NSSF selected the Ladies Adventure Camp Experience (L.A.C.E.) as one of its recipients for the 2020 Hunting Heritage Trust® Grant to expand the L.A.C.E. mentoring program for women interested in hunting and using firearms within a safe and nurturing environment while developing their outdoor skills.
L.A.C.E. recently used some of these funds to offer +ONE scholarship hunts to new hunters. Women were nominated by friends or family members and those who won we able to attend a L.A.C.E. +ONE event and hunt for free with world-class instruction. One of the scholarship winners shared how this experience, L.A.C.E. and the +ONE movement have positively impacted her life.
The Start of Something New…My first hunting experience!
By: Heather Marie Johnson
In July 2020, my two aunts, plus a friend and I, went on a road trip. During that time, we talked about past and future trips we have been on. We starting discussing hunting trips, because my Aunt Clara has been on a guided hunt in the past and my husband frequently travels with his friends on hunting trips. We talked about other family members who hunt and discussed the fact that we have never been invited to join them. I mentioned that I would love to try hunting some time, thinking we could plan a trip together in the future. The future was going to be much sooner than we thought! Shortly after getting back home from our trip, my Aunt Clara called me and said that she’d seen a scholarship opportunity through the Ladies Adventure Camp Experience (L.A.C.E.) to be nominated for a guided hunt on wild hogs and whitetail does in Texas—and it was to be a trip for the first-time women hunters. I was thrilled Aunt Clara nominated me!
After waiting patiently for a few months, she called me with the exciting news that I’d been selected for the scholarship hunt trip to Texas. I was so excited! I shared the good news with my closest friends and family, and everyone was excited for my new opportunity!
We flew from Chicago into Texas and met a group of women at a Dairy Queen in Rotan, Texas, to caravan to Hawks Double Mountain Ranch. From the start, everyone was so nice and excited for the weekend ahead. I felt comfortable with this group of ladies, especially Deb Ferns and Kay Miculek who run the Babes with Bullets camps that was the kick-off for the L.A.C.E. program.
When we got to Hawks Double Mountain Ranch and I walked into the big lodge, I was even more impressed. We were immediately made to feel like family. Deb gave us a brief introduction and we talked about the NSSF +One program about inviting someone every time you go hunting or out to the shooting range. Deb noted that women don’t typically invite themselves to do things like hunt, so statistically there are fewer women hunters, though that number is growing. Men are more likely to hunt because, as a child, they will ask on their own to go with family or friends. That clicked with me as my husband has been great to invite our daughter to hunt with him, but I did not have the same experience of being invited to go hunting with my brothers, uncle or cousins.
We unpacked at the lodge in big, very comfortable bunkrooms, and then Kay taught us how to shoot bolt-action rifles since most of the gals on the trip had never operated one before. We talked about our plans for the morning hunt, enjoying a wild-game dinner after and the camp camaraderie.
Early on Friday morning, we woke up to get into our blinds before sunrise with our mentor guide (my first morning was with Kay and cameraman Eydin.) I remember it was shortly after sunrise when a group of 15 hogs came out in the open. They were quick and moved around a lot. I had my gun ready, I was comfortable looking through the scope and when I finally had a good shot, Kay reminded me to breathe, and I took the opportunity.
I fired one shot and got my first wild boar on my first hunt ever! Kay and Eydin were pumped and they got me even more excited. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone back at camp and get back so I could call my husband! I felt so empowered, like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.
I cannot thank my aunt enough for not only nominating me but for inviting me to go hunting. I think that if I had invited myself to go along on a hunt, there could have been opportunities for me to do that at home, but maybe I was waiting for someone to invite me? I am so happy I learned about the NSSF +ONE program.
I returned home to Wisconsin with my stories and a desire to try new things. I knew that since whitetail deer season was coming up, I wanted to try my chance at shooting a deer. I told my husband and my dad that I wanted to go on a Thanksgiving morning hunt but didn’t want to go alone, so my stepmom (who had never hunted) offered to go with me. I went out the same day and purchased my first hunting license. My husband made some suggestions on what to bring with me, gave me a short tutorial on the gun and how to load it. On the upside, I knew how to be safe and load the gun based on what I had learned on my recent hunt.
I picked up my stepmom at 5:30a.m. to go out to our family’s 10 acres. We didn’t see anything that morning, but it was nice to be outside together in nature. My husband wanted me to have an opportunity to hunt a larger area to potentially see some deer, so on Thanksgiving night we traveled to central Wisconsin and stayed at his friend’s cabin to hunt their 250 acres. We prepared and went out early Friday morning but didn’t see much. I went back to the cabin and took a nap, then we headed back out after lunch. Just as the sun was going down, a doe peeked appeared among the corn stalks and I was able to take a shot at her. She tipped right over. My husband had a huge smile on his face, and his excitement and pride made me more excited! Now, I keep thinking about all the people I want to invite to go hunting with me, even if we don’t see anything, as it’s therapeutic and calming to spend time in nature.
I am so thankful for the scholarship opportunity and being able to hunt with some amazing women from the L.A.C.E. program. I know that shooting sports and hunting are activities that I will continue in the future!