Predators & Small Game
Real(tree) People: Tracy and Lanny Barnes
They may be identical, and have the same job – competing in the Olympic sport of biathlon – but twins Tracy and Lanny Barnes don’t always think alike when it comes to hunting and their favorite things about it.
Born in the small mountain town of Durango, Colo., the women grew up loving the outdoors. With their older sister, Christie, they tried every possible outdoor activity and spent their childhoods exploring the mountains. Their dad took them hunting and fishing and taught them to shoot – first with child toy bows and suction-cup arrows.
They progressed to rifles and shotguns. In middle school, the twins accompanied their father to a smallbore shooting competition, and between events, kicked around a ball. Their high energy levels and athletic acumen caught the attention of a man affiliated with the U.S. Olympic biathlon team. He encouraged the girls to start cross-country skiing, and to combine that with rifle shooting for biathlon competitions. Tracy said, “We were hooked!”
The twins qualified for their first World Junior Championship Biathlon Team at age 18 and medaled in that event the following year. For the past 11 years, Lanny and Tracy have competed on the World Cup Circuit. Their life goals revolve around increasing opportunities for women and children in the shooting sports. They spend their free time hunting – mostly out West. As members of Próis Hunting Apparel’s pro-staff, they exclusively wear the Realtree patterns of AP and Max-1.
The only drawback to being uber athletic hunters is that they say very few people will hunt with them these days. Said Lanny, “I hunt with my dad (Thad), twin sister (Tracy), older sister (Christie), mom (Deb) and brother-in-law (Gary). Those are the only people who volunteer to hunt with me. Everyone else has since stopped because they think I'm in too good of shape and go too far for their liking.”
MEET THE TWINS
Names: Tracy and Lanny Barnes
Hometown: Durango, Colo.
Profession: Olympic biathletes
Passion: Hunting, 3-gun competition, fishing, shooting
Realtree.com: Where are you now?
Twins: Durango, Colo., getting ready to fly to Italy then to the Biathlon World Championships in Germany.
Realtree.com: When did you start hunting and with whom?
Twins: We started hunting with our dad when we were old enough to pull back a little bow, and then we graduated to BB guns, then .22s, then the big stuff.
Realtree.com: What have you hunted and where?
Twins: Big game in Colorado. Small game in Utah, Maine, Vermont, New York, Arizona. Javelina in Arizona.
Realtree.com: Favorite hunt?
Tracy: Taking a family friend turkey hunting who had polio and helping him to get his first turkey. The work he put in to get it and the look on his face when he got it were priceless.
Lanny: It was an archery hunt in Colorado. I had been stalking this big 6x6 for a week, but he kept outsmarting me. I didn't want to push him out of the area, so every time I knew it wasn't going to work out, I’d back out and come in the next day. There were several other bulls with him and about 25 cows, so there were a lot of eyes to sneak past. Every morning and every evening, I was serenaded by bugling elk and talking cows. More often than not, I would be right in the middle of the herd – with elk walking all around me. It was the coolest experience.
The last night, I followed my bull for about a mile before he bedded down in a field with shrubs and bushes and began a bugling match with another bull. Luckily, there was a little wash running though this field, so I snuck down that until I was about 50 yards, then I crawled on my stomach another 25 just to get close enough. I had about another 30 minutes of daylight left, and he stood up perfectly broadside to me, and I let an arrow fly. It was a perfect hit and he ran about 60 yards and died. After that, the rest of the herd came out and surrounded me again, not knowing I was there. Even if I had not shot my elk that night, it was worth the hike to watch and listen to the elk and have them so close. I snuck out after it got dark and came in the next day to pack out my elk.
Realtree.com: What is a hunt you'd love to take – in other words, on your outdoor bucket list?
Tracy: A sheep hunt in British Columbia in some seriously gnarly mountains. A hunt that is so physically demanding that you’ll probably only want to do it once, but after you do it you’ll have so many awesome memories and great stories that you’ll go back again!
Lanny: I've always wanted to hunt moose, caribou and grizzly in Alaska.
Realtree.com: Whom would you love to hunt with ... anyone from history included?
Tracy: I’d love to go on an elk hunt with my grandpa, Norman Barnes. He died about eight years ago and I never got to go elk hunting with him. He lived and breathed hunting and was such a huge inspiration to my dad and my sisters and me. He was an incredible shot with a bow and he was sneaky … just like my dad. It’d be great to be with him when he shot a big ol’ elk!
Lanny: Annie Oakley.
Realtree.com: Your favorite firearm of the month?
Tracy: My Browning Abolt Mountain Ti 270 WSM! A mountain climbing, elk/deer/& antelope killin’ machine. It’s super light, shoots incredible groups, and I might be in love with it. (Just don’t tell my husband.)
Lanny: My Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Mag with a scope and 9.5-inch barrel. I would love to shoot an elk or bear with it.
Realtree.com: Your favorite hunting story?
Tracy: Was when I went elk hunting with my boyfriend about five years ago. We’d gotten up real early to get a good start back in the woods. When we arrived at the place where we were going to park, I made the mistake of saying that this was the warmest it’s ever been for opening day of second rifle season. Normally, we freeze our butts off until the sun comes out. No more than five minutes later, a warm wind blew past us and then it started to snow! It then proceeded to rain and snow all day. My boyfriend and I went to one area and Lanny and my dad went to another area. We ended up sneaking on a big bull, but he got away.
Later that day we were soaked and hungry so we sat down on a big rock to eat lunch. My boyfriend had been pretty quiet all day. I assumed he was cold and miserable. I then looked over at him and he got out a small box and opened it and asked me to marry him. Now there’s a man after my heart. Proposing on an elk hunt! We didn’t get an elk that day, but I got myself a lifelong hunting partner.
Lanny: Tracy and I took a family friend out turkey hunting for the first time. He was over 60 years old at the time and had a birth defect that caused one side of his body to be smaller than the other, so getting around for him was difficult. We had scouted and found a group of turkeys roosting about half a mile from the road, as close as we could get him. The only problem was it was all uphill.
The morning we took him out, we brought a mountain bike to have him sit on so we could push him up this steep hill. When we got to the hill, he said he wanted to walk on his own and hoofed it all the way up that hill – probably the toughest hike he's ever done.
We got up to the top and set up and started calling. The birds answer, but don't come in. They are stuck down in this canyon farther away. From watching the birds the days previous, they had always flown out of the roost and on top of this hill we were on, but not that day.
After a frustrating couple of hours, we started heading back to the truck. We were about halfway down the big hill when we spot a huge tom strutting no more than 30 yards from our truck in the field down below. So I decided to sneak around and try and push him up past Tracy and our family friend, who wouldn't have been able to sneak up on this turkey. I did a huge loop way around and got on the other side of him. Instead of gently encouraging him to move in their direction like I had hoped, the turkey spotted me and bolted.
Luckily, he bolted in the direction of Tracy and our friend waiting on the hill. He sprinted up toward them at full speed and our friend – who had to shoot with shooting sticks to help him hold up the gun – did a perfect head shot on this running turkey. Tracy and I jumped in the air celebrating and yelling, excited that the turkey, which could've run in any direction had run past our friend and given him an opportunity to harvest his first turkey (especially after all that hard work he did climbing that hill). I think that is his favorite hunting story, too, and one of his proudest moments. He still brags about it to this day.
Realtree.com: Your favorite piece of Realtree?
Tracy: My Próis Realtree Max-1 Eliminator rain jacket. Keeps me hunting elk in a downpour. Don’t even notice the rain and the elk don’t notice me.
Lanny: My Próis Realtree AP HD Pro Edition jacket. I've not only worn it hunting in Colorado, where the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, but I also have worn it fishing in Alaska and training for biathlon in Europe.
Realtree.com: Your favorite camo lifestyle thingey – think koozies, flip-flops, bedspread, etc.
Tracy: Camo duct tape – useful in so many ways!
Lanny: I have a pair of nice stylish camo pants that I wear out while in Europe. Nothing says I'm proud to be an American like wearing camo in a restaurant in Europe! My other favorite is a camo buff. It keeps my head and neck warm whether I’m hunting or training and competing for biathlon.
Realtree.com: What you wish they'd make for the outdoors in Realtree.
Tracy: Waterproof, camo beanie ski hat for when it’s raining/snowing and too cold to wear a camo ball cap. One that fits your head and keeps you warm and dry.
Lanny: Camo spandex, so I can sneak up on my biathlon competitors better!
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Submitted on May 14, 2012