[su_dropcap style=”light”]S[/su_dropcap]itting at timber’s edge, we waited for the dense fog to lift. We’d been in position for nearly 20 minutes, but couldn’t get a clear look at the roaring red stag, some 200 yards away.
I was with noted outﬁtter, Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting Safaris, and we were in pursuit of red stags on the North Island of New Zealand. I’d ﬁlmed TV shows with Gerald before, but this time I was carrying a camera, hoping to capture some action on ﬁlm.
The hunter was Macie Stewart, a 16-year-old high school student from my hometown of Springfield, Oregon. It was her second day of the hunt, and while she’d passed on a couple nice stags, the rut was in full swing and the valleys echoed with roaring red stags; she was in no rush to end the hunt.
Finally, the fog cleared just enough to conﬁrm the stag in front of us was a shooter. Inching into a better shooting position, Macie got set up in the shooting sticks and waited for the stag to stand.
Moments before darkness consumed us, the fog fully lifted, the massively racked stag let out a deep, guttural roar, and then stood up from his bed. That’s when Macie let him have it with her .308. The stag stumbled and fell.
“Oh my gosh, he’s way bigger than he looked through the scope,” said Macie as we approached the downed stag. Gerald and Macie exchanged high ﬁves and hugs, as this was a moment each will remember forever.
And in a wrestling match, she would have scored two points for a takedown.
Less than a month prior to her late March hunt for red stag in New Zealand, Macie was on the wrestling mat in Portland, Oregon’s Memorial Coliseum. Here, she became the ﬁrst girl in her high school’s history to earn a state wrestling title. From athletics to hunting, Macie Stewart has achieved a lifetime of success, and she’s only a junior at Thurston High School.
“I SHOT MY FIRST BLACK-TAILED deer when I was 10 years old, on Oregon’s Mentored Youth tag,” Macie recalled. “I was with my dad, and it was the day before Halloween. It was a fun hunt, but I messed up something on the camera and I lost all the photos of that deer. I didn’t think much about it then, but now I really wish I had them.”
“I like looking back at the pictures of my hunts because they bring back so many memories that went along with it, not just of the animals, but of the people, the places, and so many other things that go with the hunt,” Macie said. “There are so many fun memories that hunting creates.”
Macie began her wrestling career in sixth grade. “Even before I started wrestling, I was around it a lot,” she explains. “My brother, Zane, who is two years younger than me, started wrestling when he was ﬁve, so I was always around it and liked it a lot.”
Early in high school, Macie tried cheerleading and softball, and while they were fun, to her they just lacked something. “I’m a really competitive person,” Macie elaborated. “But I also love the family feeling wrestling has. Everyone in wrestling is like a family, and when you meet up at big tournaments with other schools, it’s like a bigger family. It’s fun and everyone supports one another. I also like the intensity that goes with wrestling, so that’s my sport, what I do year-round either with my school or in clubs.”
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie and her father, Chris Stewart, over the years. Chris and I took Macie and my son, Braxton – who are the same age – to Wyoming for an antelope hunt when they were 13. They both got nice bucks on a truly memorable hunt. On another hunt in Oregon’s Coast Range, Macie got a Roosevelt bull ﬁve minutes after Braxton got a bear. That was a fun night in camp. Braxton also ﬁlmed Macie taking a ﬁve-point Roosevelt the season before that.
When asked if she gets nervous, Macie smiled, and said, “No, not really nervous; I get excited, but not nervous. I don’t know why.”
SHE DIDN’T FEEL NERVOUS when she stepped onto the mat for the state title match either. She’d entered the tournament as the number one seed, which can add pressure to anyone, let alone a kid. She won the semiﬁnal match by a big margin, and though her title match lasted three full rounds, Macie won 6-0.
“I was in pretty good shape heading into state,” Macie shares. “I felt good, but not overconﬁdent.” She feels that way on many hunts, too.
She wasn’t nervous at all during the ﬁnal moments of her red stag hunt. I know of many seasoned hunters who would have been on edge with the long wait and anticipation. “That stag wasn’t going anywhere, we were hidden really well in the trees and the wind was good; we just needed the fog to lift so I could get a shot. That hunt was all about patience.”
“Being in good shape is the key to success on the mat and in the woods,” Macie notes. “And having wrestling season be the same time as hunting season helps, a lot. Hunting deer and elk isn’t easy, and when I push hard on those hunts, they’re actually great workouts that help me keep in shape for wrestling.”
Macie points out other correlations between hunting and wrestling and how they beneﬁt one another.
“Wrestling makes you mentally tough, so the patience part of hunting comes easy to me. The challenges encountered while wrestling also prepare you for so many situations where you need to be mentally strong in life, and have perseverance, and I see that a lot when I’m hunting. Sometimes I want to sleep in instead of go hunting, but when I get out there, I’m always glad I went.”
She goes on. “When you cut weight in wrestling and you ﬁnally win, it’s a great feeling, because you put in so much work to get to that point. It’s like hunting. You put in all this hard work and it comes down to one shot, and when you make that shot, it’s so gratifying. Wrestling and hunting teach you to never give up, because if you quit, you’ll never reach your goal.”
“My favorite part about hunting is being outdoors and getting to travel to other places,” Macie said. “Hunting has allowed me to see some really cool things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I also love eating wild game; that’s all our family eats. It’s way better tasting than meat from a store, and way better for you. Being a wrestler you have to be in good shape, all the time, and eating wild game keeps me ﬁt, no doubt.”
WHEN ASKED HOW MANY BLACKTAILS and Roosevelt elk she has to her credit, Macie had to think, and still didn’t know for sure. “I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” Macie smiles. “To me it’s more about the experience and the memories, not about numbers.” But she did recall some of her more challenging hunts.
“I’ve had some tough blacktail hunts,” Macie recalled. “There was one big three-by-three a couple years ago. Dad and I spotted him from a long way away, and we had to patiently stalk through the woods, then the edge of a logged unit. Finally, we got to within 50 yards of the bedded buck before we could see him. He was really hidden and we had to move carefully on that one, but it wasn’t easy because it was getting dark out.”
“Last year was a fun hunt, too,” Macie continued. “My brother had shot a big buck in a unit, and packing that buck out, there was so much sign that we went back the next day and spotted another big buck in the same unit. We could only get to about 300 yards, but I got prone and felt really solid, and connected on the shot. That buck had a giant body. We quartered and packed that thing out, but had to go get help from some of our wrestling buddies to do it.”
When asked what she most recalls from her hunts, Macie didn’t hesitate. “The people and the places are what stand out most in my mind,” she said. “This New Zealand hunt was extra special because Mom was with me, while Dad and Zane were hunting another area. That was the ﬁrst time she’d been with me when I shot an animal, in all these years.”
“I also loved the way people in New Zealand hunt,” Macie added. “When we hunt at home, we stay out all day. In New Zealand we got up, ate breakfast, went hunting for a few hours, came back for a big lunch, where their family joined ours, went back out hunting until dark, then their whole family was together again with us for dinner. It was like Thanksgiving every night.”
With May upon us, where will you ﬁnd Macie Stewart? She has a spring bear tag, so you can bet she’ll be spending time in the woods. She also has a demanding spring and summer wrestling schedule, one that takes her around the country, possibly the world. Last year she qualiﬁed for a tournament in South Africa.
What I appreciate most about Macie Stewart is how hard she works. Be it wrestling or hunting, she’s diligent and positive. She doesn’t brag, ﬂood her social media sites with boastful images of animals she’s taken, and she has nothing to prove to anyone.
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie, and not once has she cared about putting on makeup, ﬁxing her hair, painting her nails or worrying about what she looks like in the photos. Macie is an accomplished hunter, statechampion athlete, and a hard worker who will be an achiever in life, no matter what she decides to do. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author and TV host. His show, The Hunt, can be seen on Netflix. To learn more about the show or New Zealand hunting, visit scotthaugen.com.
Most athletes start young to maximize their potential. Shooting sports are no exception, and an increasing number of competitive 3-gunners are starting out early. Learning to shoot used to be common for American kids, especially in rural areas, but actually training for performance with parents or professional coaches is a more recent phenomenon. As with musicians and gymnasts, starting marksmanship training early yields immeasurable benefits later on.
While attending the NRA Annual Meeting gathering in Nashville in April 2015, I was able to meet a group of such young shooters, along with their parents and supportive friends. We spent a day at a private range, shooting guns and photos. The six girls ranged in age from nine to 16, and every one of them demonstrated an unusual level of maturity. This was less surprising once you considered the degree of parental involvement with their education and activities.
All of these young ladies impress the world with their breadth of interests and talents, which include everything from shooting sports and music to excellent academics and public speaking. They all have a degree of dedication and earnestness that they use to perfect their skills, and this drive, partly innate, partly imparted by closely involved family members, also caught the attention of industry sponsors who, in turn, have flocked to support these young shooters.
Watching them shoot reinforced the value of fitting guns to individual shooters. The adjustments to the length of pull, balance and grips to fit smaller hands and shorter limbs allow for the individual shooter to demonstrate their absolute best. Since most of these ladies are musicians, they also often use suppressors to safeguard their hearing.
For almost all of them, the parents were their first trainers. But most have gone beyond a single source of training. For example, Shyanne Roberts trained with Todd Jarrett, a world-renown competitive shooter and instructor.
Besides being an inspiration to other kids, these young ladies are a challenge to adult shooters. It’s one thing to be outshot by another experienced adult, but quite another to be shown up by a preteen. Watching their progress illustrates the value of quality training and also shows the rewards of dedication to learning and practicing new skills. Having excellent people skills, these juniors are ambassadors to the shooting sports and gun owners all over America. And last but far from the least, they prove that there’s much more to girls in shooting sports than pink pistol grips. ASJ
Vanessa Aguilar, the youngest of this group that we interviewed, is also the youngest member of the San Antonio Sure Shots Pistol League. She shoots rimfire rifle and pistol, both customized for her. Despite a hearing impediment she’s been able to make TV and radio appearances, in addition to extensive training in preparation for IDPA and Steel Challenge competitions planned for next year.
Moriah Combs is the oldest of this group, and came to the shooting world through extensive involvement with her 4H club. Shooting since the age of six, she holds over 20 grand champion titles. She’s now a national 4-H Shooting Sports Teen Ambassador for Ohio, representing 3,000 youth shooters. Her other passions are photography, choir singing, hunting and running a cake-baking business.
Cheyenne Dalton has been shooting since the age of five. She competes in the USPSA and NSSF Rimfire Challenge and holds a state championship title. She is planning on competing in 3-Gun competitions next. Outside of the range, she fishes with line and bow, hunts and plays numerous musical instruments with her band.
At 11, Maddie Dalton sings and plays musical instruments when she isn’t winning the youth title in the Limited category of the 2014 NSSF Rimfire World Championship. That’s pretty amazing progress for someone who had only shot their first gun a year prior. She’s a two-time winner of the Oklahoma junior fiddle championship as well. How is that for talent?
Shyanne Roberts has already participated in 3-Gun, IDPA, USPSA, action rifle and steel silhouette events. She also makes frequent TV appearances, making a strong and well-articulated case for gun ownership as part of our individual freedoms. Shooting is just one of her many passions – academics, music and other sports round out her personal development. In addition to rifles, rimfire and centerfire pistols, Shyanne also runs a 12-gauge shotgun quite effectively – even though it’s taller than she is!
Editor’s note – The American Shooting Journal’s Patriotic July 2015 issue features Shyanne Roberts on the cover. Look for copies nationwide!
Sydney Rockwell is a 14-year-old competitive shooter who began shooting rifles with her dad at age nine. Serving as the vice president of her school’s student council, Sydney is also an avid hunter, golfer and competitor in several action-shooting sports, including Steel Challenge, 3-Gun, IDPA and USPSA competitions. This past October she was selected for the prestigious US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Junior Shooters’ Clinic, and received training from some of the most elite competitive shooters in the world.
Editor’s note: Oleg Volk is a professional photographer specializing in the shooting industry around the nation. Feel free to contact him at olegvolk.net.
Author’s note: A big thank you to Eric Saperstein for the introduction to this awesome crew.
Posted in Shooters Tagged with: 3-Gun, Action Steel, Cheyenne Dalton, IDPA, Kids, Maddie Dalton, Moriah Combs, new generation, Oleg Volk, Shooting, Shyanne Roberts, Sporting Clays, Steel Silhouettes, Sydney Rockwell, USPSA, Vanessa Aguilar