Bowhunting from a woman's perspective.
Michelle Eichler, chief executive officer of Muzzy broadheads, said the best thing about bowhunting is the way it brings her whole family together.
The sight of the pulsing red light on the answering machine caused my heart to skip a beat. Judging by the time of day, I knew it meant only one thing. Bracing myself for the horrific news, I pressed play.
"The score is now two to three. Get over here as soon as possible so you can wrap your hands around the hunk of mass this boy is carrying on his head," my buddy blurted. "On second thought, your fingers won't even make it around the bases!"
So, as if heading off to visit an uncle who wants to recount his hemorrhoid surgery, I trudged over to see this non-typical brute.
The buck came as advertised, and I knew right away Pope and Young scorers holding PhDs would be needed to figure the beautiful mess out. Backslaps and handshakes hard enough to make an NFL lineman wince were the order of the day. You couldn't help but be impressed.
Victoria Jackson was introduced to bowhunting at an early age by her father and has been stalking whitetails around her New York home for nearly 20 years. She believes a key to introducing young women to the sport is to focus on the total outdoor experience -- not just the kill.
The drive home put my mental wheels in motion. How was I to even the score and top a buck like that? Was it even possible? Are there deer left in New Jersey that would top such a monarch? Should I finally book a trip to the Midwest or Canada?
Where this competitive nature comes from, I have no idea. However, from our earliest days afield, my hunting companions and I have tried to one-up each other any chance we get. Call it jovial teasing, jealousy, or just plain male ego, but we all posses it from time to time.
As a father of two girls -- Amanda, 9, and Gianna, 5 -- getting my daughters involved in bowhunting and the outdoors is one of my life's challenges. And though I hardly claim to be an expert when it comes to women, I'm pretty sure a macho, testosterone-fueled antler quest isn't the best method for whetting their hunting appetite.
So, putting my pride aside, I sought advice from those who aren't your stereotypical treestand occupants. The decision to do so was made after hearing a surprising statement my daughter Amanda made while watching a bowhunting video with me. "Dad, she is too pretty to be hunting deer with a bow," Amanda said of the woman on the screen. With that, I wasted no time contacting the perfect role models and squashing this misconception.
'More Than Horns & Hooves'
Victoria Jackson of Mahopac, N.Y., was just the friend I needed to contact for advice. This deerstand diva has been roaming the hills and valleys adjacent to her home for almost two decades with her dad.
"It is extremely important to realize there is a lot more beyond the trees than horns and hooves," Jackson said.
Michelle Eichler chief executive officer of Muzzy broadheads, loves to enjoy archery alongside her husband, Fred, and their children.
From the earliest stages of walking, this former springboard and platform diver was exposed to the ways of whitetail behavior. Hunting for sheds, buck rubs and scrapes was not only a learning experience but also a bonding experience so often lacking between today's youth and their parents.
She said a recent hunting excursion with her family proved "the silence of the woods is deafening." Enveloping herself in complete camouflage and sitting still allowed her to drink in the sight of an owl hunting for its next meal. "Watching the actions and reactions of those below the owl on the food chain was something no video game, television show or book could ever teach," Jackson said.
When not out scouting or hunting, Jackson can often be found instructing young girls on the local archery range. She never misses the opportunity to let these impressionable youngsters know bowhunting is her anti-drug. She equates the adrenaline rush of approaching game to that of the greatest roller coaster in the world. Bowhunting has opened up opportunities and a lifestyle for which she is truly grateful.
Like Jackson, Michele Eichler of Trinidad, Colo., agrees bowhunting fosters a family bond that is almost too strong to explain. Eichler, the chief executive officer of Muzzy broadheads, was introduced to archery by her legendary father, John Musacchia Sr., designer of the Muzzy broadhead.
When not consumed with the business side of archery, Eichler can be found spending time with her entire family pursuing whitetail deer, elk, antelope, bears, mountain lions and turkeys, to name a few. Though her children play a variety of traditional sports, bowhunting is the only sport in which each and every member of her family participates together. "When my mother and I hunt pronghorn antelope with my sons, we are no longer spectators," Eichler said. "We are actual participants."
From her earliest years, Eichler's father treated her much the same as her brother. Hanging treestands, reading the woods and culturing a respect for nature were family affairs. "Bowhunting is a unique sport," she said. "When a grandparent can sit side-by-side with a grandchild and experience the hunt together, the lack of descriptive words says it all. The camaraderie and closeness, which is burned into our memories, can never be taken for granted or taken away."
Fun and Freedom
Minnesota native Tiffany Lakosky also enjoys the family camaraderie bowhunting affords. A former flight attendant, Lakosky hung up her crisp airline uniform for earthier garb and is happily grounded in a treestand six-months out of the year. She and her husband, Lee Lakosky, spend every minute of hunting season together while filming footage for their po
pular television show, The Crush with Lee and Tiffany.
Unlike Eichler, Lakosky's involvement with archery did not begin at an early age. In fact, she never even considered bowhunting until her husband put a bow and arrow into her hands. However, Lakosky's fresh perspective and natural enthusiasm gives her a genuine connection with the newest generation of female archers.
Tiffany Lakosky has taken plenty of trophy animals during her many hunting expeditions, but her most memorable times afield center around special times spent with family.
"Keeping the sport fun and exciting should be the goal of any parent contemplating the introduction to bowhunting or archery," she said. "Something as simple as providing a pink target and not putting any pressure on the newcomer can do wonders for young females. Once the child experiences the thrill of shooting and the seed is planted, the absolute fun of the sport often takes over."
When asked about a most memorable hunt, one might assume a 190-class whitetail adventure, which would captivate the most seasoned of veterans, would spew from her memory. However, as with the other female role models I interviewed, her family comes first.
"Hands down, my most memorable hunt was experienced with my mother (Linda Profant) in the Canadian wilderness pursuing black bears," Lakosky said. Though recovering from illness kept her mother from harvesting the bruin with a bow, having shared the successful experience was something she will always cherish.
To heighten the awareness and positive attributes of bowhunting, Lakosky devotes a considerable amount of time doing appearances. She can regularly be seen signing autographs and taking pictures with fans and fellow hunters at outdoor shows across the country. She's also been working recently with the National Archery in the Schools Program to foster a new generation's interest in the sport.
The Moral of the Story
Time will tell if my daughters inherit my competitive gene; though I am sure my wife would be just fine if it remained solely with me. For now, however, I plan to keep our outdoor experiences subdued until a more appropriate time arises. I have goals that are more important these days, and they far surpass the need to obsess over sweeping racks and wide spreads.
Quality time spent with family and friends has proven to be the recipe for success with each of the accomplished females archers I spoke with. Their enthusiasm and vibrant recollections of special times afield were heartfelt and a warm reminder about what is really important in life. Not once did any of these women use the conversation to brag about a huge trophy, a superior technique or their state-of-the-art equipment. In short, a visit with each of these beautiful women proved that "ego" is absent from their repertoire.
If they each hunt a tract of land teeming with monster whitetails, I did not hear about it. What I did hear, however, was their advice on the importance of spending time outdoors with my daughters. Whether we harvest a deer, find a shed, put up a stand or admire a rub line, my girls can rest assured it is perfectly acceptable for them to do so.
And if those who like to stereotype equate female hunters with Granny Clampet, they have failed to do their homework. These accomplished female bowhunters are truly role models for tomorrow. Each would be extremely successful if "the fork in the road" led them down a different path. But when these women came to the fork that lead to the hunting woods, they took it!