Imagine a high school cheerleader’s worst nightmare and it might go something like this.
It’s your mom’s week to pick up you and your friends after practice and she pulls up in a rickety old Blazer. There’s room for everybody, with one catch: The two girls in the far back have to sit on a dead deer.
“My daughter was so embarrassed,” laughs Brenda Valentine. “But she can laugh about it now.”
Brenda can recite stories like this in her charming Southern twang all day long. It’s no wonder she has become an icon in the hunting world, a writer and TV show host who connects with fans like few others can.
The woman known as “The First Lady of Hunting” not only trademarked that title, she deserves it.
As a kid growing up in rural Tennessee, Brenda didn’t envision hunting as a career. It was simply a way of life. She tagged along with her dad and brother through the hills and hollows, hunting all kinds of small game.
“There weren’t any deer back then,” she recalled.
But, eventually there were. Brenda became an avid whitetail hunter, first with a borrowed Winchester Model 94 rifle and then with an early model PSE compound bow.
“The guy in the archery shop told me it was a proven scientific fact that a woman couldn’t draw enough weight to take a deer,” Brenda says, chuckling.
An early foray into outdoor communication came when she was invited to speak at a deer hunting seminar at the original Bass Pro Shops store in Missouri.
Brenda had an hour, and figured the attendees would take a bathroom break before the next speaker, Bill Jordan.
“But no one left,” she remembers. “The place was loaded. I was so nervous.”
Brenda started talking.
“I was out there with Cool Whip containers filled with doe pee,” she says, and you can sense her cringing at the memory. “It was so unprofessional.”
But then a few men started asked questions, and suddenly Brenda was in her element.
“The next thing I know a guy is coming out on stage and asking me to wrap it up,” she laughs. “I had been at it 90 minutes. But then a guy in the audience stood up and said, ‘Turn her loose. I’m learning stuff.’”
That guy was Bill Jordan. Brenda was invited to work on the Bass Pro Shops pro staff that day, and the relationship is one that remains.
In the years since, Brenda has become one of the more recognizable figures in hunting, a pioneer who has inspired scores of girls and women who constantly thank her for her influence.
“It’s a whole new world,” said Brenda, an ambassador for the NWTF’s JAKES program. “It does me so much good to see the wonder in their eyes when they step into that world for the first time.”