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Becoming An Outdoors-Woman with Mandy Uhrich
I’m super excited to have Mandy on. A few years back, when I was working for the Department Natural Resources, I ran into Mandy at our R2 headquarters here in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She is this incredibly dynamic woman. I didn’t know much about her. I knew she was my kind of girl. She had the right energy and the right motivations. I’m happy to introduce and share Mandy with everybody here. Mandy is base in Brainerd and she’s an Outdoors Woman. She’s definitely got some major accomplishments underneath her belt and she’s a long-term Outdoors-Woman. She’s not new to the scene and she’s somebody who I consider a role model to women in the outdoors. Mandy, thank you for coming.
I’m super excited to be here. I’m totally grateful for the invite.
We wanted to talk to you about where you’re coming from professionally and also your outdoors background. You’ve got a pretty awesome background there with those double mounts and that mantle full of beautiful antler, but also, you’re very involved with angling and with wildlife management with the Department of Natural Resources here in Minnesota. Just give us a little background.
It seems we’re working the different ball caps. I’ll start with that. It will be eighteen years for me with my career in the Natural Resources, state of Minnesota. I started out with a Wildlife Research down in Madelia. I’ve worked Parks and Trails, wildlife, fire, USDA, Pheasants Forever, depredation and landed in Habitat Administration for Fish and Wildlife. It’s been quite a journey. I’d moved multiple times. I loved my career. I’m a lifer, I’m going to stay with it. There’s a long history in the conservation field outside of there. I was a professional hunting guide for almost fifteen years. I traveled the world with some super high-end clients while also holding down a regular career. I’ve shoved that to the side.
I do a lot of guests guiding for vets. I love to fish. I’m a multispecies angler, ice, salt and open water with the caveat that I also fish professionally. I fish about 30 times a year on top of the job. I have a TV show and I have a weekly radio show. I donate about 200 hours for outdoor education, predominantly with the BOW Program, which you’re super familiar with. It’s an education program, specifically for women and children. We cross over 150 different topics in the outdoor field and it’s one of those things that’s become a passion for me along with traveling internationally doing outdoor seminar speaking.
We’re pleased to have you here.
One of the things that stands out is that Mandy is one of those ladies that’s a trailblazer in the outdoors and I love hearing stories about her angling in general, but certainly she’s a woman cut from the same cloth when it comes to enjoying being able to share the outdoors, hunting and fishing with women and R3 events. She also mentioned working with veterans as well. Mandy, what is it that motivates you to get involved with R3 and bringing new people into the outdoors?
I didn’t get it at first, honestly. I grew up, my dad was a guide. We had a resort for fishing, and I got into guiding an early age for hunting and I love that excitement. Seeing the look on people’s face when they did something new or when you teach them more specifically to do something on their own. That empowerment feeling directly to them. It’s one thing to have someone show you and you do it, but for them to repeat it on their own, apply all those skills and methods and see them normally be excited to see the results of it, to feel that, “I’ve got this and if I can do this, what else can I do?”
I got into that on the BOW side. I think that’s a big deal empowering women and children. I know how it is coming up in a male-dominated field and it can be intimidating to give women and kids a safe place on an equal playing ground where nobody feels they’re asking a stupid question. Everybody’s learning the same skills. It’s super important. It’s one of those things that’s a gift that does keep on giving. You don’t have to be an expert who’s done something for 30 years. If you’ve learned something and mastered something, teach that to somebody else and keep that playing forward.
Just to be clear, BOW stands for Becoming an Outdoors Woman. Is that a national program?
It’s an international program. Technically, it started in Wisconsin, but Minnesota has the oldest and the largest BOW program in North America. We also have the largest program. Linda Bylander runs it. She’s the coordinator for it for the state. I had to say she’s amazing. I cannot imagine what it must be like to coordinate a hundred and some volunteers. I call her the cat wrangler because I feel that’s what she’s got to be doing. We’ve all got our own things going on and it’s this last-minute pull together and she comes up with it. I’ve had the opportunity to speak and work with some of the BOW programs in Canada and across the United States. We definitely here in Minnesota were the trendsetters. We’re what everybody else is aiming to be.
When I hear BOW, I think of Minnesota. I’ve been involved a little bit, but not as much as you when it comes to BOW. I’ve taught other women’s programs but not BOW and that definitely seems to be a program that’s taken off. You’re talking about hunting and teaching people new skills and not just the basic skills but giving the confidence to do other things. That’s the one I find satisfying about it. I smiled all day and that only happens when I’m doing R3 type stuff. It’s pretty cool to relate to other women and giving them those skill sets, maybe give them the confidence to go on. I think that without hunting, I wouldn’t have done a lot of the things that I do. I wish I would have, but to travel and to be motivated, to see new places that people wouldn’t normally visit, if it wasn’t for hunting and angling. It’s cool that you’re able to impart that on other ladies.
You’re doing the same thing just because it’s not for the same organization. I’ve watched your wingshooting event. I think I was actually the one that jumped up and down in front of Linda and was like, “We have to get Meadow.”
Mandy, share a little bit about that. Meadow doesn’t take enough bows I think sometimes.
She does it all. Knowing her obviously through work and through various activities is that we share in common. She’s very down to Earth about her accomplishments. From a couple of your crazy shows that you shot in the mountains, shooting goats, I was like, “How did I not know this? This girl is right down the road from me and we should be best friends.” This is unbelievable. People think I’m crazy that I travel across North America by myself or go to Mexico by myself to go fishing. I was like, “Did you see where Meadow just went?” “No, she’s home.” Finally, you get some recognition through the Extreme Huntress but at least you’re on the radar where you should have been for a very long time that you’re here and you are so low key. You’re not about the publicity. You’re about the act itself and enjoying it and paying it forward, which kudos. What I enjoy are those people that are true to the sport itself.
The reason why I’m a little low key about it is that a lot of the stuff that I do or I’ve accomplished, it couldn’t have happened without other people, especially the women’s program and you probably can relate. If it wasn’t for the instructors, if it wasn’t for the sponsors, if it wasn’t for all those people who support those programs. It’s just a thing in my mind at that point, if I don’t have the support from all those people. It can never happen. I oftentimes don’t feel they’re major accomplishments for me because they are made possible by a lot of people. It’s hard to say credit for other people’s hard work.Join me on my outdoor adventures. You can do it ladies. Click To Tweet
Nobody said you’re taking credit for it. You accomplished a lot and it’s one thing not to be a time suck per se where people did put a lot of time and effort and you excelled at what you did. Not only did you excel at it, but the whole point is to pay it forward on what you’re doing and you’re enjoying to pay it forward. You didn’t learn it, you used it, then keep using it for your own benefit. You used it so you can continue to educate people in those same skills, which is pretty cool.
A lot of people are heading that direction. Once you get to a certain point, there’s only so many accomplishments you can do. For me, at least personally before it gets to a point where it’s not as much fun unless I share it with someone or teach somebody, I’d be able to do those things and enjoy them as well. You and I know it. Without sharing those skills with other people and those knowledge sets or if you don’t have children to share it with them, where does it go when we die? What does the future have if we don’t share it with people to spread that knowledge and keep that interest there? The resources I have depend on people who are interested in those things.
For me, I enjoy sharing, but it’s also an internal thing that I need to make sure that other people appreciate these things so that they have a future. That’s my primary motivation. There’s a future for hunting and angling and people in the outdoors. People are so incredibly removed from reality. It’s scary. I grew up in a ranching background and Facebook is the worst. People have these crazy ideas and it’s like, “No, that’s not even remotely true or that’s not possible.” They read it in a book, or they saw it on Discovery Channel and it’s just strange because I think a lot more people need to get out in the woods in order for the future of our human mental health.
These programs that do need a little bit more backing. I spoke out the DNR round table specifically about that and I’m on the same side. You can take the R3 side on the hunting. I’m an R3 side on the fishing stuff. With the teams and everything that’s explored right there, we’re finally seeing those numbers that we need to get those kids involved and get them off the video games. Get them out in front of the TV and giving them opportunities, but we still need to continue that support and those background for the nonprofits or the BOW programs or whatever it is. I think people sometimes feel overwhelmed because they’re not an expert that they can’t contribute. That’s not true. If you have a fourteen-foot jon boat and your kid wants to go fishing, take the little kid fishing. You don’t need a $400 rod, you don’t need an $80,000 bass boat. Just throw them and go, float the river, do something fun, get them outdoors.
You never know what’s going to ignite. You grew up on a ranch. I grew up in North Dakota in Timbuktu and video games weren’t a thing, chores were it and so are outdoor activities. I credit my work ethic, honestly, to that farming background because you have to do it. It’s one of those things that’s carried forward that I do. People are like, “Aren’t you exhausted? Aren’t you tired? How do you keep doing everything that you do?” I’m like, “You just do.” If you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t seem so bad. You’ve got to have a couple of days on the couch, but you look back and I feel good if I did something that other people are excited. I don’t feel good if I was spending all that time simply on myself for no reason, then that feels that was a waste of time. You’re absolutely correct, as long as you’re sharing that and moving forward with it. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
To be honest, I actually unfriended and unfollowed a lot of people because it was all about them and I just got tired of seeing about them. It’s great to be able to connect with women like you because we’re on the same page in regards to anyone for that matter that when you look at the RFP counsel for a Minnesota DNR that I’m on and the people there are very much the same mindset. They’re not self-promoting, they’re not out there for themselves. They’re there to share it and they have a different mindset. It’s awesome to be able to connect and develop this network of people that are on the same page as you, to be able to share it. You mentioned about fourteen-foot jon boat.
I think you commented one time, but I posted the picture of my new tournament boat and you posted the boat of yours. Yours was just finer. There’s a little difference.
Mine goes on the river. I wouldn’t want to put that tournament boat under.
My boat run 40 miles stretch here and it doesn’t go any further because they can’t get any further up the rivers.
That’s a beautiful boat. Someday I’m going to sneak on that boat. You’d better watch out.
Which to be said, I have four boats, and everyone has a purpose and that one’s pretty for guests guiding or tournaments. I brought home my dad’s boat, which means a lot to me, he passed away. I went up to our resort and the first new boat that we ever purchased together was my high school graduation gift. I just brought it home and I’m restoring it. It still runs. It’s immaculate. My dad was a freak about boats. I’m super excited to have it up and running and hopefully home to North Dakota for our opener. I’m going to go home to North Dakota and bring the family out there. Lunds would not be happy. It’s a little smoker craft with the 115, which back in the day in 1999 that was a giant motor to have on a seventeen-foot boat, which was unheard of. It’s got a full canopy. I think that might be my new riverboat.
They can’t hold it against you when you were seventeen?
Correct, and we did it. The funny part is we’ve been involved with them for years. Our resort tiller boats have always been Lunds. I don’t remember what the deal was. We were trying to get it at the sports show and this was a holdover. My dad bought it and didn’t say anything about it until we went to pick it up. He was like, “Surprise, happy graduation.” Don’t worry, Lund knows about it. They’re okay with it.If you've learned something and mastered something, teach that to somebody else and keep paying that forward. Click To Tweet
It’s part of your story. That’s one thing I’ve always worried about being tied to a single brand, what if you like other things? I don’t think you could complain about Lund though.
No, speaking of the catalog that came out, but previous to that, the Bass boat that you saw the picture of. I gave that company a ton of respect that Bass boat I helped design. They had enough confidence on me as an angler and as a female to help design that boat that helps their rate, says leaps and bounds about the trust as a company, as an individual and not as a gender, which kudos to them. I wish more companies would be that way.
It means a lot to me to hear that because there are too many companies, they don’t take into account what the general user groups. Women were increasing in user group and it’s great to hear that about them because those are the things you don’t necessarily hear unless you hear from somebody like you. Tell me, what’s the plan this summer? Maybe pick one thing because it sounds you probably have a ton of tournaments to go to. What’s the highlight? What are you looking forward to the most?
There are so many. May and June are busy with guests guiding. That event is calling for troops. We have the Camp Confidence, team challenge. It’s probably five or six of it back to back events that get you energized and charged for the rest of the season. I’ve had some vets, which is absolutely amazing that I look forward to seeing. Guys from Camp Confidence too, that’s a good way to charge into the year. It’s a seven-month season for tournaments. I’ve got the TV show. Normally, I get that knocked out fairly shortly, so then I’m said and done with that as time allows radio show once a week. Just filling people in locally and what’s going on in our lakes and multiple species. Every year something new pops up and I look at the calendar, and I’m like, “I’ve got eight days available between May and October. I might be able to squeeze it in.”
I’m happy to get back on the water for more outdoor writing. We’ve got some bigger things coming up with BOW, which is nice. I’ve been able to reach out and grab ladies like Nancy Koep to help me. I can’t do all the species. She’s done an excellent job on the walleye side. I’m hoping to get a few more in volunteer and expand the program. The more people we can touch, the better it is. It’s hard. People are busy with lives, kids and careers. It takes time to put a single event let alone multiple events together like that. I think we’ve definitely shown them that once they do it, it’s addictive. Everybody gets it, everybody feels that happy feeling and make time to do it.
I think it’s a universal thing for finding volunteers. That seems to be the limitation across the board. I don’t have anything major plan yet for the summer in regards to R3 stuff other than assisting other people in their programs. Even here in town, the Ruffed Grouse Society had its annual conservation banquet, granted it’s earlier than normal, but typically they have the trap team from the high school sell tickets there. They couldn’t even get a few adults because most of the students are underage. They’ve got to be adult-supervised. There are not enough volunteers. People are too busy, and I don’t know if they don’t value it, but hopefully, that’s something that people enjoy enough, and they get a taste of that sharing. Maybe they’ll want to be able to make more time in their schedule for volunteering. I know personally, I’ve scheduled it, otherwise, it doesn’t. We would go on the river that day. Otherwise, where the kid and working dogs, they just eat up time in the summer and I don’t even have to work in the summer it seems like.
I think that’s another thing too to talk about is when you are so busy and I am about time management and scheduling and you’re 100% correct. If it does not get penciled in, it doesn’t happen. It’s sad, but that’s the choice that we make to make sure that we can fit in as much as we can, not to overlap and make sure that you are meeting your highest needs first and then work it down to where, “I’ve got a couple of days available. Let’s see where I can fit this in that.” How do you feel? I’ve never experienced it. My dad has said, “You can’t burn the candle at both ends, Mandy,” and I had been doing it for 30 plus years. By December, I’m pretty burnt. Once I get through hunting season, how do you cope for it? I feel so bad if I take time for myself. I don’t know what else to do, to take that time off to recoup. What are you doing to recharge your batteries?
I’m trying to get to the point where I don’t regret taking time for myself. You have to. I was taking a bunch of my students and back to back. Every free day I had I was taking people out woodcock hunting. At some point my mom, she’s in California, she was like, “You used to hunt for yourself because it’s something that you needed to do.” She was like, “Why don’t you not take anyone.” I already have this need to take a lot of people out. I’ve talked to people and I want to. At some point, I just had to not call people and go and by myself. It has a twinge of guilt, but it’s that regeneration. Maybe you go to red for early ice and don’t tell anyone.
You go to the big lakes and don’t tell anyone. You know the bite’s hot, go and let yourself do that. Maybe take one friend. I take my friend Ted Dick and I snuck away a few times to fish, whether it was a fishing opener in open water or ice. Just get away and try not to feel guilty about it and do some self-care. I’ve got family, my own health, those things. Especially if I ignore my own health, I go downhill quick. I’ve been hiding. I don’t know if you noticed in social media, I have not been very active. Going down to Dallas for Extreme Huntress. I needed a break from social media in general. Not that I’m in front of a camera all the time or writing all the time, but it drains me. I know myself personally, I need not to feel guilty about doing something for myself.
Even if it is laying in bed and staying warm and watching a movie somedays. I don’t do very often, but you feel guilty, but for me you need that time, you need to allow it and don’t feel bad about it. Otherwise, you’d be burned out, then it becomes a chore. You don’t live for your chores. I remember I take Travis Frank from The Flush out after the national hunt here in Grand Rapids. I had been in the road all through the Ruffed Grouse season and the Woodcock flight. The migration was occurring. I just never hunted once for myself. I was constantly on the road and constantly working. I remember it was the last thing I had to do is drive up to Red Lake, take Travis and his cameraman out and I was grumpy.
I would have been fired up most of the time. I did my best job to show those guys a good time. We got everything accomplished. They seem to have had a good time, but I didn’t enjoy it as much because I was just so burnt out and I needed that time by myself. That was my time at Ruffed Grouse Society when I was running myself ragged, burning from both ends. I learned a lot about taking care of yourself. Otherwise, you’re not much help to anybody including yourself. Schedule time, don’t feel guilty about it, disappear, do whatever it is you need to do. You’ve got obligations, sponsors and stuff, but either way, don’t feel guilty about scheduling time for yourself and disappearing sometimes.
I might disappear for the first few weeks in May.
That was well said, Meadow. Mandy, I like you to jump on that because you have a book schedule. Everybody uses the excuse they’re busy and maybe they are, maybe they’re not. For the single moms out there that want to get in the outdoors and they’ve got kids, they’ve got jobs, they’ve got community. How do they make it? Does BOW help them do that?
They do have family events where you can bring your kids at any age to those family events and the retreats. They can go to a two-day weekend retreat and there are twenty activities. The kids can go do their activities and the adults can go out and do their activities. For older children, specifically the girls if they want to go with their moms. I believe that age is thirteen to do that, but I know that there are some other organizations that have reached out and said, “If we’re going to come to do this geocaching or some event and there are enough people that had kids that were trying to coordinate with them to figure out.
Can we have them do a kid’s event while the adults are maybe doing something a little bit more technical where the kids aren’t going to do that? I think that’s a good point. I personally don’t have any children of my own. I have a stepson who’s fifteen. I forget about that constant family mommy need because I’m busy doing my stuff and Gabe’s old enough to be doing his stuff, but I talked to my coworkers and they’re like, “I would love to be doing half of this, but how do you do that when you’ve got two kids in two sports and you’re running here and there, you’ve got your job and family and then you’ve got all the other things going on?” Meadow, how do you do it? I don’t know how you do it. You’re the mommy recall here, so how do you do this?Kids aren't going to know what they want to do unless they try it. Click To Tweet
We’re unique because my ex-husband and I took Heidi fishing a couple of days after she was born. She’s been in the ice house on the boat, on the trap line hunting with us from the get-go. We make time, but that’s not normal. I’m not the average person, they don’t do that. It helps them grow and fished and we’re both very active outdoors. Those family options are great. Those programs when you bring children, even though they’re a little older by the time they allow them to become is awesome because if mom hunts, the children hunts. If you have family that’s involved and the children are involved, you can have that social support. It’s great to get your kids involved as much as possible. People have decided that sporting events and sports for children are more important than the outdoors. I don’t know if they have or if it just that they haven’t scheduled time for the outdoors. It seems they’re stuck at practice or they’re stuck at a tournament or a game.
I’m not saying sports are bad for children or not to do them. I just think that people are doing too much of it. If they value the outdoors, if they want to be in fishing, if they want to hunt, you’ve got to get your kids involved. In my opinion, you can’t coddle them and not allow them to have those opportunities. Maybe you schedule less for the children. If you schedule a time to be outside, to go hunt, fish, camp, you have to schedule it. Otherwise, it won’t happen because what happens when you don’t schedule something, it becomes the first thing to go and it becomes an option. Even though it is an option, to begin with if you haven’t scheduled, it becomes something that you actually set aside time for.
Question for both of you, Meadow and Bruce. With the rise of the high school shooting sports, which has blown up here in Minnesota and nationally. Minnesota is going from 400 students to over 6,000 students in high school. Fishing is going from 1,500 to over 3,800, that these outdoor activities per se are becoming more of a social norm or school accepted activity. Do you think that this will maybe help combat the normal high school activities or help get these kids back into the outdoors? What’s your feeling on those?
What I know is I have a good friend, William Crawford that runs the President’s Outdoor at Montevallo College and they have garnered the bass fishing. They’re down in Alabama and their social media is blowing up. The secret to getting the kids involved is seeing other people, other kids, guys and girls doing something of outdoor activity that they know or want a friend. You pivot with social media. Instead of saying, “You don’t say anything about the MTV or all the video games,” you say, “Look at that. They’re having fun. They’re doing things.” All my kids have been up on fourteeners and my grandkids, but that’s because of me. That’s who I am. A lot of parents can’t do that, but with social media, they’re seeing and they’re getting influenced to the out-of-doors. It’s not as large as we’d like to see it. I see what Mr. Crawford is doing for the outdoors scholars is unbelievable and he’s gaining a lot of traction and it takes time. There are the shooting sports in high school plus the archery sports in high school and more kids want to do it. Meadow, what are your thoughts about getting kids involved in the out-of-doors away from all their devices?
I think the question originated from these shooting and sports, the schools and angling. Minnesota, as Mandy mentioned, has had such a huge explosion of shooting sports, especially trap and high schools. You’re right, when kids see other kids, especially on social media doing something like shooting sports, they gain an interest, especially when their peers are doing it and enjoying themselves. That definitely is good for us in regards to shooting sports is getting kids outside, continue to bring in Pittman-Robertson or the excise tax and ammunition for wildlife conservation. The other thing too I’d say is not only to bring students outside, but when it comes to gun perceptions in North America, it also helps that we have an up and coming group of students that are gaining interest in firearms and getting experience with them so they’re not as afraid of them and the concept of firearms. It’s a double edge thing there.
It’s bringing young people in the outdoors as well as developing skills and confidence that they wouldn’t necessarily have if it wasn’t for the fact that they had these opportunities in school. I think they’re moving in the right direction. The only thing we’ve got to figure out how to do is to turn those students that love shooting or involve in the shooting sports and do hunters or somehow give them the pathway. That sometimes is a leap that isn’t always made from those shooting sports to active outdoors men and women.
What are some good ideas, Mandy, that you want to share where parents can get kids to involve? There are a lot of shows you are involved in the outdoors. What’s your recommendation to the parents?
Reach out. We heard it takes a village to raise a child and I truly believe in that. Just because you don’t personally have a background in hunting or fishing or maybe your family doesn’t or maybe you live in a highly urban area and you don’t have the opportunity to do it. Be able to reach out and actively search for those programs. Get your kids involved, mentoring programs specifically to get them into the hunters and get them into fishing clinics. I think that Meadow is correct that that first leap we need to take is getting those kids to be familiar, to be safe, to learn the technique for shooting no matter what it is.
The second leap is applying those skills and techniques into hunting and finding that niche specifically for that kid and when it’s going to be. Maybe it’s whitetail hunting, maybe it’s grouse hunting, maybe it’s pheasant hunting, maybe it’s duck hunting. There’s a world of avenues and opportunities out there. Kids aren’t going to know what they want to do unless they try it. I’ve been fairly adamant about, “Don’t tell me you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it.” Have them go with it even if they don’t pull the trigger. Have them be there and do the experience. Anybody who’s going to be a mentor knows that it’s all about making that day fun for that kid. It’s not what’s in the live ball, in the back of the truck or in the bottom of the cooler. At the end of the day, it’s all about making that super fun experience for that kid.
Maybe you’re super hardcore and you want to be out there from sunup to sundown and you realize that you’ve got a little kid with you. They can only handle so much. When you know that they’re starting to get tired or bored, it’s time to call it a day or to be prepared for that. I don’t mind. Some people are super adamant about kids in a deer sense, absolutely no electronics, no books, no coloring crayons. I’m the opposite of the spectrum. If they’re going to get out there and they’re going to do it and we get bored, I wonder, honestly, I have gotten to that point and I cannot live. I’m admitting this. What did I do many years ago when I sat and stand from sunup to sundown without my phone? I find myself, in my mind wandering, all of a sudden it’s nice to be able to check the weather. It’s definitely reaching out to those people and having the trust in your neighbors and your family, cousins, extended family to take that kid if you’re not able or willing or have the knowledge to do it. Just offer that opportunity to your kids.
Since it is a Whitetail show, you’ve got two gorgeous Minnesota deer and they’re absolutely world-class. Let’s talk about buck one and buck two.
Buck one and buck two came off this property. That’s fairly exciting. We have a very large property. We have a hunting camp about 50 miles from here. That’s 400 acres with some adjoining state and county land that equals about 1,200 acres of swampland, but the two bucks behind me came off this property. Just happy to be able to do it. I was tempted to set up in the shop. I have a bit of an addiction to taxidermy, so there are 26 shoulder mounts in my shop, whitetail deer from all across North America. I’ve been lucky enough to basically travel the world with some higher-end clients and a lot of those hunts I’ve swapped with other guides. In return, instead of taking payment, I wanted the opportunity to hunt. There are some whitetails behind me, some whitetails in the shop from Saskatchewan, Ontario, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Michigan, Iowa, a lot. I haven’t hunted California yet. Meadow and I’ve never shot a blacktail.
Do you have a story for either one of those bucks?
No, not those ones. I put those up there because I truly believe that they’re out of the same genetics. If I had a better picture, maybe I’ll take a picture and then you guys can put it up. They’ve got almost exactly the same racks with crab claws, splits on it. I’ve seen another deer also on the property that I didn’t harvest. Paul harvested out of my stand. I was going to go out in the morning, and I decided to take a work call in the morning and then I was going to go into my stand. He goes, “I’ll just go crawl in your stand for an hour until you get out there.” I’ve been hunting every day hard, and he gets into my stand and it turns out I heard the gunshot from the house. I was like, “No.” Sure enough, I went out there, and it was a dandy. It’s the triplet to these two. The third one’s in our bedroom. It’s one of twelve in the house.Hunting is 90% luck because while you got skills on your side, you also still need to have the animal in the right place. Click To Tweet
That was a pretty good story because I got out there and he was a little kid, as he had done something wrong. I’m just this little person. I’m only five foot two. I opened the stand door and he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. I was like, “You shot him.” He was like, “I did.” I was like, “Where is he?” He was like, “About 130 yards that way on the edge of the swamp.” He didn’t even get out. I trumped all the way down there and sure enough get right where he shot him. It was the deer I’ve been hunting for the last few years. One hour and it was okay. It was either take the call in the morning or take the call during prime time that afternoon for work. I said, “I’ll take it in the morning,” and they’d been moving a little bit later in the day because of the weather and I gave that one up.
At least you know how it ended.
We’ve said too, we’ve got a neighbor that is super excited about hunting and we’ve got some planned orders around us that we’re all on the same page about having quality deer management. Whatever the kids want, the kids can take because it’s all about getting them excited and getting them involved, but as far as us adults, we share pictures and figure out who’s going where and what we’ve seen and where they’ve been. We’ve got some pretty big giants around. I probably shouldn’t be saying that.
No, you shouldn’t.
For the little and unconsolidated area that I live, we have got some nice buck, but we’re super blessed. Speaking of big bucks that got shot, Meadow Kouffeld.
It’s as nearly as nice as anything you have on the wall there.
I think it was.
I was just like your partner, dumb luck, right place, right time. My whitetail luck is usually dumb luck. I’ll beat my head against the wall for the whole season and then you do something different and suddenly you get lucky. There’s no skill.
Yes, there is. You change it up. I know all about this stuff. When you change something up, you can run and gun and you can change it up. Meadow and Mandy, it’s just like fishing. You know the structure, you know the weather fronts, you know all these things. Mandy, you know where they’re going to spawn or they’re going to be hiding, if they’re predator type fish, but sometimes nothing you do works. You’ve got everything in the world, and some guy comes out in a sixteen-foot jon boat, cast over and your draw drops. We’ve all seen that and you go, “What?” The reason I bring that up is it happens. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens because there’s a person that goes out, they’re pretty good fishermen because they figured out exactly what you did, but they had a little different technique, different data on there.
It’s just something was different and they hooked the fish. It’s no different than whitetail hunting. People pound and work. A friend of mine, he’s got 160 acres and it’s in Richland County, Wisconsin. It’s got booners on them. He’s never shot a booner of it. He takes a guy that he used to work with, puts him in a stand. Within an hour, the guy took a booner of it and they knew the deer was there because of the trail cameras and everything. He goes, “Why does that happen?” and they take 150s and plus on it. They take good mature deer off that property every single year, but the only booner was a guy that he invited up in Chicago. “I like to hunt. It’d be nice.” “Take my stand,” and goes up. Why does that happen?
My dad always says there’s the right place at the right time. It’s 90% luck a lot of times. You’ve got skills on your side, but you also still have to have the animal in the right place. Sometimes the stars align and it seems to happen with the beginner’s luck.
It’s funny that you brought your dad up because my dad is a fishing guide and having a resort when I was growing up. I obviously spent a lot of time on the water. We came from Devil’s Lake. Walleye is the big thing there, then it’s large pike and big perch. It took him 46 years before he caught a ten plus pounder. He had hundreds of nine pounders, but that 31-inch, ten-pound mark is the creme de la creme mark for a walleye. For years, he had gotten to the point where he was like, “It’s never going to happen. I don’t understand it. I took Joe from Michigan who’s never held a fishing rod in his life. We were fishing the same thing for four hours and the guy caught a 31-inch and my line was right next to his. You teach, I teach and I’m big on the biology side and I use that a lot for my term in angling. I teach that to the basics of how to understand what’s going on with weather patterns and barometric pressure, water temp and the different forage levels that’s going in there, light cover, clarity and things like that.
It does get frustrating because you put all the pieces together and you say, “Those fish should be right here.” You can go all over the place. These fishes have got to be right here. There’s nowhere else they’re going to go, all the signs. The dichotomous key says, “The fish are going to be right here,” then there’s nothing. You have to make those split decisions and say, “Where did I go wrong in this?” Sometimes it’s literally, “I’m going to do exactly opposite of everything that I know that I should be doing because I’ve got nowhere else to go. I give up,” and it works.
I feel like I have a Master’s degree in Ruffed Grouse Habitat selection, so I should be able to find a ruffed grouse. You go and you couldn’t find anything. You’re like, “What? Am I crazy?” Like you say, you try something different, “Let’s go on a completely different location that they’re not supposed to be in,” and sure enough, they’re there because of one reason or another, whether it’s weather or temperature. Typically, it’s the weather that drives them into the weird places and forages levels too like mushrooms and stuff, but it’s that deal. I, more than anyone should be able to find a ruffed grouse and you feel you’re going crazy on those days where it’s different, but you’ve got to know enough and also be brave enough to try something wildly different. I love it when you get somebody on a boat like you said, especially grandma’s for some reason felt good luck. I’ve seen her standing on the dock eating a banana and you’re like, “No. Don’t pick her up. Just leave her on the dock.” She waits for you to pick her up and she gets in the boat and she reels in a fish right away.You learn something new every single day with every single new person that you meet. Click To Tweet
What’s the equivalent to a banana in the hunting side, deer hunting? Is there an equivalent of a bad luck fruit or food that you absolutely shouldn’t bring on a hunting trip?
No, that whole banana thing is an old maritime thing.
That’s way back.
I can definitely say on the tournament side guys, take it seriously. I learned it at a fairly young age. We thought it would be funny and we packed somebody’s live well full of bananas. We had to drive to West Virginia for a tournament from Minnesota, so it’s eighteen hours and it was hot. We didn’t get on the water until the next day. He opened up his live well. I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t two locks up on the Ohio River, he probably would have tracked me right then because he tracked me down when he got back to the resort. He wasn’t very happy. He made me scrub out his live well to take away the bad luck.
I almost didn’t let my partner let his mom on the boat. She’s literally sitting there eating a banana on the dock.
If you know the real story behind the bad juju from bananas, WhitetailRendezvous@Gmail.com. Let me know the story because I’ve fished offshore, I fished a lot of places and I eat bananas. Potassium is good.
It’s the same for anyone who has a bad hunting omen. My sister and I have a bunch of our own bad hunting omens or good luck charms, but nothing outside of our own culture.
I have a question with that. I was an athlete. I went to school and I was an athlete there. We were very ritualistic, especially when on a winning streak about certain things or items that you had to do or couldn’t change. I’m interested. Give it up, Meadow, what is one thing that you and your sister share as a ritualistic oddity when you’re on a hunting trip for good luck?
Blacktail hunting is always weird. Do you remember O Brother, Where Art Thou, the movie? We had the soundtrack and we’d get up two hours early and we’d sit in the dark in the pickup and listened to that CD several times and that was good luck. Do you know how many of those CDs I’ve had stolen out of my pickup with the radio on it? I bought four of those CDs and I’ve had to replace four stereos. When I was in high school all the way into college, my stereos were getting stolen. I had an 82 pickup that we had restored, but that was the good luck charm. We haven’t listened to it in a few years, but that was what we used to listen to, then there are a few other little things. We were always out there way earlier than we needed to be. If you get out there even an hour sooner than you should be, that’s bad luck too. It’s O Brother, Where Art Thou and getting out there early. For some reason, I think it’s mostly because we can’t sleep. We were so excited. Those two things, I can relate.
Bruce, do you have any oddities you want to release to everybody about hunting rituals that are do’s and don’ts?
My fishing rituals. I have puka shells I’ve searched in Hawaii. I picked up these puka shells and made a necklace out of them and I wore that for years when I fished offshore. Back in my hippie days, I had a jade elephant that I started my hunting career with. It since disappeared, then I have stones from British Columbia. I killed a wolf and a mountain goat in five days on a five-day horseback hunt, that was 2008. This is a good talisman if you know what talismans are. One thing in my life, I’ve always believed that I’ll always be in the right place and I’ll always be able to get in and get out and be successful. That’s a mental thing.
That goes way back into native American talking with Indian. The basic thing of that is God because he loves to go hunting with me. Take whatever you want for the audience and you girls, but ever since I was a little kid, I shot my first ruffed grouse with a single shot shotgun. The grouse had burrowed into the snow and stayed warm during a snowstorm and I saw the feathers thing. I walked up on him, he blew up and I shot him. I was ten years old. That’s the first thing I ever killed in my life and I became a hunter. I’ve got stories after stories about it, but it’s magical that you have to do it enough and get around enough people that its part of who they are. I did a podcast with a group of people why we hunt and the biggest part of it is the journey.
Catching fish and putting things on the wall is great, but it’s the journey of what we’re doing and sharing stories and sharing a tradition that’s going to live past because the podcast is evergreen. One person reads this and they go, “I want to find out how did those girls do that? Why did they do that?” That’s what drives me about hunting. That’s the magic of hunting for me. It’s because of the journey. I’ll do all the sets and stuff like that that we won’t get into. We all do it because we’re passionate about it. We’re good at it, but it connects us. I would say to both of you, it’s to the connection with the different parts of who we are and it comes to light when we’re in the outdoors.
I do have one talisman to add. There’s a particular necklace that I wear on hunts now, but in addition, I totally agree with you, Bruce. For me, a huge part of it is the adventure and the journey. It’s not as you said the end. It’s the whole thing. It’s from planning to plate. It’s the whole story that adds to it. How about you Mandy?
It’s the constant learning curve that’s involved with it and it seems everything gets pushed up to be a little bit more extreme every time. I like to challenge myself. I’ve done a lot of things by myself, but I look back ten to fifteen years, I’m going, “What was I thinking, seriously?” It probably was not a good idea to go bear hunting in the BWAC by myself for ten days. It’s probably not the smartest idea. It was fine. It’s probably wasn’t a smart idea to go to Ontario on negative 47 degrees Fahrenheit and wolf hunt by myself. Now that I’ve come back to reality, just think about some of those things, figuring out the logistics when you are to a hunt by yourself.
I was lucky enough I took a couple of those and I’m by myself. It’s in the swamp. I shot the deer, I have to get it out. I have to get it back to my property, get it hung, get it skinned. It was at one of those points where I have no choice but I have to literally quarter of this deer out by myself to get it out because it’s a big swamp down to go. It weighs more than I do, but I like those challenges and that planning part too. Being able to make a decision after looking at a map or scouting an area shortly and figuring out a game plan. If it doesn’t work the first day, you can do those quick adjustments to figure out what you did wrong and keep on that planning move to figure out what you need to do on the next steps, to hone in to get on the game that you’re chasing.
It’s that perpetual chess game that drives me and I love to hunt with new people. One, just to see the fire in their eyes and see their excitement, but two, hunting or fishing. You’d learn something new every single day with every single new person that you’d meet and that’s probably the best part about it. Even if it’s the do’s and don’ts, mostly on the don’ts, maybe learn from mistakes, you don’t repeat them, which is a good lesson learned. That’s the driving factor and getting in with teaching and seeing some of these kids. They were little kids like ten or eleven that you took out and now are graduating college or kids that were in high school that I fitted and sold a shotgun too for maybe at a trap league. I had a girl who came to me. I ref for Winchester and Browning and I fit her with a gun.
I had to try five or six guns. She found one that she wanted, she got into trap league. I said, “Do me a favor. Try pheasant hunting.” She went to Rice Creek. That’s just a game for her. She got into it and loved it. That year she sent me a picture of her and her prom dress with her shotgun that she had posted on social media that she was so proud of it. She went off to college and I told her, “Keep shooting.” She went for a nursing degree and I was like, “When you are set and done and you graduate and you want, I will take you on a real South Dakota pheasant hunting trip.” She’s graduating. To have that extended relationship with a kid that’s still excited about it, that got in on one side, but have her see or do it. It’s fun to see it move forward.
Along those lines of learning something from everybody. I have a fortune taped to my lamp that says, “We are taught by every person we meet. You along the lines of the dos and the don’ts and the goods and the bads.” I learned a lot this last fall on the don’ts with some mentoring. That’s important that even the bad people you still learn even if they’re not the best or if they make a major mistake. You’re learning from them even if you don’t realize it at that moment. Looking back, it’s the same with those trips that you’re talking about. Those are the trips that are epic. You may not do it, but you did it and you look back on it, you have a photo from it or you have the story to share. Those are the things that make life and they do.
Mandy, any last thoughts?
What would you like to end on?
What are your goals? Where do you want to be?
Honestly, I don’t know. I think I’m going in the right direction. It’s been an issue for me to overbook and I would like to get to the point where I take some time for myself. It’s time. I put off everything for fifteen plus year to have an awesome career and I moved fourteen times. I’m happy where I’m at with my career. I don’t plan on moving from the area or leaving DNR. I’m happy where I’m at with my fishing career. I’d like to do a lot more mentoring, a lot more teaching, a lot less tournament angling. I’d like to have at least a vacation that does not include hunting or fishing. Maybe just some hiking in the mountains. Fairly simple.
How about writing?
I love to write. For me, it’s one of those technical venues where it’s always the biology behind the hunt. I don’t fear about talking or writing about my mistakes. Just like we talked about, everything was pointing in this direction and this is what worked, then looking back, “Here’s the aspect that I missed on it.” I definitely could see myself getting a lot more into that. There’s been a lot of interest. I simply don’t have a lot of time. I do maybe ten or twelve articles a year on the technical side of hunting and fishing for some things and way too many articles about tournament angling. I’m glad to be asked to highlight what we do. I do not want to do any more interviews or articles about being a singular female on the fishing side. I want to break through that glass ceiling and break down the wall and have every little girl realize that fishing is a social norm. One day I want to wake up and I want there to be 100 million little fishing girls running all over the place.
Meadow, last thoughts?
This is to Mandy, for scheduling your time, prioritizing yourself at a higher level and know that you’ve already got the credits. You’ve earned it. You don’t probably have to beat yourself against the wall to continue to build any credits.
With that people, we’re going to end this episode of Whitetail Rendezvous.
- Meadow Kouffeld
- Mandy Uhrich
- Extreme Huntress
- Ruffed Grouse Society