The Elephant in the Room

Let's jump right into the reason behind this blog. I came across a page that is fueled by making fun of people within (or trying to be within) the outdoor industry, and I've recently been the subject of some posts due to a very controversial topic: hunting high fenced deer. I'd like to address this in a different way and take ownership for what I've done in the past, as well as what I continue to do.

Let me provide a perspective that maybe you haven't considered. Let's rewind to pre-social media days when I was a young girl learning about the outdoors through my father. He had several low fence deer leases as I was growing up, but it wasn't until middle school when he leased a 4,700 acre high fenced property in South Texas that I really began to take in everything and apply it. We had rights to the property for 10 years and it was during this time that I decided to be more involved. Furthermore, it was during this time that I decided I wanted to pull the trigger.

Texas is made up of less than 5% public land. Growing up, having access to land was like hitting gold. Unless you own land or know somebody that does, or live somewhat close to the small amount of public land, you're really out of luck in this state. To put it into perspective, I constantly get messages from soldiers that are moving down to Texas; they're so excited to be stationed in a state with high populations, diverse wildlife, the ability to hunt 24 hours a day and all year round. Sounds great right? Until you get here and have nowhere to go. I feel blessed that I've almost always had property to hunt - low fence, high fence, it didn't matter. At least I didn't think so at the time. Before social media, I never knew it was a big deal because it's so common down here, paired with the fact that I didn't have low fence landowners offering me a place to go! That's as genuine as I can be.

Also, if high fence was the way everybody makes it out to be, I'd have a lot more kills under my belt! Like any subject, not everything is created equal. I have heard of some pretty awful stuff happening on high fence ranches in my state, but nothing that I've participated in or even seen first hand. I often hear others saying that people hunt high fence to make it easier or to make sure they get enough kills for their TV shows or platforms, but that statement doesn't apply to my childhood self that never had a cell phone until 7th/8th grade. In other words, I never hunted high fence to make sure I got enough kills so that I could get enough likes/followers, or so that "sponsors" (I seriously hate that word) would start reaching out. In fact, I think one of my biggest advantages in this industry is that I'm not afraid to tell you the truth about every hunt I go on - my failures, my misses, whether I was guided or not, NOTHING. I'm not pretending to know it all because Lord knows I don't. I'm learning every day. I don't work with companies that base my value on how much I kill. If anything, I'd rather underpromise and overdeliver. I never knew that I would end up chasing a dream in the outdoors and be social media based, where everybody tears you apart because you do something different than them. I HAD NOBODY TO IMPRESS THEN! And I can assure you that when you pulled up to a gas station in small town, Texas with a buck in the bed of your truck, NOBODY asked if it was high fence or low fence. You weren't being judged for it. Instead, you were applauded for being involved in the outdoors rather than sitting in front of a TV. I'm saying all of this in past tense, but it applies to today too, over a decade later.

So that's my past in a nutshell. Fast forward to now, where I still rely on landowners to let me hunt because I don't know many individuals that can afford land, or even a deer lease in this state. I damn sure can't! I'm fortunate enough that my father now owns 800 acres in Central Texas, and that my husband recently landed a ranch manager position on a 21,000 acre ranch in the hill country. And guess what? It's all low fence! All of my deer this season came from those properties. I have not once hunted high fence during the 2017 season because I didn't need to with so much access to other properties, but yes I have in previous years. I've also been bear hunting in Alberta and elk hunting in New Mexico this year, all of which was on public land. For the record, I was more successful this year than any other. Ironic? For the sake of my career, I've distanced myself from high fence properties.

With that being said, I'm never going to put high fence hunting down. I would never slap the hand that (literally and figuratively) fed me for years. And isn't that the real trophy? The one on the plate? It seems to become more of a competition these days which is disheartening. Is high fence what I prefer? No, but social media caused that decision and I refuse to belittle anybody that does it. If I didn't have access to thousands of acres of high fenced properties all these years, I may have gone a long time without bowhunting (or hunting in general) in my life, and I don't want to think about the person I would've been without it because I have a lot of self love now, much of which stems from who the outdoors has shaped me to be. The first archery deer I shot wasn't on high fence and neither was the last. I also want to acknowledge that high fence deer is not the same as pen raised deer. That's an entirely different business down here and irrelevant to what I've done.

I want each of my readers to consider this: a native deer doesn't behave, feed, rut, smell, etc any different in a high fence. All of those topics I can honestly say I know something about because of some time spent on high fenced ranches. Sure, there was also a mix of low fence hunting throughout that time, but I'd be lying if I gave all the credit to solely being on free range properties. Let me be clear, this is NOT an argument of "high fence is the same thing as low fence." I'm simply stating that the knowledge that I've accumulated has come from a mix of properties. Many people reach out with questions about hunting and I've spent quite a bit of time teaching people what I know, but it's as if I'm all of a sudden not a credible source of information because of WHERE I learned these things. You know what else I find interesting?

Picture this: I'm standing in line at the store to get my license. I hear the guy in front of me bashing high fence hunting. He goes on to tell the cashier he's a #freerange (and maybe even throws out a #publicland) hunter and would never hunt anything else. He swipes his card, puts his license/tags in his pocket and walks out. I step up to the counter and purchase my license/tags then head to the Exit sign as well. We leave the store to go hunt our properties that we are so fortunate to have access to. Now the big question: How different are we? I paid the same amount for my license/tags that the guy next to me did. We've now put the same amount toward conservation and we're both choosing to spend our time outdoors in God's country. Seriously, HOW DIFFERENT ARE WE? If that makes me less of a hunter, ok I'll take another shot (welcome to my life), but at that moment we're both putting dollars into the same thing. THAT'S what this industry should be focusing on. THAT is what saves this lifestyle. I look for the common denominator with people, not the differences. As an outdoorsman, as a fellow hunter, as a respectful human being, you should too.

You can learn a LOT from any type of hunting. You can also try something once and never do it again, but at least you can speak from experience instead of through what you've heard/assumed (AKA through your rear end). I will always support legal hunting, even if some things aren't my cup of tea.

I felt inclined to write this blog for several reasons:

  1. To simply get it off my chest and address the elephant in the room. Writing is therapeutic and healing, all of which I need right now.
  2. To let others know that I'm not ashamed or trying to hide how I was raised or what I've done. It's what shaped me and I'd be lost without those experiences. It's kind of tough to call someone out that isn't afraid to call themselves out.
  3. To inform my audience that hunting has never been about competition or the "need to kill" for social media. I was doing what so many considered "wrong" before I ever chased an outdoor career.
  4. To show support to anybody that might be in my shoes, and to show support for all hunters, regardless of how you hunt.

If this blog disappoints you, I'm truly sorry. I have and will always be transparent with you, and this is about as honest as I can be. It's also not the first time I've talked about high fence hunting, but I felt that I needed to address it again. I'm not even sure that all of my current sponsors know this about me, but if I'm going to be judged for my past then I just assume not work with them anyway. All I can do is focus on today and the opportunities in front of me, which reminds me of the following quote:

"Write it in your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you for taking the time to read, and for (hopefully) opening your eyes and heart to how someone else began their journey, even if it was different than your own. Sadly, even if I never hunted high fence again, someone will find something else to rip apart. I've come to expect that because it's simply the world we live in. We can build each other up or we can tear each other down, but I refuse to take part in the latter.