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Meadow on R3 – When we leave this world, we leave something behind. One way or another, for better or worse. Equally true is our inheritance upon birth. I was not born in to wealth rather a rich life. My inheritance is one of skills, knowledge, and passion for the outdoors. I am fortunate for my upbringing. Most girls and women never get the opportunities that I did. I am working to change that.
When we leave this world, we leave something behind.
My personal and professional interests surrounding the decline in hunter participation and its impacts on wildlife resources has driven me to spend a significant amount of time working with hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts focused on women. I relate to the Extreme Huntress competition goals through recognizing that women play critical roles in their children’s perspective and eventual participation in hunting.
It has been said that you cannot plant seeds on sidewalks. To me this means that we can’t continue to pour our limited R3 resources in to youth hunting programs and expect success if we do not recruit the parents. In the end, if the parents are not supportive of their child hunting and do not continue to provide opportunities to develop skills, the youth’s interest will wither and die. As a result, we gain no new hunters to stem the decline. For positive results we should look to the non-hunting parents, especially mom.
Discover the R3 of Hunting – Meadow Kouffeld
Women are the fastest growing demographic in hunting but there are still significant barriers to their recruitment. One of the hurdles of recruiting women in to hunting is breaking the ingrained perspective that hunting is a man’s sport. This is one area that I feel like I can make a difference. One way to overcome this perception is to increase efforts that promote knowledgeable and competent female role models and leaders that hunt in the media and beyond.
In addition to my efforts to develop a women’s R3 program I strive to be the best example of a hunter and angler in both my personal and professional life and continue to produce positive images and examples of women in the field in different media outlets. Meadow Kouffeld – 2019 Extreme Huntress Finalist –
A week or so ago Meadow Kouffeld and a couple other people were on the show for the governor’s…Minnesota Governor’s Deer Opener promo, and that’s coming up on the 17th of October. And so that’s probably already come and gone. But Meadow was a guest and she is a wildlife biologist. She’s a teacher, natural resource teacher, at Itasca College up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. And she’s also a finalist in the Extreme Huntress Contest put on by Tom Opre.
And when you think of all this, in the warm-up we were talking about Alaska and New Mexico, but Meadow just did something really neat, she volunteered for the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener.
Pheasant opener, yeah.
And down in Luverne, Minnesota. And she had a six-hour drive to go and be with some ladies. So, Meadow, tell me about that experience and what the ladies learned and what you learned.
Well, like you mention, it was quite a to drive down there to Luverne. Luverne is located in the farthest southwest corner of Minnesota and I’m kind of north-central. But, you know, for a few years I’d been asked to mentor and guide at the women’s pheasant hunt at the Governor’s Opener. And it hadn’t worked out, I had been working for the Ruffed Grouse Society and guided at the national hunt that same week. And this year I’m not associated with the Ruffed Grouse Society, so I was able to go. And I was really looking forward to it and it turned out to be a very positive experience.
And, you know, every year they have a set of ladies that guide and a set of ladies that are guided, or the hunters themselves. And it requires a background check. You know, the governor is there. I believe Amy… He wasn’t there this year, but the assistant or lieutenant governor was there. Amy Klobuchar was there, a few other Senate members, and the state and federal. And it was kind of a big to-do. And Luverne really did a great job, but this year the women’s hunt went off really well. And actually I had a lady from International Falls, which is on the Canadian border, and a lady from Grand Rapids area that were my mentees. And so they both got their birds and they got to watch the dogs work. I have Deutsch-Drahthaars, which are pointing dogs. And they had a blast. And one of them, she was actually five months pregnant and she just can’t wait to get back out.
So it was a good feeling. And then, you know, of course, we might get into it, but on the way back I got to hunt with some of the ladies that were guides and really had a blast. It was quite an eye-opening experience to get the chance to hunt with them, too.
Folks, if you google Meadow, you’ll find that she’s done some volunteering, and she just mentioned the Ruffed Grouse Society. And, you know, she’s really given herself into serving the hunting community, specifically women. Why have you done that?
I’ve been hunting my whole life
You know, I’ve been hunting my whole life. My dad moved to America from the Netherlands so that he could hunt and fish and some other freedoms that are associated with America. And so he really valued, you know, the outdoor lifestyle and he certainly passed it on to us. And I’ve been growing up with it and I’ve always loved it, but it wasn’t easy early on and I really had to fight for it. Because we were made fun of quite a bit and teased a lot for being girls that hunted, my sister and I. And we just loved it so much and it brought so much joy and so much more richness to my life, and so it was something that I really had hoped that, you know, other folks would take on, other ladies especially, and share that.
And so, you know, over the years it’s just something that I realized, that a lot of ladies just never had the opportunity growing up because maybe their father or their adult mentors didn’t take them and maybe took a brother instead, or a cousin, and they were overlooked because they’re female. You know, hunting is, you know, traditionally associated with men, at least here in North America. And so a lot of ladies just didn’t have that opportunity.
So in the last couple years, you know, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities myself, through college and even in relationships later on, where I’ve continued to build my skills. And some point I just…I don’t know, I was in graduate school, I decided…or somehow there as a change where it became more important to share the experience with others and give them positive experiences in the field and less so about myself and my needs hunting. I still hunt a fair amount, but I have spent a lot more time every year, increasingly so, you know, kind of taking other folks out and sharing the experience with them. It’s just something that brings me a great amount of joy, I mean my cheeks hurt. I can barely sleep at night after I’ve taken someone hunting and maybe they got their first bird or they had a good experience and they’re just so excited about it. So I guess it’s become a higher level of personal fulfillment for me in some cases to take these folks out and give them that experience.
You think about that, and I know you love to work your dogs or run your dogs and watch them…you know, watch them work. And that’s a big part of hunting. Because I don’t like to hunt birds without a dog, it could waterfowl or it could be upland birds.
I know you love to work your dogs or run your dogs and watch them
You know, people say, “Well, we’re going to drive some pheasants,” and stuff like that and I go, “Eh, I don’t think so.”
Because the pleasure is watching your dog do what they do. And if I trained him right, or her right her, you know, they’re going to find the game. And there’s nothing more than watching your dog get birdie and you know what’s about to happen. And, you know, how does that work with your new hunters? They’ve never seen a dog get all fired up and get birdie and you just know, you know, in seconds a bird is going to flush. You know, talk me through that.
Well, it’s pointing dogs, so it’s a little bit different than flushers, but, man, it’s magic. You know, I grew up with hounds and stock dogs, and so they’re pretty straightforward. You know, you’re using the prey drive and the dog’s natural ability to your advantage, and to get them basically to do their job with minimal handling. Pointers, there is a pointing instinct in most of the breeds, but they do require a different approach. And then to me, you know, having grown up with these dogs that are just so prey driven and stock dogs that are ready to jump in there and bite ankles or whatever, it’s really strange to see a dog go on point. It still just baffles me to see a dog on a solid point when there’s obviously a bird there.
Yesterday I had one of my students out that had never shot a woodcock before. So a week prior when I took them out for the first time, the dog was on point, the bird was three feet from him because he’d overrun him just a little bit. But it was just amazing to see that dog on point.
And I think that’s what blows people away, or even just sparks or ignites that fire inside of them. appreciating dogs is to watch a dog point or, like you said, start working a scent cone and flush. It just really adds so much enjoyment, even if it’s not your dog, to watch and participate in. And, you know, a big part of my life has always been involving dogs, whether it’s stocks dogs or hounds.
And so it’s just kind of a natural thing to have that sort of relationship. But I can tell you that bird hunting with a well-trained dog is something special. And it could be just as frustrating if you don’t have a well-trained dog, but I don’t enjoy bird hunting nearly as much without a dog. And it doesn’t matter what kind of dog it is, as long as it’s well-trained and it doesn’t ruin my hunt I’ve found great enjoyment over all styles, but I really love sharing my pointing dogs with folks.
You know, you think about watching dogs. And so when you’re mentoring people, how do you tell them, you know, what to watch for? Or do you just tell them, you know, “The dog is ready, it’s pointing,” you know, “Move up,” or however you’re going to, you know, flush the bird?
Well, you know, a dog is just like your hunting partner, it’s irreplaceable. And so number one always is safety. And, you know, barrel control and where they’ve got their muzzle pointing. And so, you know, obviously the other thing to take into consideration is we’re grouse and woodcock hunting. The grouse and woodcock in Minnesota live in some of the thickest stuff. Most of the time you cannot swing a barrel to follow through on a shot. So, you know, you’re coaching them through how to walk up on a dog while maintaining barrel control or muzzle control. And then when you get up to them, you are very cognizant of staying behind the shooters, especially if they’re new. You know, a shotgun is…a rifle is nothing to be messed with, but a shotgun is pretty dangerous in the sense that the pattern is so large.
a dog is just like your hunting partner, it’s irreplaceable.
And so you’re kind of coaching them the whole time, and then there’s that fine balance of getting them set up to where they can actually pull the trigger on something, being safe, and getting the dog to perform. You know, I’ve got it to where I make my pointing dogs flush after we’re in position for safety reasons. A lot of times you’re either in front of the shooters or you try and get the shooters to get up on the dog, beside the dog, so that they can get a safe shot, but sometimes it’s just not possible.
So there’s a lot going on when you’re trying to get someone to shoot at a grouse or a woodcock. Pheasants are a lot safer in the regard to the fact that you don’t have to fight the trees and the shooting cover. And also pheasants are really large and they’re slow, compared to a grouse, and a level of opportunity is much higher there.
As you were talking I’m just, you know, going back on some, you know, past experiences. Let me ask you question. Do you hunt No, I don’t. I studied ruffed grouse for quite a while in graduate school and been involved with ruffed grouse and woodcock the last decade. And I just…you know, winter is pretty harsh and cold here and it’s one of the more energetically stressful times for those birds and I just assume not harass or pressure them in the wintertime. There are plenty of people that do that and enjoy that and it’s sustainable, it’s fine, it’s just a personal decision on my part to not pursue those birds in the winter. And sometimes I will just to humor myself, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as it is earlier in the fall when it’s warmer and you have a higher likelihood of actually encountering some of those birds.
That was…the reason I brought that up is I wondered how you did that. Because that’s the first… I was 10, 12 years old and my mentor said, you know, “If you go out after ruffed grouse”… And I was living in New England at the time. And he said, “You’ll see the wing tips as they’ve gone into the snow and you’ll like a puff.” And I went, “Okay.” And he says, “Then you just walk up slowly and they’re going to bust out right in your face and, you know, like a bomb going off. And, you know, good luck.” It took me a while, but I finally harvested one, I finally shot one. And I went, “Oh my goodness, what a thrill.” I was just…it was exhilarating for, one, a young kid, and I had a single-shot 20-gauge pull-back-the-hammer-and-pull-the-trigger, you know, shotgun.
And so a lot was going on and I just always remember that and that was a question I wanted to ask, if you ever hunted in the wintertime like that. Because that would be fast and furious.
And I was going to say one other thing.
I just want to say one other thing for your listeners, because there’s folks from across the nation and across the ruffed grouse range. A lot of people wonder, or think, like, “Well, why is it a challenge?” You know, most people are accustomed to shooting them out of trees or off the ground and elsewhere. You know, especially in the west there’s areas with such high grouse densities that it seems like it’s not much of a challenge. But there’s definitely a difference between hunting a grouse out west, you know, opportunistically and actually pursuing one with a dog here in the Upper Midwest.
An so just to put that out there, that it is a very different experience, depending on where you are and what method you’re using. You could still drive an ATV on the trail here and shoot a bird off the trial all you want, but when you actually bring a dog into the equation and wing shooting, you’re actually trying to hit the bird on the wing, that makes a very big challenge. And I’ve never hunted them underneath the snow, like I said earlier. And then also just the fact…I don’t even know, I mean I’m sure dogs could pick up the scent, but that scent cone isn’t going to carry very far with such cold, dry conditions and the bird buried in the snow. But it’s impressive, that snow roosting is really an impressive behavior.
because the snow is an insulator and it’s cold out and that’s why they dive into the snow, folks.
That’s why it works.
Well, being from California, I thought that was crazy.
But, and woodcock, I have done that a few times, mostly unsuccessfully. But, you know, because “tumble doodles,” or whatever they call them…
it’s just unbelievable. They corkscrew. I mean you got one little window. And that’s why shoot…you know, you shoot a shotgun, because one BB will take them down if you get on it. But it’s just…you know, it’s exhilarating. And in the fall, when you can smell the leaves and you got a dog working, it’s pure magic. And so that’s my two cents on that.
It is. And, you know, to be honest, I really love woodcock and I enjoy hunting woodcock more than I do grouse now, and in part because they work so well with the dogs. But, like you mention, that flight pattern, it’s so fun to watch somebody new to try and shoot a woodcock for the first time and they’re just…they never…for the first 10 flushes they don’t even…their shotgun doesn’t even move. Their reaction is just not there and they watch the bird get up and fly, and, you know, the erratic flight. And it’s just…and it’s funny to watch their reaction, like, “Do you see what that thing just did?” You know? “Yeah, you know, they’re tricky.”
Well, yeah, they’re just dodging trees and branches.
And you never know which way they’re going to go and what they’re going to do and when they’re going to put down, or if they’re going to keep going. And, yeah, they may, like…I’ve seen them do some strange elevational changes and, you know, they’re just a really fun bird to hunt. There’s not much on them, you know, they’re about the size of a dove, but they are a challenge and a lot of people that pursue them really fall in love with them.
Well, you know, I’m glad that we got off on that tangent because upland game hunting, if you’ve never done that with a friend or with a dog, you know, I heartily recommend that. It’s just a great outdoor experience. And that’s what Meadow is all about, you know, her resume is full of outdoor experiences. Because, you know, she looks at and she spends a significant amount of time with the three Rs, and that’s recruitment, retention, and reactivation. Why is that?
Well, I’m a wildlife biologist, as I mentioned earlier, and as a wildlife biologist, you know, I appreciate the North American model of wildlife conservation. And, you know, hunters and the money raised by hunters and the concern for the resource from hunters is kind of the foundation and the reason for the success of that method of management here in North America. And without the hunters, you know, we’re really in trouble as wildlife managers. You know, hunters from the get-go, the early beginning of that back in the Teddy Roosevelt days and Boone and Crockett, that was a period that, you know, in a generation people saw things like the passenger pigeon disappear and bison disappear and, you know, wild turkeys and whitetail deer were just about absent to, you know, verging on the edge of extinction. And if it wasn’t for sport hunters back then and their interest in those species being perpetuated, we would have lost a lot of those animals.
And it’s the same for today. You know, there are so many people that live in the cities and they have no exposure to the natural world outside of their cell phones or their TVs or the media that they receive. And, you know, really they have a very superficial interest in the natural world for the most part. You know, they would probably be happy with having five individual animals in the zoo that they could see or take pictures of. Hunters on the other hand, and conservationists, fisher men and women, trappers, those are folks that, not only do they care very deeply about the resource, you know, they would miss them. If we didn’t have those animals to pursue, you know, obviously you’d miss them. But most of those folks really deeply care about the existence and sustainability of those species.
And so without hunters we are in trouble in the future. And, as you know, hunter numbers are declining and we’re not looking at a very good future, a very bright future, when it comes to the funding models that we’ve used to manage our wildlife resources. Now if we can continue to maintain at least some of the numbers, or stabilize the decline, and maybe eventually return to where hunter numbers are following basically a consistent percentage of the human population in North America, we’d be a lot better off.
And so I guess that’s my number one motivation, is, you know, the North American model and the long-term sustainability of conservation in North America by having more hunters involved and out in the field. But the other is, two, it’s something that I just love so much and think it’s such an important part of my life and my health in so many ways and I feel like it’s worth sharing. And so that’s kind of the number two motivation. And R3 is, you know, sharing those experiences and sharing those resources with other folks in hopes that, you know, if they get involved, hopefully my daughter and maybe my grandchildren will be able to continue to pursue wildlife in North America. I know that’s a long-winded way of saying it, but I could certainly talk about it all day.
I know you can because, you know, you’re dedicated to, you know, opening up the doors for women in the outdoors, which is exemplary.
And it’s not just women. The last two years or so I’ve started switching to just adult hunters in general. And if you wanted to, we could get into why. But it’s important that…
adult onset hunting is…
Well, adult onset hunting is…https://tovarcerulli.com/adult-onset-hunting-know-the-signs/ it’s becoming more important. And, you know, there’s been so much focus on youth outdoors and youth events and youth hunting. But, you know, that’s really a great thing and it feels good to do. But if those children’s parents aren’t involved or those children’s parents aren’t supportive, you know, kids don’t have money, they don’t have driver’s licenses, they can’t take themselves. They really need somebody in their lives that’s supportive. And then in addition to just the financial aspect and the ability to actually participate on their own is the social support. http://huntharvesthealth.com/stories/adultonsethunting
And so if their parents aren’t supportive and they aren’t around people that are supportive of hunting, even though they’ve had that experience, you have a very low likelihood of actually recruiting that student or that individual youth as a hunter. With adults on the other hand, young adults or even older adults, they have money, they have the power to make decisions for themselves and to be active in things that they want to that they don’t necessarily have to have somebody else supporting them. https://www.modcarn.com/adult-onset-hunting-minnesota-deercamp/
And so there’s a lot of interest in some of these younger generations, in the millennials in specific, and returning to the natural world, getting back in touch with their roots and living a more sustainable life. And that kind of appeals to that group. And then a lot of them, like I said, you know, they’re at this point in their life where they can actually afford it. I remember when I was in college I hunted and fished a heck of a lot more than I do now because I had time and, you know, a free income, I wasn’t paying a mortgage or a truck payment.
And so adults are pretty much the low-hanging fruit, especially young adults, when it comes to recruiting hunters and anglers. Because they can afford to do it, they can make those decisions for themselves. And so I have started pushing more for just all sexes. And if you’re interested, I’m happy to have you come in. And there’s a fair amount of young men that I’ve met, and even professional men, that got into hunting in college and are now lifelong hunters, even though they have nobody in their family that was involved with angling or hunting.
And so, again, you know, I absolutely love seeing women and I focus on women in the outdoors, but I…the three students that I’ve been taking out this year, they’re all male. And I don’t see anything wrong with that either, I think it’s just as important.
Thanks for that. And we’re going to switch over, you’re a contestant in the Extreme Huntress Competition. Talk about that.
you’re a contestant in the Extreme Huntress Competition
Well, Extreme Huntress has been going on for about 10 years now and it was…it’s kind of developed into something much more than it was before. The first year they offered it I kind of…I saw it, I even put in a little essay and a photo because that was kind of the gist of it back then, in addition to a popular vote. And, you know, I didn’t even get selected, so that’s fine. You know, there was some ladies that had a lot of big-game photos from Africa and, you know, I felt a little intimidated back then, but, you know, over the years it’s changed more into about what women do for conservation and what they do to motivate or inspire other women to get into the outdoors. And the whole point of the competition is to continue to promote women in the outdoors.
And so closely aligned with what I stand for personally and professionally, and so I applied. I was selected and the semifinalist, and then eventually was selected in the top four. And so now I’ve gone to Texas, I competed in the boots on the ground portion of the competition. And right now the episodes are being aired every Sunday, they’re letting out a new episode, and there’s also a popular vote portion that’s open right now.
Now Melanie Peterson won last year, if I’m correct.
And she was…you know, she was a featured guest and heck of a lady and just represents, I think, women in the sport very well, as I’m sure you would do. And so, you know, I look forward to doing the special promo for you. And so people can find out exactly what Extreme Huntress is and why you should be the next lady crowned at the Dallas Safari Club in 2019.
Well, thank you, I really appreciate that. You know, I look up to Melanie and we’re acquaintances, but she is an impressive women and an outfitter and a role model for all women in the outdoors, like you said.
When you think about what you know now about hunting, what do you wish you knew, you know, five years ago that, you know, really makes a difference today for you?
Well, you know, I wish I would have started putting in for some of the draws a lot earlier, but I couldn’t really afford to in graduate school or college. That, of course, is one that’s superficial. And then as far as something five years ago, yeah, that’s when I started with dogs. And at that point I was a little too serious about the testing and scores and things along those lines for the versatile dogs, I wish I would have just enjoyed my dogs more. But, and the other thing is, you know, maybe just spending more time with family before people age and they’re unable to actually do some of the hunts that they wanted to do. But, you know, I’ve been hunting for 20-plus years, and so I’ve…you’re always learning and that’s part of the process, so there’s really nothing else other than those three things that I can think of at this point.
Well, thanks for that. and you think back about what you’ve done so far, which is significant, and then what does the future hold for Meadow?
Meadow R3 – Well, I want to continue to stay involved with R3 and get more involved. I was accepted as a member of the Minnesota citizens’ R3 council, https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/fish_wildlife/outreach/r3/r3_toolkit.pdf which is a pretty big deal. And I’m hoping to start working with some of those folks involved and partner with some of those folks involved and start an adult-only hunter safety program, or at least offer adults-only hunter safety courses. Because that’s one of the barriers, I think, to adults coming into it, is having an opportunity to build and develop field skills but not have to be with a bunch of 12-year-olds. I know that sounds silly, but it also can be, to some extent, a barrier to those folks coming and taking some of the hands-on courses.
So I’d like to continue to build on my adult intro to hunting and those efforts. And, you know, I’d like to say that I’ve got crazy hunts planned, but I continue to plan on having some hunts with my sister. But for the most part, personally, professionally, it’s to continue to build that R3 aspect of my life and hopefully make a difference.
Now do you whitetail hunt at all?
Yeah, yeah. I actually just…you know, archery season is going on right now, and then I rifle hunt. And this year is the first time…I haven’t had a muzzleloader for three years and I just ordered a muzzleloader. So if I’m not successful in rifle season, I’ll be out there during muzzleloader season.
Yeah, I’ve never hunted Minnesota, but I’m going to hunt by Rochester this year. I’m heading there in a couple of weeks.
It’s a really nice area.
Is it a good area?
Well, yeah. I mean that’s, you know, right down there in that Buffalo County area across from Wisconsin. That whole southeast is called the Driftless Region, it’s really an ecologically unique area in a sense that the glaciation that occurred, the last glaciation 10,000 or 12,000 years ago, did not impact the terrain down there. So you’ll see a lot of sandstone and a lot of topography there relative to the rest of Minnesota, and then also you have a lot of oak hardwood forest down there, so the…and mixed with corn country. So it’s kind of an ideal area and it’s kind of a mecca. So if I was to choose one place to hunt, I’d hunt down there. Where we’re at up here in Northern Minnesota and towards the border the deer densities are so low and the habitat isn’t the same quality. So I’m kind of jealous, that’s a great place to get a chance to go hunt.
Well, I look forward to that. So let’s close the show with your five top tips for anybody that’s considering getting into hunting. What would you tell them in your class?
Well, number one is, you know, to find a mentor if you can. You’re going to be able to find people that hunt that might take you under their wing at work or social events, maybe even shooting ranges. And, you know, two is show some initiative. You’re going to probably be overwhelmed with firearms and not knowing what to buy. But if it’s something you’re truly interested in, you can typically find people at gun ranges, like I mentioned, and even sporting goods stores, that may be able to point you in the right direction. Or maybe there’s a program they can let you know about that that is being put on. Because increasingly there’s more R3 programs. Three is the Internet. I know there’s a lot of information out there, but you can learn a lot on YouTube, including how to field dress game if you are successful. So basically all the way from beginning hunting to field dressing and cooking of game.
So you can learn a little bit there, and then I would say another thing is to, you know, find a group of hunters somehow or another and join the group. And a lot of times there’s conservation organizations, there’s shooting groups. But try and find that social support, if you can. But certainly it’s number one is finding a mentor. If you are absolutely clueless and you need…or would like to get into it, you need to find somebody that will help you figure it out. And there are folks out there that are looking for mentees. It’s really hard to find a mentee, it really is. Because you have to have somebody that trusts you. But that’s what I would say number one is though, is finding a mentor.
Well, thanks for that. And on behalf of hundreds of thousands of listeners of Whitetail Rendezvous, you’ve been just an exceptional guest and I’m glad we connected a week or so ago for the Minnesota Governor’s Deer Opener and you were on that panel. So I wish you well and I can’t wait to, you know, cross paths sometime with you. And I just wish you well and continue on to doing what you’re doing, because your work is very important for the continuation of hunting in North America.
Well, thank you Bruce, it’s really be a pleasure and I really appreciate you giving me a chance to talk to you and your listeners.
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