By: Haley Faith
We often hear that the youth are the future, and this couldn’t be more true for the hunting industry. In order to protect the past time that we as hunters love so much, it is essential to recruit new hunters. Introducing boys and girls to hunting will ensure that there is a future for hunting down the road. As someone that starting hunting with my father when I was 10 years old, I absolutely love seeing not only new hunters, but young girls, getting involved in hunting. This past turkey season, my husband’s co-worker’s was ecstatic to share the story of his daughter’s successful turkey hunt. Hearing Ms. Melanie Fox’s story took me back to when I was 10 years old myself, and I couldn’t help but want to share her story.
I asked Melanie a few questions about her experiences with hunting and shooting, and here’s what the young lady had to say:
1.) What motivated you want to start hunting? And at what age did you start?
A lot of my family use to hunt or still hunts. I also always loved the outdoors. When I hunt, I spend time with my dad in nature and observe the different animals and plants. This can become useful information if you’re ever lost in the wilderness. I started going on hunting trips, to shoot an animal, when I was ten. Ever since the first day my dad brought an animal that he shot back to the house, I’ve been interested in hunting. On my 9th birthday all I wanted was for my dad to get me the test manual so I could learn the laws and regulations of hunting in NJ.
2.) Do you know any other girls that also hunt?
Some other girls I know that hunts are 2 of my older cousins. My one cousin (Roni) is 22 and has been hunting since she was ten, like me. My other cousin (Emma) is 14, and she got her license shortly after I got mine.
3.) What is the first gun you ever shot and at what age?
The first gun I ever shot was my Red Ridder BB-Gun. I was around 4 when my dad taught me gun safety, and I shot the gun. The targets we used were old tin cans. I aimed at a certain spot on the can that stood out.
4.) How did you feel the first time you shot a gun?
The first time I shot a gun, I remember thinking that someday I would be as good at hunting as my dad was and is now. I also remember the rush of energy when I pulled the trigger. It’s a dangerous device, but after I handled the gun safety, I knew I could be trusted. Even today when I shoot a gun, a rush of energy surges through me and you can hear millions of words that explain how shooting a gun feels, but when do shoot a gun, the feeling is unexplainable, and the words that best describe the feeling, you’ll never believe until you shoot the gun. It’s incredible.
5.) What type of shotgun did you shoot your first turkey with?
Franchi 20 gauge, semi-automatic shotgun. I got it for Christmas on the year I started hunting, (before Christmas I used my cousins' gun). It is a beautiful gun, and I thank my mom and dad for getting for me.
6.) How did you feel the first time you went hunting?
The first time I went hunting I felt excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited to be outdoors with my dad, and to see the different plants and animals. I was nervous that I wouldn’t see the animals that I was hunting, or I would miss the shot. Overall, it was an amazing experience.
7.) What were your feelings after you shot your first bird?
After I shot my first bird it took me a while to realize that I killed it. The turkey shot his head back and started flapping around all over the place. It wasn’t until I told my dad that I missed it that it stopped flapping and laid still. I was so excited!!! I didn’t even feel the recoil that the gun shot. My memory of pulling the trigger is hazy. I remember hearing the shot go off when I aimed. Even though it’s a small kill, it was one of the most amazing things in my life.
8.) What are some of your other favorite activities?
Some of my other favorite activities are reading and spending time with family. I also like to go fishing and riding in the boat on the lake. I love to swim and be active. Three of my uncles owns a pool. During the summer I spend a lot of time swimming and going to the library. I go swimming about twice a week, and I go to the library once every two weeks. I also love to explore the woods on my family farm. My great-grandparents own it.
9.) Do you have any advice for other kids that may be scared to start hunting?
Don’t stress it. Hunting is a fun activity where you can be in nature and bond with your hunting partner. Although it might be scary, if you handle the gun safely, shoot fair game, and follow the hunting laws, everything will play out perfectly. Even if you don’t get an animal, you got to experience an amazing setting with amazing people, that’s what really matters.
The 10 year old couldn’t have said it any better when she said, “Don’t stress it!” Her advice to young hunters that may have fears is admirable! For all new hunters and those taking out new hunters, remember to always make hunting a fun experience. Hunting isn’t always about the killing. It’s about soaking in the amazing sights and sounds of the wildlife, enjoying the outdoors, and making memories with those you love.
Reading about Melanie’s turkey hunt made me start thinking about when I shot my first deer with my dad. Growing up, my father was never a very affectionate man, but I remember how excited he was when I shot my first deer. He patted me on the shoulder, told me how great of a job I did, and had a smile I had never seen before. With the interaction I had with my own father at the back of my mind, I was curious to hear what Melanie’s father, Keith, was feeling after Melanie shot her first bird. Here’s what he had to say about her success:
“I was so proud when Melanie shot her first turkey! It is an experience that I will cherish and remember always. We had two birds come in earlier in the morning and square off right in front of us. Melanie showed a lot of self-control, there was no way for her to shoot without hitting both birds. Every time I called to stop them their heads were lined up and they eventually chased each other out of range. I felt I had let her down. Later Melanie spotted the bird she eventually got. He came in strutting and must have gobbled at least a dozen times. To hear the safety click off and watch her make a great shot was exhilarating! I could not have been more proud of her and knew the emotions she was feeling. It reminded me of my first successful hunts with my dad and grandpop. The experience was so fulfilling, from the excitement of the hunt to the scenery of a spring field bloomed in crimson clover and then Melanie and I cleaning the bird together and having the whole family over that night for a stuffed turkey dinner. I know Melanie felt a big sense of accomplishment and I couldn’t have been more proud. As a father it’s so rewarding to pass on things that are special to your children. To introduce them to something outdoors and see them develop an interest shows me the tradition will continue. I know Melanie and I will always have a bond in the outdoors that will let us experience countless memories together.”
At Girls with Guns, we love hearing and sharing the success stories of new hunters. When I started hunting, I personally didn’t know many other females that hunted. I think that is one of the reasons why I get so excited when I see young girls getting involved in the field! It is uplifting to see more females getting involved and being accepted in the hunting industry. It is even more touching to see women supporting and encouraging others to get involved.
If you know a youth like Melanie that found success this past hunting season, please tell us their story. I’m sure there are plenty of women and children out that there are hesitant or intimidated to start hunting. I am hoping that by sharing stories like Melanie’s, it will motivate those individuals to finally conquer their fears. Also, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or any of the Girls with Guns crew, with any questions. The Girls with Guns family is here to inspire, encourage, and help all that share a common love for the outdoors!
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