Stephanie Mallory is a mom, a hunter and Realtree’s PR Coordinator. She’s here to deliver an insider’s look at the outdoor business and give her opinion on all things outdoors—whether you asked for it or not.
April 30, 2012 | By Stephanie Mallory
Beth Alcazar was an anti-hunter when I met her 10 years ago. I never would have dreamed she’d not only develop an enjoyment for hunting and fishing, but eventually work in the outdoor/hunting industry. The one-time animal-rights activist now handles marketing for FarmLinks, a 3,500-acre golf and recreational resort in Sylacauga, Ala., that offers hunting and fishing at its location at Pursell Farms.
Beth and I met when we both accepted apprenticeship positions with outdoor writer John E. Phillips. I took the position because I wanted to become an outdoor writer; Beth took it to get some experience editing and writing copy. When she came onboard, she expressed her distaste for hunting and said she was simply there to learn more about magazine writing and editing. Neither John nor I tried to argue with her or challenge her stance. We simply sat back and watched her outlook change as she began to learn more about hunters and the outdoor industry.
“I didn't grow up in an outdoors-loving family,” Beth says. “My father didn't take me hunting, fishing, camping or hiking. But my dad's from Brooklyn; there's just not too many outdoorsy things to do in New York. That's likely a big part of what skewed my perception of most outdoor activities.”
Throughout much of her teens and 20s, Beth considered herself to be an anti-hunting and anti-fishing activist. She was a member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
“But when I started working in the outdoor industry as a writer and editor, I came into contact with so many amazing outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who taught me, through example, that the fun isn't always just about ‘the kill’ or ‘the trophy,’ it's about the appreciation for and the immersion in this big, beautiful outdoors,” Beth says. “My perspective began to change. I realized what an important role hunters play in conservation and wildlife management and that most hunters have a true love for Mother Nature and her creatures. I realized I had it all wrong. So, I decided to go on some hunting and fishing trips with an open mind and ended up enjoying myself. These days, I'm so grateful that I can share that same love for the outdoors with my own family, and at work at FarmLinks, with my coworkers and with our guests.”
Beth’s job allows her to work at one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever had the chance to visit. I had the opportunity to spend Friday at FarmLinks with Beth shooting clays from the 5-Stand and fishing for bass from one of the numerous stocked lakes. With a natural eye and quick reflexes, Beth easily outshot me, although I started to improve toward the end thanks to instruction provided by Greg Bolton, FarmLinks director of farm operations.
Although, we had a great time shooting, it was the unbelievable afternoon of bass fishing that put a smile on our faces. Quite honestly, I’ve never had such a successful fishing trip in all of my life. Thanks to Greg’s great fishing tips and instruction, we both caught, or at least hooked, a fish, including a couple of 5- and 6-pounders, for every cast made.
I just couldn’t help but smile while watching Beth catch bass and bust clays. Just a few years ago, she would have never considered casting a line or shooting a gun. Now, we were enjoying both at a remarkable hunting and fishing paradise that she’s grown to love and serve.
My friendship with Beth over the years has reconfirmed to me that we shouldn’t simply write off anti-hunters as lost causes. And, we certainly shouldn’t be cruel in our comments to or about anti-hunters. Instead, we should remember that we are all colored by our life experiences and circumstances. Most anti-hunters have simply never had the opportunity to experience the natural world through a hunter’s eye.
“Who would've ever thought that this one-time animal activist would end up enjoying a day of fishing with a dear friend?” Beth says. “And who would've ever thought that I would end up getting paid to do just that?”
April 26, 2012 | By Stephanie Mallory
For some children, life is anything but easy. Many of them come from broken homes and live in a world of poverty, gangs, drugs and violence. For them, the future is bleak and hope is easily lost. Fortunately, some of these children are finding new hope through the outdoors and the events put on by the Kicking Bear organization. Founded by renowned bowhunter Ray Howell, Kicking Bear is drastically changing the lives of children by introducing them to all the outdoors has to offer. Best of all, these camps are free to any child who wants to attend, and not just for those in at-risk situations. Watch this video for one child’s testimony on the impact Kicking Bear has had on his life.
The two-day Kicking Bear camps are currently held in 20 states and are quickly growing in popularity throughout the country. On Friday nights, children attending the events get to participate in a huge number of outdoor activities and games including rock climbing, tomahawk throwing, fishing, BB gun shooting, gunny sack races, kickball, marshmallow fights, water games and water slides. They camp out that night then wake up to a big pancake breakfast in the morning. The children spend Saturday morning shooting on the archery course where they get to win games and prizes as they move from target to target. After a huge lunch, which often consists of a roasted pig, Saturday afternoon is filled with more games.
According to Howell, the purpose of Kicking Bear is to show youth a better way of life while providing them with a weekend of fun to experience new things and meet new friends. Many of the children who attend a Kicking Bear camp or event claim they had the best time of their lives.
“Our camps give children, especially inner-city children, the opportunity to get outdoors and away from the gangs and violence that often permeate their worlds,” Howell says. “They have the most fun they’ve ever had at our camps and they learn that they can pursue a healthy outdoor lifestyle with people who care for them.”
Kicking Bear offers more than just camps to children who express an interest in hunting and fishing. Children can also take part in Kicking Bear’s group hunting and fishing trips. Children who would normally never have the opportunity to enjoy the wild outdoors are getting to go on unbelievable hunts for deer, turkey and even bigger game such as moose.
“Kicking Bear is one of the only organizations I know of that takes kids who don’t have the opportunity to be outdoors and turns them into license-buying hunters,” Howell says.
Howell, who grew up in the foster care system, understands the life-changing power the outdoors can have firsthand. He was a troubled youth, and as he acknowledges, was well on his way to becoming a troubled adult until a friend’s father took him hunting.
“The first time I went hunting, I knew that I had discovered what I wanted to do with my life,” Howell says. “The outdoors literally changed my life for the better, and I know it can do the same for the children who attend the Kicking Bear events. In fact, I’ve seen it happen. We get hundreds of thank you letters from parents and kids who attended a camp or event and whose lives were changed because of it. In fact, we’re watching things come full circle as children who attended Kicking Bear camps are now coming back as counselors.”
Howell says as a Christ-centered organization, Kicking Bear teaches the children that they have a heavenly father and that God is working in their lives.
"No matter what storms a person may be facing, God has a purpose for his or her life,” Howell says. "Many of the children who attend our camps especially need to hear this message."
All children are invited to attend Kicking Bear camps for free, no matter their backgrounds or circumstances.
“We encourage parents who want their children to participate in the Kicking Bear camps to also bring a child from outside of their family,” he says. “In our opinion, the more children that attend the camps, the more lives that can be changed for the better.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Kicking Bear, check out www.kickingbear.org.
April 23, 2012 | By Stephanie Mallory
"Ladies first," my hunting guide said to me as we approached the creek. I thought "how gentlemanly" as I accepted his invitation to cross the creek ahead of him. But, my thoughts quickly changed as I took the first step and sunk down in the water up to my waist. Everything got soaked, including my clothes, boots and gear. My guide had tricked me, and he was laughing hysterically. I was not. Although I usually enjoy a good practical joke, my guide had been a horrible hunting partner all day long, and his little trick just made me mad.
Even though I wasn't thrilled about getting wet, I usually love hunt camp practical jokes. I’ve been on both ends of the jokes and think they add to the fun of the hunt.
For example, I once stayed in a deer camp that was rumored to be haunted, and all the hunters spent the entire hunt trying to scare one another. I just happened to have a few pieces of my Halloween costume, including a long black wig, in my car. While everyone was sitting around chatting one night after dinner, I snuck out to the car and put on the wig. I then stood in front of the window just out of the light's reach. When the other hunters looked up and saw the strange figure with the long dark hair staring in at them, they all froze with scared and confused looks on their faces. Of course, they quickly figured out it was me, and we all had a big laugh. Two of the guys were extremely spooked by the idea of staying in a haunted lodge, so we had an especially good time trying to scare them with scary noises and slamming doors in the middle of the night. In fact, they got so scared that they ended up sleeping out in the den because they were convinced that there was a ghost in their room.
During one turkey camp, one of the hunters killed a copperhead. After making sure it was absolutely dead, we used it to torture the hunters who were terrifed of snakes. While one hunter was giving an on-camera interview, another hunter snuck up behind her and slid the snake down her shoulder. The hunter being filmed let out a blood-curdling scream and ran off camera.
During another ladies' media hunt, we convinced the lodge owner to call one of the corporate sponsors of the hunt to tell him one of the ladies had accidentally discharged her shotgun in the lodge. He then told the sponsor that all of the ladies had gotten into a big fist fight and he kicked us all out. The lodge owner said that we had caused a lot of damage and someone was going to have to pay. The corporate sponsor believed every word of it and panicked. After letting him sweat it out for a while, we told him the truth.
Although I think practical jokes can be a lot of fun, I advise hunters to avoid jokes that could ruin someone's hunt. During one turkey hunt, one of my friends emptied out another hunter’s turkey vest and filled it with rocks right before his hunt. The guy hiked in miles to his setup only to discover that all his calls, shotgun shells and hunting accessories were replaced by rocks. His morning hunt was ruined, and he was not a happy camper to say the least. I don’t think I would be either.
These are a few of the practical jokes I've been a part of or witnessed. Have you ever played a trick or practical joke on someone in hunt camp? Ever had one played on you? Any suggestions for a good hunt camp practical joke?
April 18, 2012 | By Stephanie Mallory
“Wow, your husband has a lot of hunting gear,” the electrician said to me when preparing to do some work in our basement.
I replied with a grin, “That’s all my stuff. My husband doesn’t hunt.”
After giving me a strange look, he said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s different. It’s cool that you hunt, though. I wish my wife hunted.”
I get a similar response every time I tell people I hunt, but my husband, Brett, doesn’t. He has nothing against it, he just doesn’t do it. He enjoys fishing, playing basketball, mountain biking, backpacking, traveling and participating in fitness competitions, but you won’t find him in the turkey woods this spring – it’s just not his thing.
When people, especially those in the outdoor industry, find out that my husband doesn’t hunt, they usually just stare at me with a confused look on their faces. I guess it is strange. Most female hunters I know in the industry have husbands or boyfriends that hunt as well. In fact, many of the ladies were taught by their significant other. I only know of one other female hunter who has a nonhunting husband.
I do ask Brett to go with me on occasion, but there’s always something else he’d rather do. For example, I asked him to go turkey hunting with me a couple of weekends ago. He declined, claiming he’d miss the NCAA Final Four Championship. I should have known better. No other sporting event is as important to him as the Final Four.
Although I wish Brett would go hunting with me, it doesn’t bother me too terribly much that he doesn’t. We enjoy plenty of other outdoor activities together, so we’re not hurting for shared interests. We love backpacking and adventure travel, as well as skiing and mountain biking. We actually have a whole lot in common.
I’ll keep trying to get him to go with me. Maybe one day I’ll succeed. Hopefully when our boys get older and begin showing more interest, my husband will too. Until then, I'll continue to go with my dad and other hunting buddies.
Any of you ladies out there have nonhunting husbands or boyfriends? Did any of you teach your husbands or boyfriends how to hunt?
Alright, guys. Let’s help support a Realtree hunter on her journey to becoming Miss USA. Katherine Webb of Phenix City, Ala., won the title of Miss Alabama USA in January and is now preparing for the Miss USA Pageant to be held June 3 in Las Vegas. It will air on NBC at 9 EST.
You might recognize Katherine. She has modeled all over the country and has also modeled the Realtree Girl line of clothing for us. But Katherine is more than just an unbelievable beauty; she’s a hunter and all-around outdoors woman. She grew up hunting with her family in Georgia and says she enjoys pursuing dove, quail and deer. She also loves shooting skeet. To top it off, she’s extremely nice and personable as I discovered when speaking with her on the phone the other night. She told me her goal is to represent the South and what the South is all about.
“I grew up living in the country,” Katherine says. “The country and outdoor lifestyle are very much a part of who I am. I look forward to not only representing my state, but representing the down-home lifestyle on a national level.”
Katherine graduated from Auburn University last year with a degree in business management. She then got a job in management with Chick-Fil-A. But, after winning the Miss Alabama USA title on Jan. 28, she quit her job to tour the state, do charity events, make appearances and prepare for the Miss USA pageant.
“Preparing for this pageant takes a lot of mental and physical work,” Katherine says. “I’m practicing for the interviews, staying up on current events, training with well-known pageant coaches and dieting and working out constantly.”
Katherine leaves for Vegas on May 16, where she and the other contestants will be rehearsing, making appearances and touring until the day of the event.
The last time a Miss Alabama contestant won Miss USA was in 1962. Looks like Miss Alabama could take it home once again. Let’s all root for this beautiful hunter. Make sure to tune in on June 3 to show your support.
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