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Deer Hunting Adventures North Of The Border with Holly Heier
I’m in old Canada, the province of Alberta. We’re going to meet up with Holly Heier and she’s on the team of Humble Bow Hunter. Holly, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
I touched with Bo Hutchinson and he said, “You’ve got to get Holly on the show.” Here we are and I’m excited to be talking to you. I love Canada. I killed my biggest buck in Saskatchewan, but it was a gorgeous deer. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in Canadian Provinces, from Quebec all the way to Alberta and British Columbia. Having said that, Holly, let’s talk about how you got into the world of hunting.
It’s how I grew up. I’m from Saskatchewan. That’s how I grew up with my dad and brother hunting. Mom and I never had a whole lot to do with it other than tagging along but never participating. I moved out to Alberta and met my husband who is an avid hunter, fisher, archer and everything outdoors. If I wanted to see him, I had to start myself. That’s what I did. I started hunting about twenty years ago.
How old were you when you started hunting?
What was the hardest thing for you as a brand-new hunter? A little older, they’d call you an adult-onset hunter but what was the hardest thing for you to overcome?
The confidence that I could do it, firstly. I didn’t know any other women hunters. I never grew up with women hunters. It wasn’t something that we did so overcoming, thinking that I couldn’t.
How did you do that?
I just kept at it. I wanted, so I did.
Persistence and determination. How helpful was your husband in the process?
He’s who taught me pretty much everything I know. My dad and brother, I picked up things along from them but not looking at it as a hunter perspective. I picked up the stuff from them but definitely, they were more influences. My husband’s name is Adam. He was much more my teacher.
Did you have any other mentors?
There’s Bentley Coben out of Saskatchewan. We have a lot to do with him and I don’t know if you know who he is but he’s a big deal. He’s got a hunting camp near Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. He’s an old family friend. He was pretty instrumental too in the first part.
I bet you that people could find him on the web. Does he have everything or what does he hunt?
Mainly whitetails, that’s where Jim Shockey started. He’s affiliated with Bentley Coben, he’s been with Cody Robbins and Jason Peterson. They’re big names out here.
Some big names in Canadian whitetail hunting.
He’s part of that back in the day.
If you know him, I’d love to get him on the show.
I can talk to him.
I’d love to have him on the show as a guest doing the same thing what we’re doing. When you think about women in the outdoors, why do you think they’re growing so fast? It’s the fastest-growing segment in the outdoor world.
For myself, I can say why but I don’t know. It started out wanting to be active in the outdoors and enjoy being with my husband because that’s something he lives and breathes. It started there but then I took over liking the feeling of being self-sufficient and being the only people that touch our meat because we processed it all ourselves. I like that aspect of it. That’s what keeps me going. We have kids and I think that is a huge way of life that I want to instill in them.
I had a talk with Kory Slye, he’s from Pennsylvania and we talked about field to plate and his family lives on venison. For the most part that’s the protein source. He does fish, he does shoot small game and does some waterfowl hunting. He will kill as many deer the law allows in the State and when he does that, he gets enough for the year. He processed it all himself because he wants to know where his meat comes from.
We’re exactly the same. We don’t solely live on venison but it’s some wild meat of some sort. We’ve got moose and elk too. We go after whatever we get drawn for there but then we raise our own pigs, our own chickens and that’s our other source of protein too but same logic behind it. Knowing what goes into it and knowing everything about it.
More people are doing that and that being, hunting, harvesting and killing their own game. Processing in the field, take it home and then processing it in their garage or in their kitchen for the most part. It doesn’t take that much to do it. It’s not big a deal as people think to break down an animal into manageable parts that you’d go in and buy a roast at the store. It’s the same thing that you’d done once you vacuum seal them or wrap them. You’ve done exactly the same thing. The tenderloins, the backstraps down to the grind, the hamburger you make is all better than what you could get in the store.
Do you like to hunt with rifle or bow? What’s your choice of weapon?
We start out in September every year as archery hunters, both of us but if we can’t make it happen then come November, we have no problem with the rifles.
You can get multiple licenses then?
It’s different for different species but for whitetail or mule deer or even moose. If you get drawn for that animal, then your season starts September 1st until October 31st if you’re an archer. You can do that for two months and then you can carry on into November with your bow if you want to but that’s when rifle season starts and it ends the last day of November.
I’ve heard that moose hunting is extremely difficult. Tell me about hunting moose because they’re the biggest deer in the deer family. How hard is it hunting moose?
It’s pretty tricky. I’ve only been drawn once. It’s a big weight up here. Adam has been drawn twice. In our life together, we’ve only had three in our whole twenty years of being together. It’s a big weight. It’s an eight-year draw for our area. I’ve only had one. I’ve been drawn once and tried since the start of September to get them. We did lots of field work before that, research and stuff. We found the one we want and went after him the start of September. We had some close calls but never got to be where I was in a position to take a good shot. I never did be able to do it with my bow but then November 1st came and we did it with my rifle.Be happy - Be Humble - Bow Hunt Click To Tweet
Hunting that long, you couldn’t be the only person with the permit or a tag in that area. How’d you keep the other people away from that one?
There are a lot of big chunks of land around here, you have to get permission from those landowners and lots of them only let certain people on. I’m not saying we were the only people going after that moose but there’re lots of landowners will only let a handful of people.
You had to be a pretty good hunter to pattern him or scout him out knowing where he was and then stay on him before somebody else got him.
In the end, it all worked out. It’s a lot of work. A lot of cameras reviewing. We had both boys at that time they were three and one. We pack them up a lot and took them on drives, but none of hunts when they were that little but on all the researched and scouting trips, they came along.
How much meat do you think you got out of the moose?
I don’t know. I’m not too sure. I couldn’t say. We lived on him for almost two years.
Way over a couple of hundred pounds.
At that time our boys were still small too, it basically two adults eating.
Let’s switch it up to the bow hunting, Humble Bow Hunters. How did Bo get a hold of you?
Somebody asked me that and I can’t even tell you, but we started following each other on Instagram and get to know people through that even though I have never met Bo in person. We got to know each other through that and through different posts and things that he knew and I would do and he liked my content. He approached me about working on his team with him. He liked the family aspect. I’m a personal trainer as well, he liked that I could bring a family in the outdoors, women to the outdoors, fitness all together and help him with that side of his vision for his Humble Bow Hunter.
If somebody wants to get ahold of you, how would they do that? Please don’t give me your phone number.
I’m on Instagram and my username is @Chasing_Outdoors, that’s probably the best way.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter as well?
I’m on Facebook. That’s Holly Thorsteinson-Heier. I kept my maiden name in there so people from my past could find me.
What do you do for Humble Bow Hunters? What’s your role as being a team member?
It’s pretty new but what I have contributed to the page is some recipes. I’ve been cooking wild game for about twenty years. I wasn’t good at it at all at the start but I’m starting to get where I’m good at it. Sharing those successful recipes. I’ve written a few posts about workouts you can do to help you reach your goals in the hunting field as well as I wrote about my moose hunt. I’m bringing fitness, women and family to his page. How to work them all together and intersect them. You have to be twelve to hunt. I’m not sure if it’s all through Canada but in Saskatchewan and Alberta for sure, you have to be twelve or older to shoot or hunt here. We take my nephew all the time, that’s all I have to do with youth hunting.
Let’s talk about whitetail hunting and your passion for hunting whitetails in the bush as they call it in Canada.
We have a season here where you don’t need to be drawn for whitetail. We can get a general whitetail buck tag or a doe tag. You’re allowed two per person if you want and then when it comes to mule deer you have to be drawn for that. We have a lot both up here.
What class of deer do you have in your area?
A lot of 140s, nothing massive upwards to 180 but there’s not a ton of those. You got to look for those ones.
200 are hard to come by.
With the mule deer, it’s not as hard to find that big but with the whitetail, there are not a lot of them.
What’s your best strategy for hunting whitetails?
We use a lot of trail cameras and they’re everywhere here. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world but in ours, you find them driving around. They’re everywhere.
Do you have to get permission from the landowners to set up your stands?
You need to get permission. Generally, what we do is we drive around. We have our few areas that we like to hit up every year and the same landowners. What we’ll do is go and ask those landowners if we can get on their piece again and pretty much always, they let you year to year if you’re good to them, good to their land and set up our cameras. We’ll start that in July and August, set up our cameras, start reviewing, see which ones we want to go after and decide where we want to set up our blinds. We don’t do tree stands. We don’t have trees big enough. We don’t use this but guys will use a tower stand. They’ll build them but they’re not put in trees up here. We have poplars and little skinny things.
You don’t have hardwoods in your area?
Do you use pop-up lines then?
How do you decide where you’re going to set them up?
Based on our trail cameras and the patterns we watch, we’ll find the which one we want to go after through the trail camera or if we get lucky and see it while we’re scouting, watch them, figure out their patterns and set up based on that.None of us are perfect and none of us is professional. We're just regular people. Click To Tweet
How much before the season do you set up your ground blinds?
Preferably the start of August but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it’s a week before.
I heard most people like to get them in a month beforehand, so the deer get used to them. That’s another something out there and that’s what it is.
That’s definitely ideal.
How do you brush them in?
We’ll just cut off branches of other trees and brush it in or we have that mesh fabric that’s camo pattern. We’ll put that around the blind plus all the brush that we cut off and sticking to the blind. There are lots of bale yards around here, sometimes we use bales.
Bales as a blind?
We haven’t used that for a long time, but we have before or bales in the field, hide behind one.
I’ve done that with rifle hunting, but I’ve never done that, put a pop up in or I’ll put a bale blind out. They’re great you have to watch your sent. Once the deer see it, they don’t pay any attention to it at all.
It depends. You have to go with the flow though too, be flexible. If things aren’t working out then you got to be able to move thoughts. Adam got an antelope which is tricky to get with your bow. He got an antelope using a decoy, walking behind it and getting closer to his antelope that he got, when he got to 30 yards with that. We do a lot of spot and stalk too, even with our bows. That’s all I did with my moose with spot and stalk. I never did get him but that’s all we did. We didn’t have a blind set up for him.
I heard also with antelope people use cows.
They like to be in the fields.
They have a cow and then they keep moving it forward. I’ve been able to flag them a long time ago, a guy showed me, you take your hat or a white flag. You flag the antelope and they’re curious. They’ll come in from long distances, they’ll check you out and then you get them.
I didn’t know that. That’s neat.
Try that next time you get an antelope place and try flagging them. It could be your hat. It could be a stick with a white cloth or something that they can see and flag it. Pop up, pop down and they’ll come on over to see what you are.
I should actually get my archery antelope this fall or down South. They’re not right here. We have a few but not a lot.
You have to go to the Southern part of the province?
Yes, that’s right.
It’s a good fun hunt, that’s for sure. It’s not like chasing whitetail but it’s still a fun hunt. When you think about the blogs you write and your recipes, what do you want to share at Humble Bow Hunters with your readers?
I think my take on what Bo’s vision is to keep it relatable and real. None of us are perfect and none of us are professional. We’re regular people. He wants us to share our experiences, our triumphs, our failures and what we’ve learned from all of that. Keeping it real. In my moose hunt I wrote about how I struggled because my kids were little. That was actually the basis of my story there, getting over feeling guilty about hunting when you’re a mother because it’s a lot of time away from your family and your kids. You come home with nothing day after day. It plays on your mind and you feel guilty. I did. That’s what I wrote about there. It was being honest.
I would say honest and transparent.
Yes, that’s a good word, transparent.
That’s important. Many people put on masks, you say, “It was unfortunate but here’s the grind, here’s what I felt going through this whole process. Yes, I was successful but this is what I had to go through to get there.” Other people go, “I feel the same way.” Once you get that, then you’ve open communication.
I wrote that and I felt better after writing it. It was a way to get it out, even though I didn’t know I needed to get it out. It felt good to write it and say how it was a struggle. In the end, that was wonderful and totally worth it but how it was a struggle all the way through. I had posted it and then about an hour later, somebody I don’t even know sent me a message and said how she could totally relate to that. She struggles with that same feeling, how it’s hard for her to go out and leave her babies. That made it worth it right there.
Do you have a recipe you’d like to share with my audiences?
I’ve only posted a few on the blog. The one I can think of the best is Borscht. Do you make Borscht down there?
No, not really. Some people do, I’m sure. I don’t.
Do you know what it is?
It’s a soup.
The German name for soup?
It’s Ukrainian.Hunting is a lot of work. You find out what you're made of. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about that.
It’s basically a vegetable soup. The way we do it is with beef or venison or some red meat. It’s hamburger and you fry it up and then you add a ton of vegetables from your garden. My family was always big gardeners. Me and my husband do a bunch of gardening as well. It’s a great way to use up all your produce that you are growing. It’s beets, carrots, cabbage, corn, onions and tomatoes, but the basis is beets.
Do you put spices in it? How do you flavor it up?
It’s just salt, pepper and garlic are what we put in. Sometimes if it needs a little bit of something, we’ll throw in a can of tomato soup. Otherwise, not really. It’s really good. It’s a vegetable soup with beef in it and beets.
There’s something new every day and that’s why I asked the question.
We eat it a lot in the summer.
Where do you want your hunting career to go?
I have some big goals. What I want to do with it is continue on just doing what we’re doing and instilling in my kids that this is important. They’re seven and five, so it is getting fun and they like to participate for sure. The five-year-old isn’t as apt and he doesn’t have the stamina. He gets hungry and cold and tired. The seven-year-old does really well and he loves it. That feels really good. I want to instill in them the values and the persistence and being self-sufficient is really important to us. That’s where I want to go with my family. My dream hunt is an Alaskan or Yukon moose.
Dall sheep hunting?
I do want to do that too. We’ve done it a bit. Adam goes every year. It’s hard to leave the kids for a minimum of ten days. It’s a lot to ask of my parents to watch them and find help for that long, so that’s what’s hard. It’s on my radar for sure. Adam gets to go and I’m getting there. That’s a huge commitment. That’s so hard, sheep hunting. It’s not for everybody.
No, it’s not. The mountains, they’ll flat out kill you.
It’s a lot of work. You find out what you’re made of.
The mountains don’t care. You’ve got to bring whatever you have and see if it’s good enough or it isn’t. That’s a great segue into your personal training business. Why do you do that?
I got into fitness right after my first boy was born. I started seeing a trainer and going to the gym. I’ve always been active through sports, hunting and outdoor activities but never actually caring about getting healthy from exercise. I would do those things because I liked them. My oldest boy’s name is Huck. After Huck was born, I just decided to get in good shape. I had troubles with him with carrying him and delivering. I thought by the time we want to have a second baby, I wanted to really be in good shape to be able to not have issues. That was my premise. That’s why I started getting into it was to have more babies. I fell in love with it. I’ve only been a trainer for about a year. I went back to school and got it all done and now I’m a trainer.
Do you just train ladies or men or is it just for the outdoors? What is your client like?
I work at a gym in town. I only work one day a week. I only do that just because of the boys in school. I work it around their schedule so far. It’s anybody, it’s all ages. My youngest would be 23 up to 67 and everywhere in between. Some wanting to build muscle, some wanting to lose weight and some just for health or for whatever their goals are. I’m not specialized in any certain area. I do tend to try to influence towards the outdoors. It’s amazing how many people don’t go for walks. It’s something so simple and that I take for granted that people just don’t do where I need to go for walks or hikes or go look for antlers. People don’t do that. I push that.
When somebody comes to you and says, “I’m getting ready to go on a sheep hunt,” how do you train them?
I’ve never had that exact situation. I would try to find exercises that are going to work to simulate a sheep hunt, what you’re going to need to do on a sheep hunt. What I do for myself, I’m not really training for a sheep hunts, but for any kind of hunting is I’ll load up my pack and do my cardio with my pack on. If I go for a hike, I’ll put my pack on and it has weights in it or I’ll do my whole workout with my pack.
They call it rucking, right?
Yeah, it’s nothing fancy. It’s basic everyday movements that are going to help you get closer to your goal. There is obviously certain equipment and stuff that are going to help with that as well. I try to keep it pretty simple. You don’t need big fancy stuff to reach your goals like that.
I know that to hunt the mountains, my core has to be strong. I have to be solid and then my legs have to be solid and my shoulders. You work in all components of your body just to get into elk country.
It totally stems from your core. If your core is weak, you’re not going to have a strong leg, you’re not going to have a strong shoulder. The core is the most important, so everything’s spins off of that.
What is a training schedule or regime to build your core? What would you recommend the people?
The number one exercise for core strength is planking. Where you’re on either your hands or your elbows, then you’re almost in a pushup position and you hold it on your toes and your elbows or your hands. If you can’t stay on your toes, stay on your knees and your elbows and you just hold it. You just hold your core tight and you hold it for as long as you can.
How many sets do I do with that?
If you’re just starting, you could do whatever you can for length. If you can make it ten seconds, then that’s all you do, but three times would be a good starting point. If you can do ten seconds times three, then that’s good. Lots of people can hold them for over a minute. Whatever your starting point is times three and then up it as you get better and as you get stronger, challenge yourself and push yourself to hold it longer.
How many reps would you recommend?
Just one because you’re holding it. Your rep is how long you can hold it for. Your rep is twenty seconds.
How many of those do I do? How many sets of that?
Three and then I don’t do anymore that day?
Or you could later, but it depends where your starting point is. There are a ton of different variations you can do for a plank as well, you just have to look it up. You can do plank jacks, you can do toe taps, you do knees in, you can do side planks. It’s a very versatile no equipment needed, wonderful exercise because they work your shoulders and your quads and everything too. It’s a whole body but targeting your core.Find something that you love to do and do it outside. Click To Tweet
What do you think about yoga?
I think it’s very important. I need to do it more. Everybody should at least stretch. It’s good to lengthen out your muscles and stretch your muscles out. It helps with building and repairing after big workouts or even big hunt days.
I went to yoga after my crash and it helped me get better. My mood was better because yoga is all about movement and it helped me move better. I still got ways to go but it certainly helped me. The most noted person on the web is Cameron Hanes. He’s unbelievable what he’s done with his career in regard to fitness. He’s more in fitness, but that’s how he gets to where he is now. You think about that, most people can’t do what he does. Very few people can. They can aspire to it but it’s hard. I think sometimes it’s good to have a person like you share say, “Here’s what you do. We’re going to keep it simple. All I want you to do is X, Y and Z. These three things, if do this on a consistent basis over a period of time and you’re going to see improvement.” What’s your thought on that?
You can’t go into a goal and just assume you can be where Cameron Hanes is. That’s a whole lifetime of work. He’s 51. He’s put in a good solid long time getting to where he is physically. You can’t just expect to be able to lift what he does and do the reps that he does or the distance running that he can do.
He just did the Grand Canyon, rim to rim.
You can definitely aspire to do it or admire that dedication and use that to drive you and help you with your goals. You have the start small and every little bit adds up and every small change does get bigger and it adds up. You will see your results and your goals met if you keep challenging yourself. Everybody starts somewhere different.
What would you like to wrap up the show with? You’ve got thousands of people that are going to read this. What do you want to impart to them?
If you’re a woman deciding you want to get into the outdoors in whatever aspect it is, find a way to and find somebody that you can go with or learn from and keep with it. Even if it’s not hunting, but if it’s hiking. Getting outside is the big thing. I can’t believe how unimportant that is to so many people to not be outside. That sounds so simple. Find something that you love to do and do it outside. For us, it’s super important to encourage our boys to be involved. We include them on absolutely everything that we can. They are small but they’re fully capable of doing stuff. They come along on a lot of hunts. I’ll bring them in the blind with me. They come on scouting trips. I got my biggest whitetail with my son. He was three at the time. It was me and him. Just persistence and you can do it. Include them, bring them along. Oftentimes it’s always harder when you bring them with you, but it’s so much more worth it. That’s such a memorable day. Those would be the two important things that I would like people to do. Get moving outside and to include children and women.
Holly Heier, thank you so much for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous. I look forward to the next time.
Thanks a lot, Bruce. Thanks for having me.
- Holly Heier
- Humble Bow Hunter
- Bo Hutchinson
- Bentley Coben
- @Chasing_Outdoors – Holly Heier on Instagram
- Holly Thorsteinson Heier – Facebook
- Cameron Hanes
- @HumbleBowHunter – Instagram
About Holly Heier
I grew up in northern Saskatchewan, Canada in a hunting family of 4. Means we’re tight in our household, making hunting not just a way of life, but a necessity. We lived off the deer my dad and brother would harvest each year. Through this, I had a sense of self-sufficiency to grow within me. Just after high school, I met my now husband – an avid hunter, angler, and outdoorsmen. Through him, I was able to take the values my dad had instilled in me and start providing as well.
I’ve been hunting for 20 years now and filling our freezers with meat that we have either hunted ourselves or raised on our farm, is of utmost importance to both of us. We have 2 small boys that we want to lead through example and encourage along this path.
As a personal trainer, mother, wife and hunter, I’m learning how to intertwine a love for self-sufficiency, the outdoors, my family and health. Our focus is growing healthy, strong bodies that are educated and capable of living a life where we know where our food comes from.
Now living in central Alberta, we are surrounded by mountains and prairies all abounding with whitetail and mule deer, elk, moose, bears, as well, there are rivers and lakes full of trout, northern pike and walleye within minutes from home.
As our boys grow, so do our adventures and I look so forward to the journey!