[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]“T[/su_dropcap]his is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” The Rifleman’s Creed vibrated through my bones the day I became a United States Marine, and has recently taken on a whole new meaning. As the years have passed by, I find it challenging to recall the entire creed, which has intermittently faded over time. However, that first phrase always remained near my heart and astonishingly enough, relates to my children. I know that might sound different – the words gun and children combined together – but just like my rifle, my children are mine, there “are many like” them, but these two are mine.
My name is Rachel Trexler and I grew up in the rural backcountry of Mims, Fla., I am a Marine Corps veteran and a mother of two adorable hell-raising tiny humans: my son, four-year-old Rylan, and his nine-month-old sister Raven. As I kiss their faces, my warrior heart echoes the reminder that there is no limit to the fierceness with which I will protect my family, which is why now, as a stay-at-home mom, I still choose to carry a gun in my day-to-day life.
I WASN’T RAISED AROUND FIREARMS. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that I fired my first gun. I can recall being anxious – it was a revolver – and I was qualifying my horse to receive a law enforcement certification. It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law-enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
Years later, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology and an Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology. However, it was when I answered the call to join the ranks in the military that cemented the magnitude of our country’s freedoms, and the sacrifices others have made defending them. I can unequivocally say being in the military made a huge difference in becoming the woman I am today. It is not to say a woman has to be trained by the military to appreciate and/or own and shoot guns, but I still have fond memories of the M-16A2 service rifle with old iron sights. There is nothing compared to learning to shoot day in and day out – and it was all about you and your rifle. I memorized its statistics and range, I field stripped it, cleaned it and put it back together a million times over – I literally slept with it pretty soundly too, if you ask me.
I HAVE SINCE HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the Marine Corps, but have not stopped improving my shooting skills, and I now practice the art of tactical accessorizing. Much like the awesome feeling of getting a new pair of heels, I felt like a newly crowned beauty queen when I was gifted an Eotech Holographic sight for my AR-15 – was it Christmas Day? Being fashion conscious, I can’t leave the house without my Emerson Karambit knife. For Valentine’s Day, I was the girl who got a Tiffany’s dog tag with my children’s and fiancée’s initials inscribed, as well as a Gerber Ghostrike blade to take down the mountain with me as I shred on my snowboard. Outstandingly, women are now influencing the firearms market, which at one point exclusively targeted male consumers. I’m proud to be one of these women. Not all people choose to carry a weapon. Some choose to carry nothing at all, and that’s OK in my eyes. This is one of the rights protected by the United States Constitution. Anyone can choose.
FOR ABOUT EIGHT YEARS, I was head of security for a restaurant/bar in the historic downtown district of Melbourne, Fla. Closing in the dark and very early hours of the morning, I was grateful for my Second Amendment rights, as I retrieved my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield from the safe and headed for home. While the current debate on the legal right to carry intensifies, the number of women who are choosing to bear arms is increasing exponentially. My Shield is a prime example of this; gun manufacturers continue to increase products geared towards the ladies. After all, it’s a .40-caliber that can be worn on the waistband of my yoga pants and offers the luxury of a low recoil. The fact that two perfect worlds – gun carry and yoga pants– collide with my 5.11 range/yoga pants solidifies that women have made their presence known and manufacturers are listening.
IN BETWEEN HAVING my son and daughter, I chose to attend the police academy, ultimately achieving my law-enforcement certificate. It was during one of these academy days that I found myself competing against a fellow veteran – former 1st Battalion Army Ranger Nicholas Worthy (see American Shooting Journal’s Behind The Badge feature Heart Of Bronze in the July 2015 Issue) – in the tactical shooting challenge. Even though I took second in that competition, it was that decorated ranger who took first. He is now a field training officer with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and my handsome fiancée. Our beliefs run parallel – whether you are purple, minion blue, male or female, everyone is equal.
The Second Amendment, by varying degrees depending on the state, has recently led to a controversial topic – open carry. In Florida, legislators are introducing bills that would allow citizens to carry weapons openly. In my own rationale, any person who carries a gun also bears the very heavy yet necessary burden to carry responsibly. This responsibility extends to whether I carry openly or concealed. However, if Florida does pass open-carry laws, I just might be able to accessorize a few new holsters that would match my daily wardrobe.
As my wardrobe collection expanded, I found a convenient place for my Heckler & Koch P2000 SK .40, which is now secured under my steering wheel. It’s kind of the same to me as Burberry in the fashion world, and I love them both. There are plenty of other mothers like me, such as my children’s godmother, Deputy Michelle Sweet. She works for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. One day, she put on a pair of combat boots, pulled up her hair and enrolled alongside me in the academy. Deputy Sweet’s importance to the law-enforcement field is magnified because she is a woman and her leadership cannot be overstated.
Because of women in strong roles and their resilience in a historically male-dominated career, other women confidently set their sights on similar positions, and are getting the opportunity to serve alongside male counterparts in all areas of formerly male-only jobs, including military combat roles, SWAT teams and other special operations units. This is proof that we as a society are evolving when it comes to understanding the capabilities women possess.
IN 1788, RICHARD HENRY LEE proclaimed, “To preserve liberty, it is essential the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them … ” It is pertinent that those of us who carry and train with weapons aid in the next generation’s safety, so mothers like us will practice, as well as teach our children the importance of gun safety and awareness. What is the best part of being friends with other mothers who carry? I don’t need to discuss why I just locked my purse up in her safe and opened that bottle of wine for a girl’s night in. The responsibility to maintain our guns in a safe manner falls directly on our shoulders. Practicing safety is paramount; there is no room for error.
When it comes to shooting, my family-owned Armalight AR-10 will always leave me smiling like I’m back cheering on the football field. My Burris 8-32×44 scope is excellent at spotting the rounds I’m sending down range. After all, it’s a long, long walk to that target. That unmistakable sound of a .308 or 7.62×51 will turn heads like a woman in a red dress.
What’s so exciting about our present day is there is no longer a norm for how things should be. Our rights protected under the Constitution are applied equally to everyone, as they should be.
MY NEXT MISSION IS LAW SCHOOL, although now that military infantry divisions are open to women, a girl could be tempted.
Going forward, I’ll be keeping a close watch on the evolution of new gun laws that may allow firearms to be carried on school campuses. Human beings have an inherent right to protect ourselves, our families and our properties. Our founding fathers placed such importance on this, it is second only to my freedom of speech.
Our first president, George Washington, declared, “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself … They are the American people’s liberty … ” The Bill of Rights is just as ingrained within my veins as my blood type. The Second Amendment, withstanding all opposition thus far, still remains to ensure that individuals who wish to bear arms can do so. And with that, the numbers of women who choose to legally own, carry and shoot guns will continue to multiply.
THE REASONS A WOMAN CHOOSES to carry are often as diverse as women themselves. But for me, I carry because I choose to be a wife and mother who will always be at the ready; to fiercely guard and protect those I love. I’m the woman who chooses to accessorize with an extended mag in my everyday carry, because the cop I’m marrying just simply wouldn’t fit in my purse. ASJ
Story and photographs by Scott Haugen
She’s been offered hosting jobs on major TV networks; approached by country music and NASCAR celebrities to cook and launch private-label food lines; and looked to for her expertise in co-authoring books. But she has turned them all down.
“The timing just wasn’t right,” shared Tiffany Haugen when asked about these offers. “My priority isn’t my career it’s my boys, and I don’t want to miss a minute of their growing up. I’m gone enough as it is, and there’s a limit,” she added when asked about some of the challenges she faces.
Tiffany is a
big promoter of
eating what you kill
“I love hunting and fishing with the family and enjoy speaking around the country, but if we can’t be together as a family, then it’s not as rewarding.”
For Tiffany, hunting and fishing are about family and putting meat in the freezer. “Our family lives on wild game and fish,” she says. “It’s what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only are these meals nutritious, but gathering the meat, butchering and preparing it as a family offers quality time that’s hard to get any other way.”
Tiffany grew up in a family of hunters and anglers, and her grandfather, now 102 years old, still eats wild game. She isn’t about seeking the spotlight. “I do not care if people know who I am; I just want them to get the most of their hunting and fishing experiences and have the confidence to butcher, fillet and cook their meals. The outdoor industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years; it’s gone so much toward bling and in-your-face entertainment that people are losing sight of what hunting and fishing are all about. It’s about education and should not be considered a contest or entertainment; it’s promoting the game, fish and other opportunities that we’re so blessed to have in the US.”
Tiffany is a big promoter of eating what you kill. She’s been filmed for various hunting shows over the years – most currently on The Sporting Chef and Cook With Cabela’s, where she serves as a guest-host. She is all about making it simple and attainable.
“Cooking fish and game isn’t like cooking store-bought meat, but that doesn’t mean it should be a big challenge,” Tiffany continues. “When (I was first) married, we moved to Alaska’s Arctic where we lived a subsistence lifestyle. Being immersed in this way of life is where I really learned to master cooking wild game. Now that our family makes a living in the outdoors, we eat game and fish year-round. Our boys love it and usually question the quality of meat when we go out
and trying new things is easy
Having traveled and hunted in over 30 countries and throughout much of the United States, Tiffany says this is where she gets much of her inspiration. “Travel and food go hand-in-hand,” she smiles. “AlI I want to do is share it with people, show them how easy it is and that they can do it!”
“Africa was great, not only because the whole family hunted together and ate what we killed, but because we exposed our sons to several cultures. Seeing them gather 50 pounds of toys just to share with African children in villages and orphanages was amazing. These are life-changing occurrences they might never have experienced had it not been for hunting.”
“There was a time Braxton sat for 43 hours in a blind over the course of five days, in temperatures dipping into the teens, before he arrowed a big mule deer; he was 12 years old,” she reflects. “If that’s not a testimony to what hunting teaches youth, I don’t know what is.”
“Kazden, at 9, overcame hunting in a cold, driving rain to take his first Columbia blacktail deer,” Tiffany adds. “He and his dad gutted and skinned that buck, we butchered it as a family and canned most if it, per Kazden’s request. Last spring he shot an axis deer in Texas right at dusk. He and his dad stayed up butchering and wrapping that deer until 2:00 a.m., just in time to grab a bite to eat and go hog hunting at dawn; that’s dedication!”
Tiffany’s biggest cooking tip is “don’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes. That gets old for everyone. Changing recipes and trying new things is easy, and that’s what I’ve devoted the last 15 years of my life to doing, turning people on to intuitive cooking methods.”
Prior to entering her career in the outdoor industry, Tiffany was a school teacher for 15 years. Between juggling her writing, national speaking schedule (she delivers over 50 seminars a year), filming cooking segments, running the family business and home-schooling both of her boys, she doesn’t want any other responsibilities. “I’m in a happy place right now. I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made or opportunities I’ve passed up, because life is too short.”
As a hunter, author, speaker and TV host, myself, I couldn’t be more proud of my wife and what she represents. She’s held her ground when challenged by anti-hunters, eloquently defended our family when confronted with verbal assaults on how she could let her kids shoot guns since the age of two, and stuck to her morals when asked to be part of contrived outdoor reality TV. I have utmost respect and love for this woman. After all, we’re celebrating 25 years of marriage next month, and each year keeps getting better! ASJ
Let’s hope that you’re never going to be in this situation but here’s some useful information from Dateline NBC.