By Derek Benoit, May 7th, 2022
This powerhouse young lady has taken personal betrayal and violation and created a movement of healing, growth, and discovery for women through hunting. She’s a kind of go getter you’d be happy your daughter decided to emulate!
1.) You have one of the most heart-breaking survivor stories I’ve ever heard. How have your experiences shaped your approach to life, especially in the outdoors?
Being raised in a fundamentalist religion and being taught to forgive and forget
created deep issues within me that came from my brother sexually abusing me.
After 15 years of holding in this secret I learned to let go and to start healing. I
would like to say I’ve been reborn as I’ve gained a new perspective on life. I
choose to live in positivity, non-judgment, to live with no filter (as you’ve seen
on my social media) and to spend as much time in the wild as possible. I have
traded in the church pew for nature walks for my worship.
I no longer sweat the small things as I’ve lived through experiences that matter, unlike the material world. I live to inspire others through healthy living and to take
time to enjoy the magic and healing powers of nature. I accept challenge as I
thrive when working on becoming a better version of myself.
2.) How wou you mentor another person seeking the outdoors for personal recovery? What would be the critical lessons you’d want them to learn?
This question hits all too deep. There are so many ways someone can heal from
nature, whether it be the from the river, the dessert, the ocean, or the mountains.
They all have much magical healing powers, for I’ve experienced tremendous healing
in all of them. I would first ask that person if they have a specific place, type of
terrain, anywhere in nature that makes them feel as peace, as if they are a part of
something bigger, and if they do, then we would start there.
Just because hunting was a healing force for me, I can’t guarantee it will be that way for everyone else.
But let’s say I knew someone who went through a similar situation as I, and they
were a hunter, I would encourage them to venture out and hunt solo. Hunting solo
teaches you a lot about yourself, and without anyone else there the experience
becomes very personal and spiritual.
3.) Your credentials include professional big game guide, photographer, blogger-founder of www.whatsyourwild.net, cofounder of Ridge Patrol, a women’s hunting apparel line, and soon-to-be-author. Do you have any plans to expand to television/video-based media in the future?
I have no plans of being on TV right now, but I am not opposed to it. I feel like I
am just starting to find my nitch in the hunting industry and I would love to work with
others who have suffered trauma in their life along with sharing hunts through a visual
platform. With that being said, if the opportunity presented itself, and all things in life
seem to be in place, I would go for it!
4.) Much of your career as a professional hunter seems to revolve around inspiring other women. So much so that you have a women’s Big Game 101 Clinic taking place June 9th through the 12th of this year. What drives you to be a pacesetter in women’s western hunting?
Having grown up with 9 brothers teaching me how to hunt, then going on and becoming a whitewater raft guide and hunting guide, I have seen first-hand how difficult it can be for women to learn and harness the confidence to do something that is male dominated. I also know there are far too many women out there who too are suffering, and I want to provide them a space for connection and healing.
5.) You’re not shy about sharing your workout presentations for the guide life. What’s been the foundation for your conditioning, and can you share any mistakes you see in clients making their approach to fitness for hunting the west?
Consistently moving your body. Whether it’s snowshoeing in the winter, to trail running in the summer, any type of movement is better than none. It gives you a baseline to work from, and if you keep that baseline in check, you won’t need to necessarily “train” for hunting season. I haven’t personally seen any clients make mistakes regarding how they train, but I have experienced first-hand on what altitude does to a person who is not from Colorado. I think many people today are lazy and they think they can train a couple weeks before their hunt and not struggle. Even the people who consistently workout year-round, will still have some struggle to the hunt. When I move my body year-round, I am more confident in the field to hunt further and harder, increasing my chances of success. I also don’t hold anyone back when I prepare year-round, plus my shooting stays consistent.
6.) If you were going to coach a new client for a trip nine months from now, with zero background in mountain hunting, what kind of routines would you suggest them to prepare?
- HIT TRAINING, aka high intensity training. Imagine hiking into the mountains to hunt big game. You locate a big bull early in the morning but he’s far out, so you will have to hike several miles to get closer to him. Once you’re in range, it becomes a game of cat and mouse and if he presents himself, it’s the ability to make a shot with an increased heart rate that matters. These wild animals move incredible quickly through nasty and thick terrain. Using the high intensity training helps you (somewhat) keep up with that animal, as that style of workout trains you to be able to work out hard for a short period of time, rest quickly and continue. You can lift heavy weights all you want, but if you don’t train at high intensity levels you will struggle in the mountains.
- Weighted hikes. Throw some weight in your pack and go for a hike, off trail. Start with weight that is manageable and hike a few miles. As you get stronger, add more weight and hike lesser miles. Less weight= more miles, more weight=less miles. Save the knees for the real deal! When hunting you typically have some weight in your pack, especially if you knock an animal down! Train this way, and once opening day gets here it will feel as though you are just going for another hike!
- Lift x2 a week. Obviously building muscle is key to being strong.
When coming to Colorado to hunt, most people are coming from a lower elevation and it’s a struggle for most to breathe with hiking big mountains. I suggest to my clients that if they can, arrive to Colorado a couple days before their hunt that way they can somewhat acclimate the altitude, making their hunt slightly easier.
7.)What inspired you to get involved with the hunting apparel industry? What things weren’t being addressed by the other brands, and how does your company solve these problems?
I met Bevan my business partner through a non-profit called Rocky Mountain Sportswomen, for which I am an ambassador. Bevan was looking for women to try on the clothing line she had started, and I thought it would be a great opportunity. I tried on the clothes, and we connected quickly. I brought the pants with me on an Arizona deer hunt to test them out and to get some content for Ridge Patrol’s Instagram account. One thing led to the next and soon I was signing a contract to partner with Bevan.
As a woman hunting guide, and avid hunter with a muscular build and standing at just 5’ 1” I understand the struggle to find clothes that not only fit right but look good. When wearing the Ridge Patrol clothes, I felt confident as I hiked ridge lines and low valleys, I felt invincible, and I knew these clothes would make other women feel this way too. We take pride in being a women owned, and USA made, that strives to help get women into the outdoors. Ridge Patrol is not just a clothing line, we are so much more. We are a sisterhood, that strives to live healthy lives chasing outdoor adventures. In my line of work, and through my way of life, I have tested our clothes through and through and can personally say I will never wear another brand of clothing again. That’s how great our clothes are.
8.)What is the greatest big game accomplishment you’ve had to this point? How do you plan to top it moving forward?
November 2015. I had a limited draw mule deer tag in my pocket, and I found myself heading out on a solo morning hunt. Everything that happened that morning went so perfectly, and I ended up harvesting a beautiful buck just after sunrise. The sky was still pink and orange and casted a warm glow across the cold fall morning. Walking up on this buck the reality hit me that nobody was there to help me, and I was the only person who would get this animal out. I got to work and had a big smile on my face the entire time. I had seen and helped my dad and brothers with this many times and I finally was put to the test.
Not wanting to make several trips I decided to pack this meat out in one trip, and it turned out to be one of hardest accomplishments I’ve had in my life. My legs could only go so far before I would need to find a rock and sit down, for my pack was nearly 150 lbs., if not more. For the first time in my life, I was consumed with pride, and I had a realization that I could conquer anything that was thrown my way. As I stumbled along, I had the biggest smile on my red face, and right then and there I knew the hunting industry was calling my name. I didn’t know what it was yet, but I knew I needed to chase the dream. With each hunt I go on, whether I’m guiding, or with friends and family its special in its own way. I can’t compare one to the other and I refuse to for as I continue to evolve, I will have new challenges I am chasing, and I don’t ever want to degrade that.
9.)What is the greatest reward you get from the guiding side of the business?
I’ve experiences a lot of rewarding moments in the field with my clients, but I would like to share this on in particular that was a big reminder to me of why I guide.
My client and I were taking a break in the afternoon from hunting for he wasn’t feeling well. I decided to run up the mountain to do some scouting while he spent the afternoon along a small creek fishing. When we met back up, I asked him if he had caught any fish and he informed me he never left his truck. I was concerned he wasn’t getting better but turns out he had a much-needed afternoon to reflect on life. His wife had suddenly died a couple years back but before she did, she gave him a letter. She told him that someday he would open that letter but only when he knew the time was right, and when he was ready. Turns out that afternoon was the time. She wrote about life, and love and all the important things that matter, and it caused a shift within my client. After reading her letter he got lost in the energy around him. The small creek brought a meditative peace over him as the warm afternoon breeze made the aspen leaves dance. He was a changed man as I could see it in his eyes.
Many of my clients who come out west to hunt live very busy lives and when they come to the mountains to hunt, they are given a chance to reset. Sometimes that looks different for others, whether it’s the physical challenge of hiking big mountains or it’s the simpler things, such as the healing powers of mother earth. Having a client notch their tag is always icing on the cake, but that’s not what it’s all about.