From Valley Girl to High Mountain Huntress
Brittany Boddington Follows In Her Famous Father’s Footsteps
There was little evidence pointing to young Brittany Boddington being the apple that didn’t fall very far from the tree. In fact, she seemed orchards away from her father, Craig Boddington, a well-respected hunter, author and outdoor journalist. As the family settled in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Brittany had very little interest in following in Craig’s footsteps. A competitive synchronized swimmer good enough to make the U.S. Junior National Team, her sport of choice didn’t exactly have much in common with shooting. “I was swimming around 35 hours a week, so I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about guns and hunting,” she says. “There certainly wasn’t any hunting going on at that point.” But times change. The 28-yearold, who still lives in L.A., now bills herself as a hunting journalist – she interviewed this month’s cover subject, R. Lee Ermey, in The Gunny’s Palmdale, Calif., home – and building on previous TV shows, she will cohost the 2015 season of The Boddington Experience with Craig. Recently, we chatted with her:
CHRIS COCOLES It’s a surprise to me that you were kind of late to the party when it comes to hunting, especially given your dad’s background as a renowned sportsman. So how did it happen?
BRITTANY BODDINGTON I was pretty much against hunting through most of my childhood into high school. And I think a lot of that stems from just growing up in Los Angeles. I had to explain to my friends why my dad was killing Bambi (laughs). So it took me a while to come around. I didn’t even want to shoot a gun and really didn’t until after high school. My (high school) graduation present was a trip to Africa with no intention of hunting. He just wanted to show me where he’d been. And I was really excited to see it. But before the trip, I decided to do some research and more and more sites were popping up with safaris as an option. So finally, just out of curiosity, I started clicking on them. In my research, I found out more and more why people did hunt in Africa. I had no idea what he was doing. So once I learned that were regulations and conservation aspects, especially in Africa, where there was very little else to do besides hunting to control these populations, I came around to the idea pretty quick, and startled my dad by asking to teach me how to shoot. And he just said, “Why?” (laughs). I said, “We’re going to Africa. Don’t you think I should learn how to shoot?” He again said, “Why?” I told him I wanted to hunt.
CC So was that, at the time, a major shock to him, because you had not shown a lot of interest in the past?
BB It was, because he didn’t believe me. So he told me if I could go on a pig hunt in California, then he would arrange for permits to hunt in Africa. So I shot a boar in northern California. I remember when the gun went off, he looked at me instead of the pig and asked, “Are you OK?” (laughs). I never lost eye contact with the pig and said, “Let’s go, let’s go.”
CC Was that first shot and taking down that pig difficult at all?
BB No. For some reason there was never a second thought; it was instinctual, I think. I was super excited. They thought I’d missed him; it was a huge group of pigs coming over the edge of this ridge. And the guide told me to shoot the one with the big black spot, and I shot the one with the big black spot. And I saw him roll down the ravine, but they were watching the pig with the black spot in the front, but I shot the one in the back. I said, “He’s down; I can see him!” It was really exciting.
CC Your dad must have had a lot of thoughts racing through his head at that point.
BB I think it was very exciting for him. The idea to have someone pass it onto, I think it had been lacking for him. I think he was really excited. My sister (Caroline) wasn’t that excited about it either, although she grew up shooting a lot more than I did. She had one of those cricket guns when she was like 6 and would go to the range. She loved it, but as she got older, things got more interesting, like hanging with her friends. She just stopped going to the range, and when she did go she would usually play with her phone. But then at 16, she also wanted to go on a pig hunt, and she did. So I just think there were late bloomers in our family. But it’s also hard because we grew up in California, and it’s not the nicest place to explain to your friends, as a kid, what your dad does. I told them my dad was a sportswriter, and I think they all thought he wrote about basketball. I never explained it. When I was a child we didn’t have a lot in common; he was never
into synchronized swimming and I was never into hunting. So there wasn’t a lot to talk about. But after that first safari, our relationship had grown dramatically. We had a common ground.
CC You’ve been able to see some fascinating places.
BB I’ve been hunting in Europe, the South Pacific and Africa, mostly. I’ve been able to hunt in places like Macedonia; never in my life had I thought about hunting in Macedonia. It’s a tiny country of two million people. It’s very interesting. We found shells in the ground from old wars. You could see where the bunkers were still kind of degrading from where there were wars fought. But when I was there they seemed like very happy people. And the hunting was awesome. We were in Turkey for two weeks, hunting the Anatolian stag, and we
had some extra time and ended up getting my scuba license and dove to sunken ships. Hunting has been a fabulous way to see the world.
CC What was your first TV experience like?
BB During those years when I would travel with my dad once a year to go on a hunt, he would schedule the trips to South Africa. So every now and then, I’d be on camera in a very, very minor role. I hunted my buffalo on that show. I wasn’t as comfortable on camera as much as I am now. I didn’t take the lead and talk to the camera. It was very much my dad saying, “I’m here with Brittany; this is what we’re going to do and let’s go.” And I would just go. It was a nice learning experience and I was able to see how he does it in real time. After that show over a few years, I joined the American Huntress show, which was awesome. Linda Donaho was the previous host for that, and we shared some responsibilities for two seasons. And that was the first time I was on my own, sent out with the cameraman to get enough footage to make a TV show. You learn pretty quickly.
CC What’s your ideal career path right now?
BB I’ve always wanted to do my own show. And this year my dad and I are restarting The Boddington Experience. He had that show before, but it was him alone. So we’re bringing it back with the two of us as joint hosts, which is very exciting. And long-term I realize people aren’t going to want to watch me hunting on TV for my whole life (laughs). So with my degree in journalism, I want to write books. But really, the goal is to keep hunting throughout my lifetime. It’s something that I can do permanently.
CC Unfortunately, this seems to be asked of a lot of women who hunt lately, but how much of a backlash have you received about what you enjoy doing?
BB It’s a dramatic shift. Growing up in a hunting family, there were people out there who didn’t like us, and I knew that from a young age. I remember once I was riding from the airport with a Japanese exchange student, and we arrived home there was a bomb squad on our lawn and going through everything we owned. Someone had called in a bomb threat to my dad’s office when he was a (magazine) editor. I was probably 5 or 6, so you grow up knowing people are after you. I think in the last few years, the aggression has switched directions and is now at the female of the hunting world; it’s much more than at men. People don’t go on my dad’s page and say, “Your eyes look stupid.” But they do on mine. And these are personal attacks that have nothing to do with hunting. I told several people, “If you have something intelligent to talk about, let’s talk. I’m more than willing to talk to you.” But just calling me names and that you don’t like my hair – well, OK. (laughs) … I think they see us as weaker targets. When the whole Kendall Jones news broke (the college cheerleader who hunts being blasted on social media) I was getting 100 death threats a day on my Facebook page. That’s ridiculous.
CC So on that note, what kind of message do you try and send out to your audience about hunting?
BB I hope that women watching are empowered and feel, “if this little redheaded kid can do it, then we can do it too.” But I also want women to see that hunting is not a men-only sport. It may have been in the past, but we can do anything they can do. I really enjoy that part. In the last couple years I have been taking more difficult hunts to push my limits. I want the world to see that women are serious in the hunting industry. We’re not just doing fluffy hunts. We want to do everything. WSJ
by Chris Cocoles