In spring 2013, I caught Dan Goodenow, my boss for about two years now,
at just the right moment. He was in the process of booking hunts, and I noticed he had an opening in August – a reindeer hunt on the Aleutian Islands.
“How about scheduling me in?” I offered with a sugary-sweet smile.
“And here’s a great idea. How about we do something different and turn it into an all-girls hunting trip?” Dan’s stony face perked up. “Now, that’s a thought. But are you sure you want to go back there?”
“Are you kidding? It’s time to finish what we started.” For this trip, I brought along my friend Rachelle, a tall blonde from West Virginia who can disarm anyone with her sweet and sincere personality. Her dad, an avid hunter, died of cancer when she was only 7, so she never got the chance to hunt with him. Rather, Rachelle started hunting when she met her husband, an outfitter, and she immediately fell in love with the lifestyle.
I also invited Taylor, a young woman with an infectious personality and gorgeous curly hair. I met her at a precision-shooting class years back. Though her dad was a client of ours and hunted all over the world, she was fairly new to the lifestyle.
The three of us (arrived in) the village of Nikolski, population 18, on the island of Umnak, the third largest island in the Aleutian archipelago. From the start of the trip, the vibe was way different from that of my excursion two years earlier. There’s a stark contrast between hunting with an all-male crew and hunting with your girlfriends. Oh, we were just as serious and hard-core when we needed to be, but when we didn’t, there was a lot more laughing involved.
Needless to say, the entire trip was a blast, even though we battled a nonstop wind that made the otherwise 40-something degree weather feel freezing. A two-hour, bumpy-as-expected ride on two ATVs brought us to some gently sloping valleys and grassy rolling hills. I’ll admit, hopping back into the same type of ATV I had crashed in two years earlier brought about the beginnings of a panic attack.
I had to talk myself down hysteria lane while we jostled along. It sure
helped, though, that, while some of the hills were steep, they were moguls compared to the ones on Atka. When we made our way into reindeer territory, the scenic picture took my breath away.
Broad valleys spread out in a blanket of lush ferns. Tall grass swayed rhythmically in the wind. In the distance, snow-capped mountains, one an active volcano, stood guard over the land below. And feeding on alpine moss and tall grass, hundreds upon hundreds of reindeer gathered, their large, smooth, white antlers glinting in the summer sun.
On foot, the three of us, along with the guide, crept quietly through the
valley, crouched low. Rachelle hunted first. After crawling on hands and
knees to get closer to the animals we’d seen, then glassing to find a bull, we noticed huge antlers in the distance, unmoving and low to the ground.
Likely a napping bull, about 500 yards away. As we closed the distance to 200 yards, we saw that we were right. We inched even closer. Finally, the bull stood up. When he turned broadside, Rachelle took the shot, harvesting her first reindeer. Two days later, Taylor and I harvested mature bulls within 100 yards of each other on a marshy hillside, with Rachelle there to share the excitement.
Our girls’ expedition ended on a high note. For the first time, I discovered the unique camaraderie that can unfold with other women in an otherwise male-dominated field. This marked a turning point in my life. I wanted to proclaim to the world that it was great to be a female hunter, that we weren’t alone, and that there must be many others like us out there.
It’s amazing what happens when we face our fears head-on. Opportunities open up. Doors swing open. We find ourselves doing wonderful things that we would have missed had we submitted to our fears. I often think of those experiences in my life that never would have happened had I given up somewhere along the way.
If the Atka accident had scared me enough to quit hunting back in 2011, I never would have traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, a year later, to the hunting expo where I met my future husband. I never would have seen the Northern Lights shining brightly above our campfire in the Yukon.
I never would have ventured to New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, and France to hunt some of the most magnificent animals on earth. I never would have embraced the possibilities that streamed under the surface of the unknown, waiting to push through and enter the realm of existence.
Story by Eva Shockey with A.J. Gregory
The 2016 Archery Trade Association (ATA) show was in full swing at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, and it was packed to the gills. I stood amongst a throng in a long line that did not seem to be moving. A guy next to me was telling no one in particular how beautiful Ms. Eva Shockey was – for the fifth time! Another Eva admirer standing in front of me was giving a running commentary of her career in the outdoor and hunting industry– he seemed to be well informed.
As I have never been good at waiting for anything, I considered bolting from the line before someone could say “Hey! Don’t you want to see Eva Shockey?”
Well, of course I wanted to see her, but like a cottontail rabbit kicked out of brush pile, I jumped out of line and sprang full speed down a crowded aisle. I guess I am a bit of a coward. I was supposed to procure an interview with Eva, but chickened out again.
EVA SHOCKEY HAS BECOME the face of women in the hunting movement, and that is a big deal. There have been exactly two women to grace the cover of Field & Stream magazine in the last 100 years: the first lady was Queen Elizabeth; the second Eva Shockey.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that the increase in hunting participation from 2008 to 2012 among males was only 1.9 percent; among women it was 10. In those four short years, the number of female hunters jumped from 3.04 million to 3.35 million. Did Eva have anything to do with that? Many would say yes!
Being the daughter of Outdoor Channel-icon Jim Shockey and often appearing with him on his programs did not hurt her start in the industry. But even in the limelight of her father, Eva is developing and blazing her own niche in the hunting world.
These days, Eva is considered a women’s hunting advocate superstar, not just Jim’s daughter. I saw this time and again as I walked the aisles of the ATA show. Passing by a booth where she was signing autographs and taking pictures with adoring fans, many of them young girls and ladies, it seemed clear she had a special bond with them.
I didn’t think I had much hope of landing an interview with her on my trip, but I made a call to a lady who knows everybody. “Be over here at our booth at 4:30,” she said nonchalantly. “You’ve got fifteen minutes for an interview.” I showed up early, still not believing it, and within few minutes, here came Eva and her manager –pretty as you please.
They are both polite and gracious as can be. To be honest, that was not what I expected. There are celebrities in the outdoor world who act like rock stars. This is not the case here, and soon Eva and I were sitting at a table talking as if we were on the front porch having sweet tea.
AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL What is your life like right now?
EVA SHOCKEY Very busy and exciting because every day I learn new things, talk to new people and try new products. I just got married in June (2015), and have a wonderful husband named Tim Brent who is also a hunter and a professional hockey player. So, between his hockey schedule and mine, it is pretty hectic!
ASJ Did you grow up hunting?
ES I grew up around hunting. My dad has been a hunter for my entire life, and we’ve had TV hunting programs for 15 years (currently Uncharted and Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures – all on Outdoor Channel), so I was always on his trips. I didn’t actually start hunting seriously until after college when I traveled for my first big-game hunt in South Africa. Since then, I have not stopped.
ES I loved it. I was always curious about it, and wanted to do something to spend time with my dad. He was obviously very passionate, and I wanted to see what it was he loved so much. The first animal I hunted was a warthog [laughs], because I was not sure I would like it, so I wanted to hunt something that was kind of ugly [laughs again]. After that I was hooked and jumped into all of this rather quickly. I didn’t intend for this to become my career.
ASJ Do you enjoy archery and bowhunting?
ES Yes, I love archery! I have been shooting a bow for a while now, but in the past three years I’ve become more serious about it. People who bowhunt know that it takes more time to hunt this way than it does to hunt with a gun. I split my time 50-50 between bow and gun hunting, but I am growing more and more in love with my bow.
ASJ There are more and more young women who seek you out and follow you as an inspiration. What do they tell you and what do you share with them?
ES The number of girls involved in hunting has really increased from just seven years ago when I started. I often hear that they appreciate me because I am a lady who hunts, and I don’t go into the woods pretending to be a guy. I don’t start swearing and spitting as soon as the hunt starts. I don’t want to be a guy. I stay true to myself – as ladylike as I can [laughs a little], classy as I can. I’m still me just wearing camo. That’s my biggest thing! You don’t have to be masculine to hunt, and you can just be yourself and love the outdoors.
ASJ That really hits home with the ladies, I bet.
ES I think so. There are different kinds of girls who hunt, but for me, this is just who I am. I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for being a woman who loves being in the woods while wearing camo and doing the same things that any guy out there does.
EVA DOESN’T HAVE to apologize, indeed! She is the face and the voice of the greatest force to reach the outdoor and hunting arena in the past century – women hunters.
The industry is lucky to have her. ASJ