of the animal. Ethical hunters respect and use as much of their game as they are able to.”

And it definitely takes someone who respects wildlife so much to be able to stuff them in such detail that they seem full of vibrant life. And the bobcat standing perched on a log – it looks like it has just paused a moment to watch its prey. It’s hard not to hesitate a moment, almost half expecting it to complete its step.

“I’d say the hardest part of taxidermy is properly preparing the hide. Most people think that laying the hide over the body from and sewing it up would be the most difficult – but that just isn’t true. That tends to be the easiest part for me. Many more hours go into skinning, fleshing, thinning, and otherwise preparing the hide to go on the form. Each new piece presents a new challenge for me, which is part of the fun. I try something new every time. For my first mountain lion, I carved the foam from scratch using a large block of foam. It was the largest form I had ever made by hand and it was a pretty big challenge.”

Several of her pieces have award ribbons hanging from them; testimony to just how great of an artist she is. “I go to a lot of taxidermy competitions. In fact, I’ve been competing since I was 15 years old. I’ve been to most of the state shows in the southeast, as well as nationals and world competitions over the years. My top awards have been National Champion (NTA 2003), North American Champion (Big Rock Taxidermy Competition 2015) and a second place ribbon at the World Championships (2015)”

Amy’s art is just incredible. She really is one of the very best in this field. “I encourage women to explore their interests, and not be intimidated to jump in and get their hands dirty in a male-dominated field! You just might find that women have that extra special touch.”

CONCLUSION

It has been a remarkable week getting to learn about these amazing women. They are wonderful artists to look up to, not only because of their talent – but their character, dedication to their business, and drive to educate others. They each have noted that being female isn’t a hindrance, but can offer a unique perspective in this field, and that the Woman’s Touch is a beautiful complementary addition to the world of taxidermy. After hearing about their journeys, I can’t wait to practice on a critter myself.

Women in Taxidermy – Part 2

First Published here

WOMEN IN TAXIDERMY

There have been a great many studies on the differences between the male and female brain. In general, women are much more meticulous, creative, and detail oriented. Which, when coupled with artistic talent and a love for nature it is a wonderful recipe for creating award-winning Taxidermy!

BECKY MARTINMAAS – OWNER OF MEAN WOMAN TAXIDERMY

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Becky is in Orient South Dakota. She is a fierce competitive shooter who is equally fierce about her loyalty to family. Mrs. Martinmaas is astounding when it comes to the art of Taxidermy.

She very well may be one of the most determined women you will ever meet, “I got interested in taxidermy because of the wait times we were experiencing with the taxidermists we had been using. Often it was years before we would get our trophies back. My husband and I love to hunt and it was so frustrating to have to wait so long – sometimes we even forgot what we were waiting for!”

Becky was great at explaining how to get involved “it can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. You can be full service or specialize in one category. There is even a lot of good information you can get with self-help courses and videos, but I would highly recommend going to school or working with an experienced taxidermist. Oh, there are so many little tricks and fine points that you just can’t learn without actually seeing it done. I went to school and took all the available courses: game heads, mammals, birds, fish, and habitat. It doesn’t have to be very expensive – you can start small and work your way up.”

She, like all outdoor sportsmen, are extremely responsible and encourage that same respect for the laws and authority of your state, “I carry a state license issued by our Game and Fish Department, it must be renewed every year. I also carry a federal license issued by the US Fish and Wildlife that is required for waterfowl, etc.”

“Really, it is not surprising that Taxidermy is a predominantly male dominated field. After all, is extremely physically demanding.” Becky explained with an air of understanding. The big game carcasses are extremely heavy and many women are unable to lift that much, of literally, dead weight. “It is messy, smelly, and at times things come into your shop that is already in decomposition. It is not pretty sometimes,” Becky explained.

“It is much easier to do a good mount if you know the animals in their natural habitat, so being a hunter is a big advantage. Well, it was not hard for me to break into the boys club as I already had the reputation of being an avid hunter and shooter. I hunt and do a little range shooting also.” A little? I think she was just being modest.

Becky as talented of a marksman as she is a taxidermy artist. Her bear looks like it is about to lumber off.

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“After being taken seriously as a hunter, being female in taxidermy was an advantage. Women tend to be more artistic and quite a bit fussier about details… Also, most men have to get permission from their wives to display their mount at home, I am a big help there by making them a work of art, not just a dead animal.”

Becky’s art is fantastic. Her crouching coyote really looks as if it is about to pounce on its prey. The male pheasants she preserved engaged in a sparring competition are just breathtaking!

“Yes, there are a lot of different styles to taxidermy. I call myself a Working-Man’s Taxidermist. That means I try to stay affordable and I keep my turnaround time as short as possible. So, I do a lot of game heads, birds, and mammals. I love doing small scenes to show off the animal in its natural state. What I love most about my business at this point is how much people trust my judgment and let me run with a project knowing that it will be something to be proud of.”

Becky - Coyote

She seems like a woman who doesn’t put up with a lot of bull surrounding wildlife management, “All I can say about those that have negative things to say about hunting and taxidermy is that they are very uninformed.” Very true Becky! There is a lot of false propaganda out there, and we have a duty to educate others about the outdoors.

“We farm for deer and pheasants because we want a healthy population. Those naysayers have never seen a pack of coyotes steal a baby calf from its mother or seen an animal starving due to overpopulation.” Yet even with such a heated topic, Becky was trying to be polite, “but everyone has their opinions and they are entitled to them.”

Becky used to enter taxidermy competitions at state conventions. “But a competition piece takes a lot of time away from my customers, and they are my main concern. People know my work and I don’t need ribbons on my wall. I am glad that there are those that do it as I have learned a lot from studying other people’s work and methods. You know, the most difficult thing in my business is getting people to come and pick up their mount in a timely fashion!”

Becky - Moose

My favorite thing she said was “I would highly encourage other women to get into taxidermy as it is a great stay at home business. You can be as big or as small as you want. You can set your own hours and goals.” What a great way for a woman to who wants to help her family financially, raise children, maintain her passion for hunting and have a creative outlet. It really sounds like a fantastic option.

“I love looking at a finished product and knowing that I made that animal come back to life and that I saved someone’s hunting memories forever.”

CHERI GUINN

OF CHERI’S TAXIDERMY

Cheri Guinn

Cheri is the daughter of her local Duck Club’s President, so she grew up hunting duck each weekend during season and even pheasant hunting too. She remembers as a teenager carefully studying one of her father’s mounts and wondering just how the taxidermist preserved it.

So, being the determined self-starter that she is, Cheri went straight to the library and got a book on taxidermy. She got started in her parents basement, and eventually her dad set up an extra garage he had for me by putting in a sink and supplying me with all my tools. Cheri hasn’t looked back these last 37 years in the business.

She didn’t have these great videos and classes then. Her excitement was tangible “Give it a try and if you are interested take a class and learn all the tips and tricks! If I were to do it all over again I would first watch videos and read magazine articles on how to mount a bird!”

Cheri explained that even after you do all that – it takes a considerable amount of practice. “If you’re lucky enough to find a taxidermist that needs help and has a lot of patience, then an apprenticeship could be an option.”

A lot of taxidermist in her area didn’t like mounting birds, so she was welcomed within this particular niche. “I like making the bird look ALIVE again! Action poses are my favorite and minimal habitat. I wasn’t trained in doing water scenes or habitat so I am limited in what I can do. Habitat is an extra cost, and most of my customers don’t like the extra expense that goes with it.”

Cheri Guinn - Wood Duck Preening

You don’t have to learn how to mount every type of animal to be successful in this field. You just have to have a passion for your art! “What I like most about my art is seeing what other taxidermist come up with – it inspires me! The best part of my work is seeing the customers’ faces when they come and pick up their bird”

Cheri is an enthusiastic supporter of Ducks Unlimited. She believes that we all have the right to hunt and it is through conservation that we are able to manage wildlife and to help keep the ecosystem in balance. “And if there wasn’t hunting, I would be out of a job!”

Cheri Guinn - Mallard Ducklings

Her Barred Owl is one of my favorites – posed as if it is swooping down to catch some prey. She also has preserved some specimens I have never seen mounted before – a flamingo and mallard ducklings. Each one looking like it is about to fly away at any moment.

Cheri Guinn - Barred Owl

“My most favorite bird I ever did was a Flamingo who was owned by a man who sold exotics. The bird was the matriarch of the flock and died when she was 42. All the scales on her legs fell off when I was wiring the legs and a lot of feathers fell out when I washed her. She ended up turning out great and I brought her along to an outdoor show I was in and boy she was a hit! The owner actually has it in his will that when he dies I get to inherit her!”

Cheri Guinn - Flamingo

 

Cheri is in this business because she loves the art, “I would encourage women to do what they are interested in and don’t listen to people that say you can’t. Nowadays you can practically learn anything online. Be patient with yourself, remember your life will constantly change, so just go with it and enjoy it!

Coming up next is Part 3!

 

Women in Taxidery part 1

Women in Taxidermy

by M. Ashley Evans

First published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/women-in-taxidermy-part-1/

This past week I have had the privilege of interviewing several amazing women who have beaten the odds to become some of the few female taxidermists in the country. Taxidermy is almost exclusively an art that men gravitate to – but these women have proved that their creativity and unique perspective sets them apart.

History of Women in Taxidermy

The art of preserving animal specimens has been around since animals were embalmed in Ancient Egypt. Even in the Middle Ages very crude methods of taxidermy was used in creating displays for apothecaries and astrologers. In the mid-1700’s birds were being preserved for the study of natural history.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that hunters began hiring upholsterers to sew up animal skins stuffed with cotton and occasionally rags. This is where the label “stuffed” originates. In the Victorian era, artists would sculpt clay, plaster and wire cages as the frames for the animal skins. Taxidermy mounts became a popular item for home decorating. Even Queen Victoria was an avid collector of taxidermy birds from all over the world. During the late 19th Century, artists would sculpt animals into anthropomorphic displays. Both the natural display, often called Classical Taxidermy, and the more whimsical displays, or Rogue Taxidermy, continue today.

Martha Maxwell

Pioneer in Taxidermy

 Martha Maxwell - this photo also from national cowboy musuem

Martha Maxwell was born in 1831. Obviously, I wasn’t able to interview her, but she is certainly worth talking about. Martha was the first female naturalist to obtain and taxidermy her own specimens. She built elaborate displays that greatly influenced some of the major figures in taxidermy, such as William Temple Hornady (hunter, zoologist, conservationist, and taxidermist – famously known as the man who saved the American Bison from extinction due to his taxidermy displays) and Carl Akeley (known as the Father of Modern Taxidermy).

Her displays set the precedent for the future of taxidermy – by arranging the mounts in lifelike poses and displayed on items from their natural environment. Martha was the first to find and identify the Colorado Screech Owl – and it was named in her honor, Scops asio maxwellae. This was the first time a woman had a subspecies named after her.

Martha attributes her love for nature to her Grandmother. They loved going on long walks with grandmother through the woods where they would identify the wildlife they encountered. Martha’s father passed away in the 1830’s and her mother remarried right away. The new family left Pennsylvania for Oregon as Christian Missionaries to the Native Americans. Much to Martha’s sadness, her grandmother did not survive the arduous journey.

The trip proved to be much more difficult, so for the sake of their health the family settled in Wisconsin. Martha was unable to finish her schooling due to finances, so in exchange for board and tuition, she agreed to be hired by a widower to chaperone his two children at a local college. Less than a year later, and despite the widower having 6 years and being 20 years her senior, Martha married James Maxwell. James soon learned that Martha was a very determined woman and a go-getter if there ever was one. Less than two months after her marriage, she was arrested for her involvement in the raid of a tavern in support of the Temperance Movement.

The Maxwell’s had a baby the year that the fell into financial ruin, so they traveled west, prompted by the Gold Rush. Young Mabel stayed behind with Martha’s mother so she could attend school. Martha was determined that she would prove to be an asset to the team – she cooked for all six and even took her turn driving the team of mules. James mined for gold in Pikes Peak and Martha baked pies and mended clothes. She soon sold enough pies that she was able to purchase a boarding house as well as some mining claims and even a one bedroom cabin on the plains outside of Denver.

Martha Maxwell - photo from national cowboy museum

But tragedy struck again in the 1860’s – Martha’s primary method of income, the boarding house burned down and a squatter was trying to lay claim to her cabin. Even after winning the lawsuit, the squatter refused to leave. So Martha watched him and when he left the cabin to run errands she removed the door from the frame so she could enter her home – and what she found was lots of crude taxidermies. She became busy and set everything outside so she could claim her home. She was mesmerized by the preserved birds that she saw – and wrote to her family asking them to send her a book so she could “learn how to preserve birds and other animal curiosities in this country.” Shortly after, while in Wisconsin again for a short stay to take care of her ill mother she found a local taxidermist and was able to learn a little about preserving from him.

Martha Maxwell - photo also from national cowboy musuem

When she returned to Colorado, Martha feverishly got to work in creating elaborate taxidermy displays. By the fall of 1868 she had over 100 mounts – including hummingbirds and eagle chicks. The Colorado Agricultural Society asked her to display her work with them. Everyone was amazed at how lifelike her taxidermy was. She was awarded a diploma for her talents.

In the 1870’s Martha opened the Rocky Mountain Museum in Boulder, Colorado to display her mounts and to educate others. Her museum later was moved to Denver. She expanded her collection to include mammals – including the Black Footed Ferret, a very elusive species that had been recorded by John James Audubon but had never been seen by scientists. Martha became an avid hunter and collected most of her specimens herself. She traveled all across the west to study and to harvest specimens – she braved poor conditions and rough weather and didn’t seem bothered by them. Martha often brought her daughter with her on hunts. By 1869, Martha had over 600 animals in her collection.

Her first step in skinning the carcass was taking very specific measurements of all aspects of the body so she could replicate it exactly. She later hired a blacksmith to craft a thin iron frame, she then would cover it with cloth and then stretch the skins over it. This approach was much more advanced than any of the taxidermy methods used at the time such as filling the skins with clay or plaster. Her collection included a six foot grizzly, a pronghorn antelope, and snakes. Many of her rare items she sent to the Smithsonian for display. Ferdinand V. Hayden of the U.S. Geological Survey said about her museum “it excelled every other in the West” but the museum struggled financially and James was not working.

Her display was featured at the Colorado’s exhibit for Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition. Her landscape included mountains, plains, a cave, a stream that fed a lake filled with various creatures. There was puma posed as if to kill a deer, a doe nuzzling her fawn, fox, bear, sheep, buffalo, elk, pronghorn sheep – and a postcard that read “Woman’s Work”. Everyone was amazed that this 4’11” had killed and preserved the animals and created this massive display unlike anything ever seen before.

Martha Maxwell - photo from alchetron

Unfortunately, after the display was taken down improperly in New York mold set in and every item was ruined. There is not a single specimen left from Martha’s elaborate museum. She died in 1881 of ovarian cancer. It wasn’t until after her death that Mabel came to admire and appreciate her mothers work. But now, her methods are the standard practice for taxidermy all over the world.

Kiernan Hull

Owner of Oregon Taxidermy

Kiernana - Impala

She, like Martha, is defiantly a determined lady! Kiernan also owns Phaded Acres Colt Starting and Performance. This former Miss Rodeo is talented in multiple areas! At age 17, just after high school, she and a friend dropped off a buck at a taxidermy shop. By the time she walked out she knew she was going to be a taxidermist. So the very next month Kiernan moved to Montana to begin schooling. “I have never looked back since!” she said.

There are many ways to learn to be a taxidermist – schools, internships, books, dvds, etc. Kiernan recommends working with a few good artists along the way regardless of the educational path you choose. And each state has its own licensing laws and regulations. I was amazed to learn that there was so many tools involved – each with its own special purpose. Kiernan stresses that the most important skill is actually money management –there is quite a bit of overhead with opening a taxidermy shop.

 Kiernan - Turkey

“At first no one took me seriously, especially being 17… I really started gaining respect around 20 or 21 and now I’m at 24 and I no longer deal with people not taking me seriously. Everybody around here knows who I am now and that I am not just here to mess around. Being female did hinder me at first – between that and my age, nothing was going for me. But now, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had come to me just because I am a woman and they know that gives me a natural eye for detail. I have had so many people actually tell me that they will never go to a male taxidermist again. Which is a huge compliment being in such a male-dominated industry!”

Kiernan’s passion for this art is so evident “Being female is an advantage in this industry for sure!”

Kiernan - Bird of Prey - Copy

“In the summer of 2016, I had about 50 hours into my competition piece of a life-size Badger when my candle that was about 10’ away caught the fumes from my foam just right and my table and Badger went up in flames! Poof!! It felt like an eternity – but really it all happened in about 20 seconds. After scrubbing off his black hairs and fluffing him up, my badger went on to win the Highest scoring Open in Oregon and Best of Category.” Her badger looks like it is going to walk away any moment.

kiernan badger

“I defiantly go for the Alive and Peaceful look with mine. I have the utmost respect for animals and I want them to look natural and presentable for everyone. My biggest fear is someone thinking I don’t have respect for our wildlife when it is the complete opposite. We as hunters know it is our duty to help manage wildlife and their habitat so we have them around for future generations to enjoy. Taxidermy is respectful and educational. Hunters are the #1 contributor to wildlife conservation! It is just as simple as that!”

I really enjoyed looking at a picture of an Elk she preserved. The veins and wrinkles on its muzzle were so accurate – it was mesmerizing.

“I’d say the most difficult part of Taxidermy for me is how physically demanding it is. I rarely get to sit behind a desk (thankfully) but that also means I spend most of all day every day physically hands-on with some oftentimes heavy pieces – having to wrestle them around. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a struggle occasionally and that I wasn’t sore. The most challenging piece I have worked on has to be the Kudu. They have so much extra skin and their skin is super thick. The African Kudu is built so differently from our North American deer varieties. I had to do several of them before it became any easier!”

Kiernan - Elk

Kiernan has entered many competitions and has won many awards in Oregon and Idaho. “Competing is one of the best ways to gain knowledge in this art. The judges give feedback and you are surrounded by other passionate artists” Kiernan was an absolute joy to get to know!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Sources:

https://americacomealive.com/2014/04/05/martha-ann-maxwell-1831-18881-maturalist-taxidermist/

http://www.historynet.com/colorado-huntress-wildlife.htm

https://siarchives.si.edu/history/featured-topics/stories/william-temple-hornady-saving-american-bison

https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/explore/kill-em-all-martha-maxwell-colorado-huntress/

http://www.cogreatwomen.org/project/martha-maxwell

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha/Maxwell

https://alchetron.com/Martha-Maxwell

A Girl and Her Hawk

By M. Ashley Evans

First published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/a-girl-and-her-hawk/

I had the privilege of interviewing Sarah Molnar recently. Sarah is a sweet lady and an enthusiastic hunter. It was such a joy getting to talk to her about falconry! (Falconry: the sport of hunting with falcons or other birds of prey)

Sarah started the conversation by telling me how she got involved in falconry. “I fell in love with falconry several years ago. I have always been a hunter and fisher, but falconry has forever changed my life. My first boyfriend was just starting his journey in falconry, and it became something that we both enjoyed. I got to see him and his friends work with different birds of prey, mainly red-tails, and I fell in love with the sport. It was one of those things that on our off days, we were out hawking. Every chance we got, we were flying his bird, hunting rabbits. It was a completely different way of hunting for me, and to see the bond between the falconer and the bird was simply amazing. I began my own journey a couple years later and found a sponsor to teach me the sport, and ever since, I can’t envision my life without it. I am constantly looking forward to going out hawking and hunting with my bird, and I get sad when the season ends and we have to wait until the next season to hunt. I am always looking for birds of prey, especially red-tails as I drive from one destination to the next.”

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(Sarah’s hawk, Ella)

Sarah shared a picture of her hawk. “I have a juvenile red-tail hawk. She was born this past spring in 2017. As a falconer, we can only trap immature red-tails. Our trapping season here in Michigan starts in September, and this is when the birds have been hunting on their own for awhile, and are proof that they can be good hunting birds. My red-tails name is Ella, and she will be a year old this upcoming spring. She hunted the small game season up until March 31st, and then I began fattening her up for the molt so she can grow out her red feathers. As an immature bird, she has a brown tail, a dark brown belly band on her chest, and light eyes. As she molts into a mature red-tail this summer, she will grow a red-tail, her chest will become whiter, and her eyes will get darker. Once the hunting season starts again in September, I will re-train her some, and we will be hunting again.”

Ella is a beautiful red-tailed hawk with very large feet. Sarah explained that having large feet is a huge plus in the falconry world! Large feet are one of the signs to look for when trapping a new hunting partner. Birds with large feet can hold onto the smaller game well, and often their grasp will kill them instantly. Ella is very even-tempered and doesn’t rely on Sarah as her primary food source.

In falconry, the birds need to be taken out on a hunt about 6 times a week, weather permitting. Windy days and stormy days are generally avoided and area treated as days to recuperate. It’s very important to exercise and train your birds as much as possible. Interestingly, the female birds are larger. Immature birds are called “Passages” and the mature birds called “Haggards” Small game is hunted during the appropriate season, typically beginning in the fall and ending just before spring. Small game hunted includes squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally a pheasant. Other small animals have been harvested by birds of prey including opossums, snakes, and voles.

Sarah continued, “I grew up hunting rabbits and squirrels with my .22, but I have found more joy in hunting these animals with my red-tail. It is a more intimate bond because my bird has gained my trust, and she follows me from tree to tree as I beat brush and try to spook out rabbits or squirrels, and she is able to chase and hopefully connect, giving us a successful hunt. And if Ella doesn’t catch any game, it still is good for her to get out because it allows her to use her muscles, and get exercise as if she were out in the wild. I enjoy seeing my red-tail chase either game because she is a really good hunter. Ella follows me and is right with me if I was to spook something, but a lot of time as I’m walking through the woods, I may spook something way ahead of me that I may not see, but my bird will see it and will chase it. It is important to always make sure you know where your bird is in the woods and whether it’s down on the game or not. While hunting, our birds wear bells and a transmitter. The bells allow us to hear where our birds are, and if they go down on the game, we can hopefully locate the bird on the ground. The bird also wears a transmitter so if she was to fly further away towards an animal she saw in the distance or was to get bumped out by a resident red-tail, we would be able to track her down and locate her.”

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(Ella with a rabbitFalcon and Preybit kill)

Sarah walked me through the process of how to get started. (Although different states and regions will likely vary) “In order to get into falconry, you need to take a test through the Department of Natural Resources in your state. You must pass this test with a score of 80%. The next step is to find a sponsor. A sponsor is a person who has been a falconer for 4 years, and willing to teach you their ways of falconry and is there to answer questions. Once you find a sponsor, then you will build a mew, which is their hawk house. There are certain requirements for a mew such as windows and perches, and once the falconers’ mew is complete, the mew must be inspected by a game warden. Once the game warden passes you, then you are eligible to get your permit to trap. Here in Michigan, we have to pay $100 a year to maintain our license. Once all the big things are taken care of, then you can gather up the gear you need, and be tying nooses and making your trap, as anticipation of trapping begins. As an apprentice falconer, you are allowed to trap an immature red-tail or a kestrel (here in Michigan). Once you become a general, you are able to have different types of birds and more than one at a time. You then become a master falconer after 5 years. A lot of states require apprentices to have at least 12 months of experience (2 seasons) before they become a general. As a falconer, you can keep your bird however long you want. If your bird turns out to be a good hunter their first year, a lot of falconers will keep their bird the next season because the bird will be an even better hunter because it knows what to do. I knew a falconer who kept a bird for 21 seasons before he retired the bird back to the wild.”

Training a wild hawk sounds impressive and difficult. Sarah explained how to do it in a step by step fashion. “Like any other opening day, the start of trapping is a big day for the falconer. We have prepped all summer by locating where the immature red-tails are hanging out. As the big day finally comes, you will find all if not most of the falconers out trying to locate their bird. We create a trap called a BC, which is a style of a throw-able trap that can we throw out the window. It consists of some type of mesh that we can put gerbils or mice in, and then we tie nooses that are created from fishing line, and this traps the bird. A lot of times, the birds will be sitting on telephone poles or trees close to the high way, so this allows us to drive past them, pull our binoculars out, and identify whether an immature or a mature red-tail. Once we identify that it’s an immature bird, we throw out the trap, drive and turn around, and a lot of time once you turn around, the bird will already be on the trap. We wait for the bird to dance a little on the trap, and once it tries to fly away and can’t, that’s when we go in and get the bird off the trap. We inspect it to see if it’s healthy and if it’s a bird that we want to keep.

“Once we determine that it’s a bird we want, we then put equipment on the bird, and sit with it right away so the bird can know that we aren’t here to hurt it. The goal is for the bird to eat from us, and the earlier the better. Once the bird has eaten off the glove, we then continue this for a few days, gaining the birds’ trust. After the bird gets used to feeding off the glove, we then do jump-ups. These consist of jump ups where the bird is lower than the falconer, and the bird has to jump up to its food. A few of these, and then we move to tidbits, which is training with little bits of meat. This allows us to call our birds down to us while hunting and we reward them with tidbits, then we move on to creance training. This is where the bird is tethered to a rope and the bird flies anywhere from 50-100 yards in an instant. The goal here is for the bird to be hungry and to come to the falconer with no hesitation. Some days the bird may be too fat and may not respond to come right away, and this lets the falconer know that the bird needs to lower its weight. The whole objective for falconry is based on weight management. Our goal as Falconer is to find that weight that the bird will respond too. If the bird is too heavy, the bird will not be interested in hunting or flying and will just sit like a bump on a log. Once the bird does well with creance training by flying right to the falconer, we then know it’s time for the birds’ first free flight.” The idea of a chubby hawk made me laugh. I had no idea that a bird could eat enough to make it weigh too much to fly.

Sarah continued to explain the training, “We then train the bird to come to the lure. This is a big piece of meat that is used in an emergency. This consists of a big meal indicating that the bird will come down. Sometimes a resident bird may come into the hunting area and your bird may not like it, or the bird could be aggressive, or something else could go wrong, that the lure is our safety net. The lure is also used if the hunt was unsuccessful and we have to call our bird down after a hunt. We then throw out the lure, and our bird is rewarded for its efforts. Also, a lot of falconers birds catch game after each and every hunt, and then the lure is used for a trade off to get their bird off the kill and onto the lure so the fresh kill can be placed in our vests and stored away for a later time for food. This is when the bird is not connected to the falconer in anyway. The bird is perched and could fly away at any time, but the goal is for the bird to come instantly. This is always a scary time for the falconer because this shows whether our training has paid off or not. Once the bird comes to the falconer, with it being free, we then know we are ready for hunting.

“Training takes between 3-5 weeks, depending on the attitude of the bird. Falconry is based off rewards. Like dogs, the birds come to us because of food. We reward them for their training, their work, their trust. And there are times that we don’t reward them because of bad behavior. Myself, as a falconer, I have a whistle that I blow that indicates that I have tidbits, or that I’m calling my bird to me. I also use a whistle to indicate to my bird that I am calling her to the lure. This is a long blow, and often times the bird sees me get the lure out before I blow, and the bird is already on her way to me. Once the bird lands on the lure, I then go and clip her in and attach her back to her rope. If I wasn’t to attach to her to me, and she was to eat the lure and fly back into a tree, she would be too heavy and wouldn’t come down to me. I would have to wait overnight and try and go back and get her in the morning. Generally, red-tails stay in the same area overnight. She would burn off energy overnight, and would be hungry enough to come down to food in the morning.”

Sarah said that often landowners will ask her to come onto their land and will join in on a hunt, happy to see pest species like rabbit and squirrel numbers toned down. It’s important to hunt from several different areas and to rotate frequently. This helps to ensure that prey numbers are sufficient and that the prey doesn’t get too used to having such a skilled predator right at their doorstep. Frozen food is used also. Hunters will keep frozen food on hand to supplement during the offseason. Also, some hunters will take the kill, give the bird a reward, and save the harvested animal for food during the offseason. This provides essential nutrients that help the bird plump up and molt during the offseason.

Falconry is a beautiful partnership that is beneficial to both sides. As a hunter, you benefit from the experience and the superior hunting skills of your bird. And the bird benefits too because you are helping to train him to be a better hunter. Up to 80% of red-tails don’t make it during their first year in the wild, so keeping a bird for a couple of seasons is an excellent way of helping nurture the population and providing healthy mature birds to repopulate. Some falconers release their bird after each year, some after two, and some keep their birds up to 20 years. “Each bird has their own attitude and will react to things differently, whether towards colors, or other birds. They may pick up on things they don’t like. I have a falconry friend whose bird is extremely picky and wont hunt with men who have beards. The bird seems to fly away when he is near or when he out hunting with them.”

“The bird itself is very intelligent and it shows while out in the field. The bird follows well and stays with me as I’m pushing game, and a lot of time, the bird sees the game before I see it. As falconers, we have a game call that we say when we spook game, “Ho, Ho, Ho”. And the bird responds and moves up if needed, or chases.” Falconers listen for the squeal of the rabbit to know that the bird has managed to make a catch! “Once the bird itself has caught a rabbit or a squirrel, it’s our job as falconers to run and dispatch the game immediately. The squirrel can do damage to the birds’ talons or body so it is important that we kill it fast and humanely.”

A lot is involved in having a hawk as a hunting partner: daily weigh in, almost daily hunting, daily feeding, cleaning the mew, sitting a minimum of an hour each day with the bird to gain trust, etc. Sarah says “It’s a great hobby but it is a big, big responsibility!” It is a little pricey to begin with. Constructing the mew, the fencing for the weather yard, hoods, jesses, anklets, receiver, transmitter, permits, frozen food, etc – but the bond with the bird is priceless and is an investment into conservation and wise wildlife management.

“You do develop a bond with your bird. It is a trust bond. I am out hunting with my bird, and she is free, up in the trees following me as I am the brush beater down below trying to flush out game. She can fly away from me at any given time, but she decides and continues to stay with me because I act as her mate. We are working together. It also is amazing to see a falconer, bird and dog work together. And the sport has allowed me to gain lifelong friends, and share the sport of kings that we all love so much.”

 Sarah and Falcon
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(Sarah Molnar and her hawk, Ella)

If you would like to follow Sarah and Ella on their hawking journey, check out her Instagram and give her a follow!

Leading the Way: Five of the Best Female Hunters

By: M. Ashley Evans

My article was originally published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/leading-the-way-5-of-the-worlds-best-women-hunters/

Historically, hunting was a male-dominated sport. For decades, women hunters were marginalized in the Outdoorsman arena. The number of women hunters is growing rapidly – and is the top trend in hunting sports today. That is in part thanks to some amazing women who have won some of the top awards available in this sport. There are a number of awards that can be given to world-class hunters. The Weatherby Award is the world’s most coveted and prestigious hunting award because it is one of the most difficult to achieve. Not only is the quality of each animal harvested judged, the number and variety of species are considered, the more difficult-to-hunt species are a heavy consideration, and a requirement that game from every continent is included. Conservation is a majorly important factor. Not only has each nominee supported conservation by spending hundreds of thousands in purchasing the licenses/fees/taxes, etc. for each individual hunt – but there have to be large donations to specific conservation programs. These programs are focused on protection and propagation of endangered wildlife. Each nominee has to be highly involved in educating the next generation of hunters through school programs, 4-H, scouts etc.

The Weatherby Award nominees also have to show exemplary character and sportsmanship in the field – a life of integrity, commitment to fair chase, strong ethics, and a solid reputation. Each year only 6 nominees are considered, and the highest point total in all categories is chosen for the recipient of this most elite of hunting awards. The Weatherby Foundation’s newsletter once printed “What’s It Take To Win The Weatherby Award: It is easy, climb a few million feet, walk a few thousand miles, spend years away from home, family, and work, usually in a foreign land. Travel for days on icy, gravel mountain roads in old jeeps or SUV’s full of other people’s cigarette smoke. Endure hundreds of searches in airports, borders and military checkpoints. Get sick or hurt, lose luggage and suffer delays too numerous to mention. Sound like fun? It is. It is a passion and way of life for a few very fortunate people.”

These female pioneers have not only beat tremendous odds in learning and mastering their skills, but they have exhibited such a drive for conservation and for educating others that they without a doubt should be heroes, not just for women, but for everyone who has a passion for hunting.

1) Suzie Brewster

Suzie Brewster photo courtesy of NRA News

Suzie Brewster is a remarkable lady. She did not have the privilege of growing up in a family who hunted – but her husband did. As the years passed and their family grew, the Brewster’s developed Day-After-Christmas Hunting Tradition. Bill and the children hunted and Suzie enjoyed traveling with them. One year, flight schedules were rearranged, the children had to board a different plane home. Tragically, their plane crashed. Suzie realized that for her husband to heal and be able to love his beloved sport again – he would need a hunting companion. So, she jumped in with enthusiasm, determined to be her husband’s very best partner.

Suzie and Bill have traveled the world going on a total of 37 safaris. She has hunted on 6 continents, in 34 countries, and has harvested more than 220 species. She still loves to shoot turkey and quail near their home in Marietta or in the fields of Texas. Suzie became a pro in the field. She has won the Dallas Safari Club Outstanding Hunting Achievement Award – the highest award given by the organization. Suzie has also won the NRA’s Sybil Ludington Freedom Award, which honors achievements in education and promoting Second Amendment Rights at a national level as well as SCI’s Diana Award. Suzie is the only woman to have received all three of these awards. While on safari, Suzie and Bill participate in as many humanitarian activities as they can. While traveling from village to village, they love to bring clothing and toys to children. Educating the next generation of Outdoorsmen has been a primary goal for the couple. Bill served in Congress and on the NRA Board of Directors. Suzie helped found the Washington Women’s Shooting Club and co-chair of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum since it began over 10 years ago.

2) Barbara Sackman

barbara sackman

Barbara Sackman is another woman of great renown amongst hunters. She has 191 world records in the SCI Record Book. And she won the 2015 Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award – one of only two women to ever have received it. She has also won the Diana Award, SCI Conservation Award, Magnum Villamanin Award, ORVIS 20 Award, Capra Super 20 Award, etc. Interestingly enough, her husband Alan has also won the coveted Weatherby Award – which marks the first time ever both a husband and wife have won the award.

Barbara and her husband, like many avid hunters, only harvest older specimens of each species – which is great stewardship and helps with conservation. Older males will dominate over the younger ones in their chance to mate. But in order to ensure a healthy new generation, it is wise to use younger, more vital, males with healthier genes. Barbara is passionate about conservation – she was once interviewed and said, that she was “almost embarrassed to say how much (she) paid to harvest that sheep (in Nebraska), but every red cent goes to conservation and the welfare of the sheep herd. That means an awful lot. The hunter is a huge conservationist, more so than anyone else.” Big game hunts, like sheep in Nebraska, can cost well over $100,000, which is a wonderful contribution towards the health of that sheep species. Barbara is a skilled hunter and has harvested Kudu, Roosevelt Elk, Polar Bear, Nile Crocodile, African Lion, and Leopard.

3) Caroline Pruitt

Caroline Pruitt photo courtesy of Outdoorlife

At age 12, she went on an African Safari with her father and shot an Impala – and she was hooked. On that hunt, she was able to harvest 9 animals – most of which was taken with the first shot. Only four years later, Caroline Pruitt won the 2010 Youngest Hunter Award from SCI and Cabellas. Only two teenagers in the world are chosen for this award each year. At age 14, she had 18 entries in the SCI Record Book and had harvested over 50 big game specimens including Leopard, Wildebeest, and American Bison. She hunted the American Bison with a .44 Magnum. Caroline has hunted with various other weapons including a rifle, muzzleloader, crossbow, compound bow, and longbow. She is the only woman recorded to hunt a Gredos Ibex and a Muskox with a Longbow, which has become her hunting weapon of choice since 2011.

Caroline is passionate about hunting – and strives to be a great example to others. She has not let her busy schedule in traveling across five continents neglect her education – she maintained high grades. Caroline has a heart for helping others, whether it is training new hunters at Meadow Ridge Archery and Gun or donating the meat from her hunts locally and abroad. Hunters all over the world watch in eager expectation to see what the years have in store for this prodigy.

4) Renee Snider

Renee Snider photo courtsy of the Conklin Foundation

One of the most accomplished hunters in history – who has received an astounding number of awards, is Renee. In 2006 she was the first female to win the Golden Malik Award for taking “free range and on-foot” all big game species found in the South Pacific. She won the 2012 Diana Award. 2013 was the year that Renee became the first woman to receive the OVIS Award. In 2014, the Weatherby Award had its 57th anniversary. That year Renee Snider became not only the first female recipient of the award – but she had the highest number of big game animals harvested by anyone who had ever won the Weatherby. That same year, she won the Ullman Magnum Award for collecting European big game species and she was the first woman to be inducted into the highly prestigious Mountain Hall of Fame from the Wild Sheep Foundation. In 2015, Renee won the SCI World Conservation and Hunting Award. In 2016, she was the first woman to earn the Pantheon Award from SCI and GSCO. 2017 was the year that she won the International Hunting Award from SCI, Super 40 Capra from GSCO, as well as the Super 39 Ovis from GSCO. That same year, Rene won the Conklin Award from SCI. This award is “for the dedication of pursuing big game in the most rugged terrain under the most difficult and demanding conditions while maintaining the highest standard of ethics, adhering to the rules of fair chase, and showing a true conservation stewardship for the big game animals of the world.”

Renee has raised millions to aid disabled and disadvantaged children. She has been on the board of directors for the Help-A-Child Foundation, River Oak Center for Children, Conklin Foundation and the Weatherby Foundation International. She makes every effort to use each hunt as a venture in not only conservation but in humanitarian efforts. She loves to bring medical supplies and administers first aid – in many villages she has been the only source of medical aid they had ever seen. Renee is an amazing lady who goes above and beyond when it comes to trying to make a difference in the world.

5) Brenda Valentine

Brenda Valentine photo courtesy of Tuskessee Outdoor Expo

Last but certainly not least, is Brenda Valentine, the “First Lady of Hunting.” Brenda is down to earth and passionate about conservation and introducing women and children to the sport. She is from Tennessee, where hunting and being in the woods is a way of life. She is proficient with a large number of firearms and has won dozens of national and regional 1st place awards in archery competitions. She is an award-winning speaker, author, photographer, and TV co-host. It truly seems like there is not anything that Brenda doesn’t excel at. She is the National Spokesperson for the National Wild turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program, the only woman to receive the Knight Rifle Master Hunter Award, a member of Bass Pro Shops’ RedHead Professional Hunting Team, Paris/Henry Co. Sports Hall of Fame, Women in the Outdoors Leadership Award, AMVETS Silver Bayonet Award, etc. In 2012, she was the only woman chosen by the Department of Defense to take part in the Outdoor Legends Tour II. This was a great honor, as it is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation to active troops in southwest Asia and in Afghanistan as well as those military members who were hospitalized in Germany.

Even with all these accomplishments, Brenda remains humble and eager to help others. She hosts hunts for the disabled, supports wounded veteran projects, and loves to teach women and children about hunting and the outdoors. Brenda has designated hundreds of acres of her land to be a part of a Mossy Oak Gamekeeping project. She stays very busy with public speaking and loves to speak on the importance of conservation, land preservation, wildlife management, and patriotism.

Anything Is Possible!

These are remarkable women who have excelled in their art. Not only have they become phenomenal outdoorswomen, proficient in marksmanship, and excellent at tracking and pursuit but they have excelled so far as to win many awards that historically only men have won. Several did so while raising a family and while making a difference in their communities – their success is amazing. These women should be held up as mentors – to show others that anything is possible, even succeeding in the most difficult of terrains and winning the most elite of hunting awards. All while using their talents to focus on the gravely important task of conservation and education.leading-the-way_

Choosing the Firearm that Fits – for Women

When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.

“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand.  Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.  

“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no.  I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.

I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life.  That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family.  During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.

Most avid shooters say  “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent.  This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness.  But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.

This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved.  The physics of gun recoil,  and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating!  All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.

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When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry.  For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.

Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions.  Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward.  The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction.  Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction.  If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body.  I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.

The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.  A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction.  If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil.  We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.

 

 

In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380.  The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm.  Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand.  So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.

So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm.  This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.